Saturday, 29 December 2012


Here's the last poem of 2012 - wishing everyone a fantastic 2013.

The Willow in Winter

Silent stands the weeping willow
Now that summer’s tune has gone
With the small birds who fly south for winter
To cheer new lovers with their songs.
And the fallen leaves now form a carpet
Where autumn scents still linger on
Then the wind disperses like our memories;
Precious hopes that now are flown.

You stand beneath the naked branches
Arms outstretched in the crystal air
And glance between the dangling fingers
That gently brush your golden hair,
Waiting for the days of pleasure
When love, like spring, is perfect bliss
And beneath the clothes of summer’s grandeur
The body craves a lover’s kiss.

When days are short and nights are darkest
The moon her silver mantle spreads,
Casting over trees and mortals
The freezing cloth that passion dreads.
Still stands the willow in the moonlight,
Still as death through snow and rain,
Waiting for the breath of springtime
When love, like life, is born again.



Thursday, 20 December 2012


The Slothful Sun Reluctantly Rises

The slothful sun reluctantly rises
Behind the curtain of a distant copse,
Dragged disconsolately (unlike me)
From its warm horizon bed;
In no hurry, it would seem,
To face the frosty air.
And in the west, the waning moon,
Loath to leave her night-time silver sprinklings
To the unkindness of the dawn,
Outstays her welcome as, yet again,
She meets the cold mundanity of morning
And her glory fades before the brutal rays.
But, roaming once more across the homely sky,
Reanimated rooks rejoice.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


Writing poetry can be a curious business; sometimes poems have to be struggled over for days, week or months whilst, at other times, they arrive unannounced. I met this poem on a late afternoon walk near my village of Wressle, as I was gazing at the sun setting behind an unassuming copse of trees. There’s a poignant backstory about this particular stand of trees: it was on this spot that, during WW ll, a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber, limping back from a night raid, failed to make the last few miles to safety at (I think) Wombleton and crashed, killing all the crew. Hidden away amongst the trees is a simple memorial to these men, erected by the owners of the land, Elizabeth and Colin Shutt.

This is dedicated to the late Roger Deakin, author of ‘Wildwood’, and to everyone who, like me, loves the company of trees.

The Company of Trees 

From the earliest time I can recall,
In wood or forest, or alone,
The joyful company of trees
Has thrilled me to the very bone.
Beneath a canopy of leaves
That shade the sultry summer heat,
Or in the winter witch’s grasp,
To the same tune my heart would beat
With earth’s vibrating life and soul,
Attuned, somehow, into my own
(Whilst emanating spirits share
The haunting memories of stones).

Perhaps, just like the dreamers say,
Whether in the realms of man
Or in some deep subconscious glade,
I must have seen the great god Pan,
Though by whose blessing this strange gift
Was bestowed on me, it’s not
Within my earthly powers to guess -
Unsure, still, of what I’ve got.
But, in the end, when I am gone,
This epitaph I’d wish to leave:
That those who knew of me will say,
“He loved the company of trees”.


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Preparing for the Winter


Preparing for the Winter
The sun, as it weakens, casts long shadows now
Across fields sharp with stubble or brown from the plough:
A bite in the air brings the promise of snow
And bids us prepare for the winter.
The shining blade cleaves through the fragrant white ash
And the sour oak reluctantly yields to the axe,
Then we stack them all neat in a fast-growing stash
To warm body and soul through the winter.

From orchard and hedgerow that ripe fruits adorn,
Our mouths stained with juice and our hands scratched with thorn,
We gather the bounty and carry it home
To bring warm summer back to the winter.
Sharp cider froths and ferments in the can,
The hot scents of sugar and fruit in the pan,
And, lined up in the larder, spicy pickles and jam
To brighten our lives through the winter

As the frost dusts the ground with its sparkling hoar
We lace up our boots and head off to the moor
Where bright pheasants dance and the hare leaves its spoor
For here is our food for the winter.
And then when we see all our hard work is done
We’ll wassail and shout and fire off the gun
And drink to the laughter and feasting to come
As we welcome the onset of winter.
The year brought its laughter, its pleasure and pain,
Days filled with sunshine and others with rain,
New friends, and some old ones we’ll not see again
But who’ll live in our thoughts through the winter.
And if life’s like a year and the summer is gone,
Autumn brings blessings when the harvest is home,
So let’s wish that this one will go on and on
Until we’re prepared for the winter.


