Green Lane and Herons’ Road
Two roads intersect -
the Twitchen, the Saxon drovers’ way
a green lane, worn away, sunken.
The River Clun is the Herons’ road,
swelling seven miles down from its source.
Down the green lane five pollarded oaks,
gnarled, cracked open, make insects’ homes,
sprouting branches being grown for gate posts.
Within one oak a holly thrives, flicked with berries.
More rain and the river’s voices break out.
Strong words exchanged with upright stones,
baby’s gurgle above the ford’s wheel grooves,
genteel plishes are sighed to the river’s bank,
deep gargles echo from well-established hollows.
Two herons, as still as candles,
lift with one flap, a thrust of enfolded power.
Above fieldfares are scouting from tree tops.
Rooks have lookouts too. Both flocks picking
between wheat stalks as white as milk straws.
A diesel engine rumbles at the lane’s bend
where the vicar went straight ahead,
dashing between his six parishes.
He slewed sideways tearing up the hedge,
“Won’t be a corner hedge left soon” says Bert.
Two venerable roads, all other ways are tracks,
bridleways and footpaths
grooves and gouges alongside hedgerows
blotched by hooves.
The ground is letting go,
of grain harvest and this year’s lambs,
unpicked apples and the half-ripe,
misshapen, nibbled and pecked ones.
Silver Birch leaves have been nipped
by frost's finger-nails.
At first just one, tumbling over,
in twirl of round and down,
leading from a high branch.
A windless day for golden heart shapes
now falling as a shoal.
Hazel leaves fall more personally
and stick to stiffened grass or
join others to be blown about
caught against hedgerow roots
holding back a trickle of melt,
making a pool of dark veins
matted, shrinking to filaments.
Fieldwork becomes taking away.
Hedge branches are shorn of their feathering
couch grass is dug away from gateways,
tractor tracks are subdued by fresh stone,
as the ram lambs go off to slaughter,
trailer-loads to prize sales, grand auctions.
I no longer hope to hear skylarks,
or to wear trainers over firm clods.
Closer now, a young woodpecker
is claiming a tree with a single note,
as the owl on the chimney pot
hoots for a mate in acoustic air.