Winchester Trilogy III

Here’s the final poem in the Winchester series. It marks the end of our one hundred mile walk from Eastbourne to Winchester…which took us a long time!

III      Two Walkers

The path delivers us, worn weary
With all the walking, down the last long hopper
Of the rolling trail. And so we are harvested
Earthy as rough grain
From the wind & rain of the track.

We are come to the end of a pilgrimage.
We are come home, come back.

Now buffeted & footsore
We are refined like wheat,
Sifted like fine white flour,
Now shaking the dust from our coats, our feet.
Worn, yes, but reborn on reaching

The end of the long southern ridge:
The end of our South Downs pilgrimage.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Winchester Trilogy II

Second post in the Winchester series for you…

TO WINCHESTER

II       Golden Grain

Grown from the ground,
From earth’s chalk & clay, grime & gravel,
Tight-folded granules of wheat—
The poor man’s gold—
Is grist to the mill.

Dusty with lowly soil
It bulges in shadowed sacks,
Dull & lifeless as ash
Until from the dry-store it’s poured
Rattling, scuttling down the hopper:

Nuggets crushed between grey jaws,
Between the furrowed grit-stones.
They utter no sound but the low, low groan
Of stone on stone as gold-dust
Turns soft as silk:

Brighter than chalk or silver,
Whiter than milk or light.

And flour blooms on the mill-house floor.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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Winchester Trilogy

Followers of this blog over the last year know that our challenging, gorgeous trek along the whole length of the South Downs Way is over. We celebrated the end of our 100-mile westward walk by spending several days in historic Winchester.  Here follow some of our impressions, starting with the Winchester City Mill.

TO WINCHESTER

I      The City Mill

Upstream the water unreels diamond clear from its cress-bed source
Over chalk-beds white as sifted flour:
Bird-dipped, sliding, slipping in silence
It glitters in its shallow course.

Upstream the water drifts in a dream,
Soundless, limpid below blue-green willows:
Swan-swum, trailing skeins of water weed,
Beaded with pennywort, with ferns fountaining,

But then—above the gabled red-brick mill—divides.

One side flows smooth, the other rough-grained like wood,
Braided suddenly in faster-flowing fibres;
In light-shot silver bands it runs
In a hissing murmur, strands twisting ever tighter,
Drawn inexorably through the deepening sluice.
Soon it rushes, slices over tiny stones,
Over long-lost Saxon buckles, Roman coins
And stream-washed rainbow trout bones
Drawn into the foaming white churn of the mill,
Roiling, boiling & the great black wheel
Turning, toiling, with the flap, the slap of blades
Clacking, iron cogs clicking
And the bright wet-shine of water on old oak,
And the rattle of pulley chains
As a cascade of wheat-grains
Descends to feed the yawning hopper.
Now Winchester’s city mill roars.
Old timber floors tremble
At the guttural growl, the groaning grind
Of mountainous grit-stones turning…

But then—below the thundering mill—
The sundered water joins its twin tides once again.

Downstream the river drifts in a dream,
Soundless, limpid below blue-green willows:
Swan-swum, trailing skeins of water weed,
Beaded with pennywort, with ferns fountaining.

© Lizzie Ballagher

2015-09-08 11.02.302015-09-08 10.37.25

 

 

Those who have walked this way before us

On Old Winchester Hill

High on Old Winchester Hill, I wonder:

Did Victorian archaeologists miss the point

With their methodical measuring tapes,

Their neat white note-cards & their tapping trowels;

Their careful record books & counted shards

Of flint & iron & pottery?

 

The hill is healed now of all diggings: hollows & barrows

Softened by falling rain, by grass & honeyed clover,

By golden gorse & trefoil; by thistledown & scabious;

By poppies’ red splash & purple coils of rampant vetch.

Now rock-hard ramparts, humps & clumps of earth are blurred:

Jumbled by time & tempest, roots & rabbits.

 

What’s left to mark the memory of ancient ancestors

And long-lost clans?—those who lived before the builders of Stonehenge,

Before Romans drove their roads in dead straight lines & marched to ruin,

Before Arthur cantered out with wandering knights

Or Alfred was enthroned in royal halls at Winchester—

What’s left to mark their memory?

 

Only this: a gentle wooden seat to rest upon with you,

To stare back down & through the ages;

And this: our love shall last, not overlords.

We carry seeds of sweetness in our plantings

As surely as feathered corn-cockles flare

Open for another summer & another—

 

As surely as the children born to us

Will walk upon this hilltop once:

Their eyes fixed on the azure glory of the sky,

Their feet sunk deep in kingly blue of cornflowers

And golden hoards of seed-heads where today we go

In tracks of those who settled here six thousand years ago.

 

© Lizzie Ballagher

2015-07-13 13.37.14

 

News from Hampshire

News just in is that all the writing and walking are coming together again in and along the South Downs Way. This month, for the February issue, Hampshire Life Magazine is running a piece about our ongoing trek from Eastbourne to Winchester. By all means have a look at the South Downs Way and Hampshire Life websites for inspiration!

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