Sunday, 9 December 2012



Early Morning Mist

A light and wispy blanket covers the fields
No deeper than the shoulder of a man,
Drawn from the frosty ground
By the first rays of the weakling sun
As it slowly steals the morning
From the wayward realms of night.
As ethereal and insubstantial, it is,
As the dreams that just an hour ago
Clouded my sleeping brain.
They vanished just as quickly into dawn,
And I was drawn from sleep
To go and walk amongst the mist,
Evading all responsibility for unconscious thoughts.
That is now the remit of the rooks
Assembled in the hedgerow oaks,
And the solitary hare.


Thursday, 6 December 2012


The First Frost
The first frost took me by surprise
As, just after dawn, I went to walk the lane
Before the orange sun had any heat at all.
Not that it was heavy, yet,
But hard enough to crispen puddles
And turn the hedgerow grasses
Into the silver hair of the ageing year.
And then, an hour later, it was gone,
Leaving just a niggling hint of winter.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


These are the words of a song I wrote just after hearing of the untimely death of my friend, Roger Deakin, in 2006. Roger was a genuine and unselfconscious eccentric; a wonderful writer, documentary-maker, environmentalist and co-founder of Common Ground, whose wild-swimming journal, Waterlog, became a UK best-seller. Two other books, Wildwood and Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, were published posthumously. One of the great nature writers of our generation, he always encouraged my own writing and his books are still a continuous source of  joy and inspiration.

The Swimmer

It was one of those moments when you feel the earth turning.
A three-quarter moon in a clear autumn sky
Brought into my heart a curious yearning
For things that have passed and have yet to pass by;
For friends who have gone and for those still remaining;
While the river of life still winds through the land,
Whose secrets, revealed by the long years’ waning,
Can slip through our fingers or be grasped in our hands.

There’s a feeling that time is not of the essence;
Not a fear of the future or delight in the past,
Just a space that is filled by a friend when his presence,
Is replaced by the pleasure of what he has left.
Now the spirits of the earth rise to embrace the giver
Like the low-lying mist of a soft autumn dawn,
And the swimmer goes down once again to the river,
Where, as sun glints on water, the dream is reborn.

Monday, 3 December 2012



The Road to Laxton

The land is flat on the wide margins of the river,
Prone to mist on slow, soft, sodden Autumn days
Before the lazy sun burns off the vapours
And spreads long shadows in unbroken ranks.
The dampness oozes into already-brimming ditches,
And amongst the rows of shining furrows, fresh-sliced in the clay,
Standing pools of night rain mirror ever-changing skies.
Groups of trees and solitary oaks and sycamores break up broad vistas
Where smug, sure-footed villages are firmly rooted amongst virile fields.
The road winds through this landscape in historical meanderings:
A tale of times when boundaries wrought by plough and privilege prevailed,
Making men and beasts move in ways unlike the crow.
Rooks, too, live here in rasping, raucous harmony
And sometimes starlings murmurate:
A thousand bodies with a single mind,
Ever reforming startling telepathic patterns in the sky.



Autumn Leaves

The leaves are falling now
And the very souls of the trees
Lie scattered at their own feet
In a hundred sultry shades of brown and gold.
Decay commences its inexorable task,
Creating scents, tobacco-rich, of mouldering earth,
Disturbing odours of mortality
And emanations of another passing year.
But here is fecund fuel for the foraging worms
Whose treasure the Spring spade will unearth
Or which will, in its turn,
Be food for the glorious buds to come.




The Hawthorn Leaves Are Yellow

The hawthorn leaves are yellow on the hedge
Where the blackbird sits,
Undisturbed by my passing.
And yet, not unaware of winter’s stealthy tread,
He does not sing.

Saturday, 1 December 2012



The Shadow People

By shadow hedge along the lane
Where shadow trees stand stark and plain,
Two shadow figures, shaped like pegs
Glide on fantastic shadow legs,
Their shadow bodies moving round
Like shadow stains across the ground.
And on his shadow head, see that
One shadow wears a shadow hat,
That makes the low sun’s piercing rays
Cast deeper shadows on his face
Where, beneath the shadow brim,
There’s just the shadow of a grin.



Autumn Sunrise

The day begins with a service of radiant majesty
Enacted in the overarching cathedral of the sky.
Is this the funeral ceremony of summer
Which has slipped inexorably away;
A grandious display of exuberant pomp,
That celebrates the seasons’ sempiternal succession,
Bequeathing memories of vigorous and playful days
To the more mature mind of autumn?
If so, its passing doesn’t go uncelebrated,
And not entirely unmourned,
Although, breathing a long and soulful sigh,
We welcome a more somnolent and soothing time of year.