Saturday, 21 April 2018

Poet's note: The first swallow

The first swallow, so thin and tired that at first glance I'm not sure if it is a swallow, but then comes that unmistakable twist of wings at speed, and a bubble of happiness bursts inside me. 

Friday, 20 April 2018

Poet's note: The swallows are not yet here

The valley is holding its breath, waiting for the first swallows to arrive.

The chaffinches are back, and the goldfinches – where have they been? – and the long-tailed tits. The robins have never left home, and now a pair have nested in the cypress hedge.  Sparrows are chirping in the hawthorn bushes, goldfinches twitter as they flit from one drystone wall to another; jackdaws holler as they dive down from the high outcrops of millstone grit. 

But the air over the canal is silent. The swallows are not yet here.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Poem: Clearing the valley

When I was a child I spent my summer holidays with an elderly and much-loved aunt and uncle. It was they who introduced me to this valley. Sixty years on, the valley is busier and more densely populated, but the air is clearer, the stone cottages have been sand-blasted clean of a century of industrial soot, and the trees are coming back.

Some people say the trees are the wrong kind of trees, not native to the valley, and it's true that you’ll seldom see an oak or an ash, but you will find whitethorn, birch and alder, pioneer species perhaps, or maybe small enough to have escaped the axe, for it was the deciduous hardwoods that were hacked down to provide scaffolding for the construction of the railway; their absence is in itself part of the valley’s history.

Clearing the valley

the thorn trees
they let alone –

not that they were

only that the trees
cried out when cut,

and they couldn’t stand
to hear a woman curse

© Sheila Wild - Equinox

Saturday, 14 April 2018

The house near Gorsey Hill Wood

My house stands above a busy road, but my writing desk looks across to Gorsey Hill Wood, where there's a heronry. At the foot of the hill is a large Victorian mansion, ornately gabled, which hosts a roost for pipistrelle bats. My own much newer and more modest home is a maternity roost, where bats come to give birth to and nurse their infants. Once I found a baby bat in my front porch; it had fallen from the gable end, and was seeking shadow.

The copse of sycamore on the north side of my drive is home to a tawny owl, and in winter the ivy that clambers up the trees is browsed by red deer. At the end of my small back garden is a water meadow rich in wild flowers, a soakaway field for the infant river Roch. Beyond the river is the Rochdale canal, and beyond the canal, a broad stretch of rough pasture leads steeply up to the millstone grit outcrop of Blackstone Edge. 

Not a wild landscape, but a landscape that offers much. It's full of interest: air that's never still, light that changes with the hour and with the season, trees, meadows full of buttercups, and a host of small creatures, asking of me only that I notice them going about their daily business.

Friday, 13 April 2018

A poet's notes from Blackstone Edge

Apoet'snotesfromBlackstoneEdge – what do I intend by this? I don’t yet know. Writing’s often like that. I don’t know what I’m going to write until I’ve written it. And I’m not good at blogging. 

Blogging calls for an immediate write-up, but I like to reflect on what I write. Poetry suits me. However . . . . I’m growing older, and running out of time, and as there are many things I want to write about, I’d better get blogging. Perhaps I’m hoping a blog will take me somewhere new. But then too, as a writer, I want to share, and right now what I most want to share is the valley that I live in. If this blog has a focus, it’s the short stretch of canal that runs between the ancient hamlet of Warland and the small town of Littleborough. I live mid-way between the two.

The Rochdale Canal near Littleborough 
C Sheila Wild

I’ve spent most of my life living near a canal – the Avon and Kennet, the Union, the Leeds and Liverpool, and now the Rochdale Canal. The landscape hereabouts is beautiful. It's full of history; its roots reach back to the Mesolithic era. And you don’t have to look far to discover that it’s full of wildlife. 

It’s not a challenging landscape, but my trekking days  are long gone. These days I walk like an ageing Labrador, stiff-legged and with a list to the right. Even with orthopaedic shoes I can only walk a couple of miles. So, this small, tight valley with buses that can ferry me over the difficult bits, suits me very well. It's what I have to hand, and it's what I'll write about.