A Stranger on Bickershaw

I am a stranger here.

There are some familiar trees
but they look at me with different eyes

like the Highland cattle who have come from Lincolnshire –
the ginger bullocks with their long curved horns.

I want insects to walk in the tracks
of my wellies as I pick up
my mallet, spade,
hessian mat,
wooden pegs,
cardboard guard
carefully labelled with
an arrow pointing up lest I forget
my sense of direction in the wind and rain.

But they will not trust me for a long while yet
nor will the lapwings, the redwings, the fieldfare…

I want to be more than a cardboard cut-out
just miming and even more so when
I remember the miners –
hard hats, spades,
picks

(when I Google Bickershaw it says more
about the colliery than the village),

sinking shafts to the Plodder seam,

the falling cage and…

I am here planting trees
sometimes overturning a stone
or a piece of coal the chuck chuck chuck
of my mallet a reminder of all the years of hammering

and I am afraid of the absence of the Whistlers
who once upon a time gave a warning.

I am chucking out their memories.

Oh birds return oh birds return!

I believe this rod of willow is stronger
than my prayers and I take faith in knowing
it will outgrow the touch of a stranger.

2 thoughts on “A Stranger on Bickershaw

  1. Greg Hill says:

    To be part of making a new wildlife-friendly habitat out of a remnant mine must be a good experience, and your wish to be part of it shapes it prayerfully.

    Your reference to the ‘whistlers’ reminded me a a phrase in Welsh – ‘dim gobaith caneri’ (not a canary’s hope), a bit of coal-mining lingo that has survived the mines -and the fate of the canaries – and is embedded in the language.

  2. GERARD O'HANLON says:

    Here is one i did earlier, published in lancashire life 2013

    Bickershaw
    by Gerard O’Hanlon, .

    Along the Moor to Bickershaw
    I walked straight through the Gypsy
    camp,
    Their Horses white and proud and pure,
    Along the moor through Bickershaw.
    A vixen stared and glared through me,
    As if to gloat that she was free,
    Unlike the souls upon the Hill
    Behind the bars and wire grille.
    I walked adjacent to the line,
    Towards the bridge were life once lived
    The Broken Bridge from time before,
    Besides the Bridge in Bickershaw.
    This place of mines – This place of Men,
    Where Time neglects their suffering
    I swear I heard them call to me,
    Their cries as real as real can be,
    They plead to be alive once more,
    This Ghostly place called Bickershaw.

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