For botanist and NHSN member, Brenda Astley, a summer walk during lockdown provided inspiration for a delightful poem detailing a trip into the Northumbrian countryside
The decision made,
A walk we’ll do!
We head off west to
Ovingham and Whittle Dene.
It’s many months since we have walked
This favourite path through woodland trees,
Filled with childhood memories.
Over the old stone stile
And along the path to the gate,
That leads into the meadow.
The air is very hot and still
As we slowly walk through thick, rank grass.
Signs of Autumn’s slow advance
Are in the trees beside the path;
Pubescent nuts on Hazel twigs,
Infant acorns on the Oaks,
Elderberries turning black.
Too soon, too soon
The Summer days will end!
The alien Balsam thug
Is slowly eating up the field!
But hope still lies
In clumps of Knapweed,
Yarrow and Great Willowherb,
Yet to yield their ground.
We reach the gate into the wood
And step into the cool, green shade.
Lofty trees soar upwards to the sky,
The burn burbles softly below the path.
All is calm as we walk along,
Through the clearing, ringed by holiday homes,
Some sad, neglected and overgrown.
On through the trees, so still and tall.
An orange spot on a nearby trunk
Attracts my eye.
Another and then another on trees we pass.
And then we know why they are there!
Looking up, the trees all marked
Thrust leafless branches to the sky.
They are all Ash and doomed to die.
We reach the site of the old mill weir,
And stand a while,
Watching the quiet water below.
Then reluctantly turn and
Retracing our steps,
Back down the narrow path we go,
To stop and inspect the crumbling old mill,
Which once was so busy,
But now, all is still.
Back past the Ash trees
Awaiting their end.
The air seems to enfold us
With cool, gentle arms.
Then on through the gate
And into the heat
Of the overgrown field once again.
“Go back, go back” my mind says to me
“Back amongst the trees to dream,
Beside the gently murmuring stream”.
I pause and turn to look:
The day creeps quietly onward
And we must homeward go.
Brenda Astley, Sept. 2020
Brenda Astley has been interested in flowers for as long as she can remember, collecting all the “Flower Fairy” books written by Cicely Mary Barker when she was small. She has been a member of NHSN’s Wednesday Botany Group for over 25 years and likes being out in the countryside. She is also interested in birds (though, by her own admission, not very good at identifying them!) and geology, which is her husband’s main interest, and anything to do with natural history really. What you might call a “Jack of all trades and Master of none!”