Skip to main content

Landmark


Landmark

Some miles before reaching home, we see that familiar black topped hill, away to the west.
Nearly there, we think – or at least, this is our country now.

The landmark, Bampfylde Clump, is actually just a clump of trees – densely planted beeches, mature, but not especially ancient.  It’s said that a certain Bampfylde, one Baron Poltimore, established the tautological Round Ring (another of its titles), so that he could look around in all directions over the land he owned. 

More interesting, is the deep-rooted awareness of this natural high-point, and the celebration of it over the centuries, in various ways – secular and sacred.  Certainly, many coming into north Devon – be they resident or visitor – must have raised their eyes to the hills: Round Ring – there it is, Round Ring, as it’s always been, awaiting our arrival.

Who knows what lies in, among and under those beech tree roots?  Earlier burial places, perhaps even barrows, invisible now, will have been disturbed by the later plantings of saplings.  At least one significant find of Phoenician beads – just outside the Ring – is recorded, which I describe in my poem.

How many other artefacts and human remains, not to mention myths and legends are buried there?  Over the years I’ve taken many people up to the Ring.  We’ve all told all sorts of stories.

Entering that dark quiet clump, suddenly protected from the prevailing wind, looking up into the twisted, intertwined canopy, wondering which trunk belongs to which branches and picking your way round the circle to be abruptly surprised by the discovery that one has returned to the original point of entry – I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t found it a strange, even mystical experience.

Old mine workings nearby add to the effect. There were copper and precious metal ores to be discovered in these hills. I sometimes wonder if this particular adit was driven towards the Ring in the subconscious belief that there was gold to be found.  Perhaps that was the case, though whether what they had in mind might have been raw or refined, like so many other aspects of this wonderful place, we shall never know.  Nor whether the mine was abandoned simply because it was unyielding, or the miners found the site, what shall we say, strange, even mystical…

What I do know is that for me this is a landmark, showing me I’m almost home.  


Bampfylde Clump

The dark clump called Round Ring
dense with its stories  
has long crowned the hill,
a landmark from long ago.
From near and from far,
from moor and from sea 
it draws in the visitor             
and they who return
as I do in my time
its gravity pulling me home.
           
The hedge fades when it nears
as if awed. There are sheep
keeping clear. I’m pulled closer
feeling a magnetic field.
There’s a fence to protect
these grey pillars of beech –
or does it retain them?
Although in the centre
branches are intertwined
as if holding hands.

The farmer was ploughing
when Darling’s front foot
got hitched in a hole
he said, like a pot.
He stopped to look –  
no golden coins but
some bits and pieces
he took home to clean –
soon newly-bright beads
the sort to surround

the neck of a queen or a princess
perhaps. Amber from far away –
the sun, with faience and lignite
circumgyrating – 
a special necklace for her
whose black ashes remain
in a round vessel, broken
in 1899
by a long dead draught horse,
pursuing her own curved path.

The clump is a quiet church
cool among columns of old trees,
young for a barrow, where no bird dare sing
over those stories. As I describe
the circle once more I walk and am drawn
centripetally.  There in the core,
is there still amber?  And high in the vaulting
whose trunks make which branches?
So many questions. I stumble,
my foot caught in a bramble – then break free.



    



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead.
I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse.

Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting
as they cropped up tone of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

It took a little while for me to realise why.
Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow.

The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur.

Here's my second verse:

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

I was pleased with my trope, so muc…

The Unexpected

I like September.


It's not just that it feels as though the effort of keeping summer going can be given up, almost with a sense of relief.


No, it's more than that - here's a new season, fresh in its own special way.


As September contains a quarter day (itself relating to the solstice) I read that it was a time when people were hired, land was exchanged and debts paid.


So various things start now, like the academic year, making it a month for new beginnings -  although it draws heavily on recent growth, sometimes hardly noticed.
And then there's all the fruit, of course, only too often celebrated poetically...
But much more interesting are the arrivals that startle.
I mean the fungi - extraordinary things which literally spring up overnight.
Not things though - they're living plants.   No, not plants - organisms - but that doesn't sound right. As for the proper term 'fruiting body' - well, that suggests something quite different.  They are worlds away from all thos…

Everyone a King

Water Music


I just had to post this poem while we’re still in 2017. Handel’s Water Music was premiered on the odd, if not magical date of 17/7/1717.
It wouldn’t be the same somehow in the boringly even year 2018...




We played hard that evening, us fifty from Whitehall to Chelsea, then all the way home. Till four in the morning we walked on the water gently in duples, jigged hornpipes in three,
from Overture to Air we strolled and we danced staccato, legato, allegro, con brio our melodies flowed down the river, lost as we played them.  But he liked what he heard.
Three times he wanted it, over and over, ‘I shall have it again’, and he had it river reflected, broken by waves those symphonies, rippled like flags
fluttering a moment. So we too were kings for a while, gorgeous and golden along with the real one, old George. And the younger as well, he was well pleased
to breathe in his music, inspired by this water, refreshed and transformed as an echo which travels the river long after we’d played our way home.



A…