He had died of his wrinkles Liver spots and age lines Gnarled and creviced skin Dusted and singed By his Lifetime’s fevered furnace His lungs smoke-charred Legacy of a thousand undoused fires
As old as the hills he trod As the bubbling beck he bled I see six stalwart pall bearers Hard as ancient twisted nails Arise from their bed of iron Raise the dead-weight anvil His final ferrous coffin To shoulder height Begin a steady passage Through the leaden winter streets Beneath those snow-clad Northern Hills Their shrouded clouded sky Seemingly forever draped Atop the silent iron tomb
Carried through the dark gate To its final resting place Fitting memorial to a smith’s life Gifted again to the ironstone earth
In memoriam: Harold Booth, Yorkshire blacksmith & farrier; 1909 – 1987
When Hopkins gloried in dappled things He must have thought of angels’ wings Of gossamer and cuckoo spit Of candles flicker-lit
As Palmer did In silent chapels In Kentish fields
Of darkening woods where sunlight hides In sheepland pastures
On downy hills
In buttercup meadows Where linnet trills
The silent raptures Of sunset light On autumn trees Where swoops the kite
And evening captures The thickening shadows
The cooling breeze Midst fields of golden rippling corn That now adorn the rustic scene
Such glory in apple blossom seen
As they, with Blake, Held in their hand Those grains of sand To wonder more How Nature’s glory Explains itself In storm And stillness In calm and frenzy Light and shade In setting sun And mounting moon
The evening’s glaze In bounteous harvest Nature’s cavalcade
I need to listen to that hidden sound of silence the murmur that thrills lost souls and as it swells reverberates among those distant heathered hills
I crave to hear it burgeon on that lonely land that misty moor of distant memory where dwell lush images of the Green Hill of the High Cliff the Cass Rock the Apple Garth and the bubbling burbling beck its red waters blooding its banks with reminders of its ferrous track
A distant memory rising from deep beneath those ancient northern hills born of Nature’s cycle birthed in ironstone and nurtured in those recurring dreams of my youth and the lasting images of my old age
The streams descending from the hills Ran red with the iron they brought. It could as well have been lost blood For all the wealth they sought.
Plenteous in ore and rich in scope Those Northern hills were ravaged; In the name of thrusting Revolution My native land was savaged.
The earth’s spoils harvested to feed the world’s gross need for steel; So while the master’s pockets bulged No stop to progress’s wheel.
The cost was counted in toil and sweat, In the maiming of the land, And the crying of unnumbered souls Who did not understand.
NOTE: There were 400 fatalities at Eston, North Yorkshire, in the 100 years (in the 19th and early 20th Centuries) the mines were worked there in the Eston Hills, between Cleveland and the River Tees Estuary.
Yes, my youth brought many vital moments among my native hills. Such interludes return now in flashback and in dreams in vignettes and in echoes; instances of acute sensitivity, memories more precious and persistent as year passes into year.
I wish I had been more alive then, more interwoven with my surroundings, instinctively attached to the skies above and to the rolling landscape below.
For there, on the vast wide-open moorland where, above my breathing, what I heard, was only the sound of the bees visiting the sun-yellow gorse, and the sighing rustle of the breeze playing amongst the curls of bracken, the blackbirds circling above in the sundown dusk, calls of the curlew, lapwing and meadow pipit lost in broom , hidden in heather.
Sometimes, in the bliss of solitude’s memory, I have known a disregard for time itself, and I sense I would happily reach eternal slumber in the rapturous throes of such longing.
He is my history Lusting after the hills of my youth He strides the moorland paths Amidst the bracken and the gorse Drinking the sun’s warm ale Savouring the wind’s heather-toned tang Turning time to his advantage Tuning in to its connecting wavelength He is great Nature’s spirit Rising and falling with its moods Sad yet serene in Spring Holding the hope of the future
Bright and bubbly in the summer rains Rich and expansive in the sun’s bright gaze
Brought to magnificent autumn richness Coloured by russet tints Fruitful in his beneficence
He is the winter too Drifting with the whiteness of its moods His flocks penned for winter warmth neath the mountain crag Shielding the gentle crocus And the blanched snowdrop
He is the spirit of the trees Lord of copse and wood Guardian of Grove and greenwood Verdant Monarch of the forest
Of the landscape’s lakes Running with the cool waters of streams and rivers The stillness of Its ponds and pools
Both past and future Gone yet still to come again his cyclic journey unfolds From birth to death From death to resurrection To new life and resurgent hope Maintaining existence Midst promises and threats To bring renewal in the name of life
Though separated from it by so many years that route is etched onto my memory I run it in my sleep now following my recollected path with trenchant mindset breathing deeply whilst with vigorous tread pressing onwards
The massed start then across the school playing field right turn out of the gate onto the sea road past the police station the nurse’s home on to the cemetery the very edge of town up that tricky slope still on metalled road avoiding the light traffic before the turn right off the main road into Mucky Lane aptly named plough on with uncertain foothold through the rutted cart tracks muddy lane until eventually the Whitby road left towards the moors a few hundred yards then leaving the road right and through the farmyard annoying the sheepdog avoiding its belligerence quickly over the stile up the narrow path hedge-hugging onto the foothills the Cleveland scarp all is yellow and green steep climb through the gorse hard going here wet but springy turf short-cropped by the sheep and all is now green still climbing straining through the encroaching undergrowth brushing bracken avoiding the sheep droppings past the wreck of the old iron mine the landscape now pink and brown circle the next shale heap slag and spoil underfoot the air shafts wired off now as far as the rifle range out of bounds sharply right and down now Butt Lane and more mud until back on the Whitby road right again following the stickleback stream along the metalled paving until on the flat picking up my pace I turn left into the Hall grounds now the copse quickly through negotiating the kissing gate and into the Applegarth the finishing straight arrows ahead short sharp uphill sprint and then heart racing to keep up with legs pounding the ground grasping the air gasping for breath until at last the tape
beaten only just into second place
the story of my life
The views in the Photo Gallery below and in the top photograph are all from the actual area of the RUN which was on the scarp slope of the Cleveland Hills which form the Northern border of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. Some of them are more recent photographs of the actual places through which the cross-country course originally passed. The photographs were culled from various internet sources covering this area.
Cleveland pathway leading through colourful yellow gorse bushes as it wends its way along the Yorkshire coastline