Countryside of Contrasts (Part II)

First there is Hadrian’s Wall.
Milecastles, hill forts and temples and bucket loads of history
from its turbulent English and Scottish conflicts.
Then there are the green fells and bubbling rivers,
stained tea brown from all the tannin.
And the heather-clad Pennines landscape,
Where sheep abound
And rare alpine plants can be found.

Mile upon mile of roller-coaster roads with their blind summits and hidden dips,
Twisting hairpin bends and narrow single lane bridges arching over wee burns.
And long forgotten viaducts striding over a river many vertiginous feet below.
Makes travel here very, very slow.

Invigorating walks lead past cottages built from honey-coloured stone
With pots full of bright red geraniums
and purple petunias cascading down the golden walls.
Where inviting tea-rooms, set amidst old railway tracks,
entice you inside with coffee and cakes to tempt you.
Rich chocolate brownies,
Victoria Sponge,
luxury carrot cake,
and scones with cream and jam.
Then the ultimate temptation –
coffee and walnut cake
And the promise of another walk.

Finding traditional pubs,
One dating back to the 12th century,
Another used as a meeting place in the Jacobite Rebellion,
where once men gathered in shadowy corners to discuss their secrets.
Now the smiling bar-staff greet you with their warm northern accents,
or possibly Polish.
They settle you in the same dark corners
with handwritten menus to inspect
and the daily specials chalked on the blackboard.

Villages and small towns with houses crammed together,
supporting one another down hidden snickets and narrow cobbled lanes,
where secret gardens lie.
Churches within ancient churchyards are open at all times,
Welcoming strangers to view their beautiful stained glass windows, bell towers, carved pulpits and unusual altars,
Or simply to admire the craftsmanship of the homemade pew cushions.
Lovingly stitched by a dwindling congregation.

Finally there’s the coast and the string of castles.
Wide, sandy beaches, river mouths and harbours.
There are tide timetables to consult, so you don’t get cut off.
Micro breweries and Craster kippers to taste,
seals and summer seabird colonies to visit,
There’s no time to waste

There’s a walk to a castle last occupied during the Wars of the Roses,
When the throne of England was hotly contested.
A church cut off from its village by the river changing its course
By a violent storm over two centuries ago.
History is around every corner and in every bloody step
of this ancient border country.

Herons and cormorants and twenty-five white swans
are seen on the River Coquet at Warkworth.
Swifts and finches fly in and out of the barns,
stopping to briefly rest on top of a stone wall beside you,
but not long enough for a photo.
They have things to do.

The call of an owl, the sighting of a hawk,
Dozens of rabbits scurrying around a churchyard at dusk.
A pair of Red Grouse strutting nonchalantly along the lanes
as if they know it’s not the shooting season.
And you sit with your engine idling until they are gone.

And the sky – the big open sky – cumulus clouds, a rainbow over the fells, the zillion stars and the Milky Way.
You want to gaze at it all the time,
Your eyes are drawn upwards,
It draws your breath away.

Driving home in the dusk after a very long day,
you round a final bend and slam on the brakes.
A young deer glides across the road.
It stops, hesitates, turns towards you,
eyes shining in the headlights,
then disappears back into the gloom of the woodland
from where it came.

~wander.essence~  Travel Poetry

New Life

When I first wrote about my holiday in the north Pennines and Northumberland it was in words and pictures, but many comments were made about the way the prose was almost poetic. With Cathy’s new blog stimulating creative juices about the way we travel and the different ways we can record it, I was driven to see if I could write an actual poem based on the words I used then. Mostly the same, with some additions and alternatives and of course, no photos. Am I insane to think I can write poetry? I hope you will honestly tell me in the comments below. 

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

34 thoughts on “Countryside of Contrasts (Part II)”

  1. I thought it was a marvellous ‘Ode To England’, Jude. It captures the spirit of the country, away from the usual London landmarks, red buses, and bowler hats.
    Nicely done indeed.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. It’s fabulous up there Pete. You been? If not you ought to. Lots of countryside for Ollie to walk in.

      1. I have been to Northumberland a couple of times, and the North Yorkshire national park too. The area around Seahouses and Bamburgh is one of my favourite places. x

  2. I love this, Jude! So many wonderful concrete details and descriptive language, and then those surprises along the way: “where once men gathered in shadowy corners to discuss their secrets,” and the mixed nationalities of bar staff today, mingling history and modern days. Then you continue with the clandestine in these lines:
    They settle you in the same dark corners
    with handwritten menus to inspect
    and the daily specials chalked on the blackboard.

    It’s so evocative. Having been in dark British pubs, I can just see and feel it.
    The friendliness in small towns where church doors are open and houses lean on one another for support.
    The conflicts between men, and nature (as in the river cutting off the church from the village), and then this:
    History is around every corner and in every bloody step
    of this ancient border country.

    And then the bigger and more serene world – the Milky Way, the deer, serendipity.

    In the end, the beauty mingles with a bloodied history, but peace and serenity win out. I love it because you say something larger than just what you saw. You weave together so many elements to create a whole. Wonderful. 🙂

    I’ll link this (belatedly) to today’s post, which has already published. Alternatively, I could wait till next month, but that seems so far away.

    1. Thank you for this Cathy. I am so glad that you could see how I was trying to weave the past and the present together. Makes me more confident in having another go! I’ll post before next month so you can link to it 🙂

  3. This is lyrical Jude. I agree with all Cathy says in her comment. You weave a journey through the past and into the present and take us on a verbal adventure that conjures up an image of the places you have visited. A challenge Cathy has given us and you have achieved the brief in great style. No photos needed

    1. Phew! Thank you Pauline. I wasn’t at all confident about publishing this. I have done some writing pieces before, but not poetry – though this is more prose I guess.

  4. Poetry can be anything you want it to, Jude, and I don’t know how well it scans, or whatever, but it works well for me as poetic prose. It’s not important to me how many lines or rhymes- it just needs to hold my attention and evoke a scene. And it does that. 🙂 🙂

    1. I have written rhyming stanzas before, but most of my attempts at poetry are simply prose poems. As long as it does what it sets out to do then I am happy.

  5. Poetry or prose? Does it matter? It’s a beautifully written piece and captures the soul of your journey. I’ve never tried writing poetry but I go through phases of reading it. This flows naturally and without being forced in any way. Inspiring.

    1. Thank you Andrew. It’s the only sort of poetry I write other that the odd Haiku. Happy you enjoyed it 🙂

  6. I love the sense of momentum, rolling along, the scenes unfolding in all their variety. And then that final stanza with all the feelings of journey’s end except for that final unexpected sighting.

    1. I woke up early one morning just after our return from the North and just started writing my impressions of the holiday. It was as though the words just spilled out of my mouth! This has of course been reworked and bits added to give it more context.

      1. That’s brilliant. That kind of splurging can reveal all sorts of nuggets. Subconscious providing a brain full of raw materials to re-craft.

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