Summer walk on the South Downs

Last year we came to a place on the South Downs Way that seemed unremarkable…except for the gigantic trees emerging from the swirling mist. Later, this poem was another thing that emerged from those mists!

At Hyden Cross

Summer rides at full pelt & we step

Under the easy rush of hazy, heady southern air

Where hills are near invisible & we are almost lost

Among the criss-crossed lanes, the drizzle

Of drifting clouds descending, dripping,

Dimming those warm, ripe distances.


Our downland world is furred & blurred,

All mosses velvet, tufted, soft along the path,

And our feet soundless, weightless on the cushioned loam.

For us the sole realities are hazels trailing honeysuckle

With tendrils of perfume as curled & intertwined

As the vines themselves. And wild white garlic-stars

Among the smell of last year’s leaves on settled earth:

The rich fragrance of woods in summertime.


At Hyden Cross the path is flanked by beeches.

Rising into the morning fog, they arch around us,

Substantial in the mist’s shape-shifting shadows.

In this dreamscape only they are solid, tangible,

Though all their leaves lift & vanish into lacy light.

So, trembling, we go below them as on holy ground.


© Lizzie Ballagher

2015-07-13 10.34.05

Blue Earth, Green Light

Cut the earth and it bleeds

Blue blood:

Bluebells among the brutal butchery

Of coppiced beech, of oak corpses


By cacophonous winds

This winter gone.


While heaven’s hue falls


In ocean pools, cobalt

Below the April leaves,

And cuckoos

Brand the air with heartbreak,

Blue earth gives out green light.


Cut the earth and it bleeds

Blue blood:

Bluebells under the frill and trill

Of singing green, of winging green,


By starry-eyed blackbirds

This slow, slow spring.


© Lizzie Ballagher