Tuesday 11 November 2014


Oncoming Winter's journey must be taken
By foot, horse, carriage, ox-pulled cart
To stand before dawn at the thing-stead
Earth home of the old boney-man;
Cross of Knightlow, weathered holy stone,
Way marker of miles & years fast-fading.

Wind & rain, sleet & snow,
Fast frosts fall sharp towards the end of night
To make the journey out of the warm inn,
Farm kitchen, lodge house, stable yard;
A cold & weary way
That you must take to meet your obligation.

Down the Fosse from Hopsford
Up the Fosse from Princethorpe & Stretton
& Harbury with their legendary 2 shillings & 3 pence ha'penny
Armies marched here, time long ago
& even before, when it was green-way on a stoney ridge
The cattle drover sought his ancient North.

Down Stretton Lane from Wolston
Up London Road from Toft & Woolscott
Up the old Cov road from Ladbroke & Long Itchington
All the way over from Arley & Astley, Bramscote & Churchover
Bubbenhall, Birdingbury & Weston under Wetherley
A wild road, for company, staff & sword.

A wild road, a dark way
A passage herdsmen follow
Seeking pasture or market-days in squares;
So you must follow too, marking signs
To pay your wroth, your troth, your worth
White-silver protection money to land-earls.

The wild ox shuns company;
She'll charge the noble lord; blood!
A single minded fighter, she'll redden herself if she can
Veins roar the tune, hard to lead,
Head-tosser, earth-stamper
Voice wind heard over centuries.

& now we come,
Out of villages, suburbs & cities
By shiny car, shiny hood pulled up
Fortified by coffee, toast, porridge, milky tea,
To stand where they stood
Fulfill a different kind of duty.

Down the A45 before Dawn

Why do we come?
To this once central, now almost forgotten field
To stand in rain around a stone; cross long gone?
We owe no dues to any landed lord
Come & go as we please
Unafraid of any wild-forest denizen;

Our wroth & troth & worth held by the bosses & banks
Our cattle shipped by red-lit lorries
Modern roarers, dodged by the side of the A45
As we filter past the abandoned garage,
Ruined Goji, somnolent driveways,
Converted cottages.

We come in part to honour those who came before
To stand where they stood & remember them
We're an ancient people standing the test of time;
They are our forebears:
Village elders, farmers, drovers
People of the land who walked this road before us.

For some of us it's in the blood
We're Knightlow Hundred born & bred
We came here with our Mum & Dad
When we were little; a special day
Taste of hot rum & milk when you're ten,
Adventure; story to tell other children.

Many of us are drawn by gravity
The heavy weight of years of folk
Our own lives drawn into the loom
Of local culture, the spirit of the place,
The gathered gloom of season;
Tradition locates us in a wider, deeper world.

So we take the Winter journey
Across the land to the gathering place
Stand before dawn to hear ancient names called out
While in the shadows of oncoming day
We join a greater company
& we ourselves become the ancestors of tomorrow.

Gill & Anne Count the Wroth Money.

This year I am honoured to have been commissioned to write & perform my work at the Wroth Silver Ceremony. It is recorded in the Domesday Book as an ongoing English feudal obligation & is probably the longest running continuous ceremony in England if not Britain. It ceased to be obligatory in 1800 & has been kept alive by local people ever since. I read my poem to 82 people gathered in a local pub for the Wroth Silver Breakfast. Apparently we have raised a twinkle in the eye of the Queen! I also read my Letter to the Unknown Soldier, which you can find below.

Monday 10 November 2014

To the Unknown Soldier

We who walk upon the Island of the Mighty’s stony bed
Who enjoy lark song, green vale, river bank, mountain side, call to you; nameless, fallen warrior.
We do not know which paths you knew well or loved nor by which streams nor upon which hillsides you courted;
Neither which landmarks, ancient or young were the axes of your oh, so cruelly shortened lifetime.

We do not know from which town you arose nor upon which street your mother bore you into a world of care.
We do not know which dialect you spoke, team you followed, lanes you ran down as a lad, nor the factory or field in which you laboured,
But in our hearts & minds we are reaching out to you, lonely warrior.
We can only imagine the trials that you faced; the joy, the fear, the anger, the pain;
The pain that war makes in the soul, the ritual scarification of our dreams. 
Father, brother, cousin, we who climb green & pleasant hills, listen to birdsong in the mornings of our lives,
Walk in the rain, swim in the sea, drive home to see our parents, cannot know what delighted you;
But dear one, now we have adopted you & will imagine the embraces, challenges & diversions which you enjoyed;
The songs that your heart sang, not so different from our own.
All this makes your despair, struggle, injury & death a personal thing,
Even if we can never know your name nor what you left behind;
What you may have longed for, fought for or held sweet in your mind when you knew that death would come to take you.

That was your courage, your challenge, your ending.
This is our courage, our challenge; to consider what you did & what they did to you as we look at ourselves in the mirror's eye in memory of it.
We thank you, praise you & will remember you as best we can.

I wrote this as a druid & a folklorist. Let us honour the fallen as men & women of the land. We come from the land. We are its expression, it's voice. So much of our heritage is lost when people go to war. So much of our folk heritage was held, historically, by men & when they were tragically lost to us as fathers, husbands, brothers & friends they were also lost to us as storytellers, singers, dancers, musicians & guardians of ancient lore & practise. War & plague; yes, let us name them side by side for they are kin; blight our history & our knowledge of our origins. 

It may also be found here: