They Died With Hazel – Sacrifices to Nodens in the Water Country?

The wetlands of the old counties of Lancashire and Cheshire which were inhabited by the Setantii tribe ‘The Dwellers in the Water Country’ are well known for their bog burials; Lindow Man and Woman, Worsley Man, severed heads from Pilling Moss, Briarfield, Red Moss, Ashton Moss, Birkdale.

The archaeological evidence suggests that Lindow Man and Worsley Man were human sacrifices. Lindow Man (also known as Lindow II) was strangled, hit on the head, and his throat was cut before he was cast into the peat bog. Worsley Man was garotted and his skull fractured before his beheading. These ‘overkill’ injuries are suggestive of ritual killing rather than death in battle or murder.

This is supported by the fact many bog burials from Britain and Europe ate special last meals. The last meal of Lindow Man was a griddle cake baked from finely ground wheat and barley. Lindow III, another man whose remains were found nearby, ate a meal of wheat and rye with hazelnuts. Old Croghan man from Ireland, and Grauballe Man and Tollund Man from Denmark also ate similar meals.

The head from Briarfield was ‘deposited in a defleshed state without the mandible’ ‘with abundant remains of hazel’. Further north, at Seascale Moss in Cumbria, a body was buried in the bog with a hazel walking stick. Miranda Aldhouse Green notes that bog bodies from Gallagh in Ireland and Windeby in Germany wore hazel collars and another from Undelev in Denmark was buried with three hazel rods.

She connects them with a lead defixio of ‘late Roman date’ ‘from the river Ouse near the Hockwold Roman temple’ in Suffolk: ‘Whoever… whether male or female slave, whether freedman or freedwoman… has committed theft of an iron pan, he is to be sacrificed to the god Neptune with hazel’.

The Romans equated Neptune with our ancient British water-god Nodens at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall where an inscription reads ‘DEO NO/NEPTU’. At his Romano-British temple at Lydney, Nodens is depicted on a mural crown driving a chariot pulled by four water-horses accompanied by winged wind-spirits and centaurs with fish-tails and a fish-tailed fisherman.

Nodens gifted pilgrims with healing dreams but was also called upon to remove health. A curse tablet reads: ‘For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one-half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good-health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens.’

It thus seems possible the people who ingested hazel prior to their deaths or were buried with it were sacrifices to Nodens who was equated with Neptune due to his watery qualities by the Romans.

***

The associations between Nodens and hazel have deep mythic roots. In Ireland Nodens was known as Nuada Airgetlám ‘Silver Hand’ and Nechtan (from the Old Irish necht ‘clean, pure, white’). Nechtan was the keeper of the Tobar Segais ‘Well of Wisdom’. Around it stood nine hazel trees which dropped their hazelnuts, containing imbas ‘inspiration’, into the water. They were eaten by salmon and this special poetic wisdom, known as awen in the Welsh myths, was infused into their flesh.

Only Nechtan and his three cup-bearers: Flesc, Lam, and Luam, were allowed to visit the well. Of those who transgressed their eyes would explode (!) – a possible metaphor for the effects of poetic vision.

When Nechtan’s wife, Boann, disobeyed this command the well overflowed and became the river Boyne. One of its kennings is ‘the forearm of the wife of Nuadhu’ and it was known in the early 2nd century CE as Buvinda (from early Irish *Bou-vinda ‘the white lady with bovine attributes’).

When Finn ‘White’, a descendant of Nuadha, cooked the Salmon of Wisdom for his master, Finnegeas, he burnt his thumb, put it in his mouth, and accidentally imbibed his eye-bursting imbas.

I believe it is likely a similar mythos surrounded Nodens here in Britain. On his mural crown a fisherman is catching a large fish and, on a mosaic on his temple floor at Lydney, two sea monsters are surrounded by salmon. Additionally, in medieval Welsh mythology, Arthur and his men ride up the river Severn, past the Temple of Nodens, on the back of the Salmon of Llyn Llyw, to rescue Mabon.

In the dindsenchas the river flowing from Segais has many names. In Ireland it is not only known as the Boyne, but the Trethnach Tond ‘Ocean Wave’ and Sruth Findchoill ‘Stream of White Hazel’. Abroad it becomes Lunnand in Scotland, the Severn in England, then the Tiber, Jordan, Euphrates and Tigris.

At Lydney we also find iconography depicting Nodens’ wife and our British Boann: a stone statuette, thirty inches in height, left leg crossed over right, holding a cornucopia. Pins were offered to her by women seeking aid with childbirth. Unfortunately we do not know her name but the early Irish Bou-Vinda may relate to Vindos/Gwyn ap Nudd, the son she bore Nodens/Nudd. Gwyn’s name not only means ‘White’, but he is referred to as a ‘bull of battle’ in ‘The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir’, suggesting he inherited her bovine attributes.

As Vindonnus, at a spring in Gaul, he was offered bronze plaques depicting eyes. It has been suggested they were for aid curing eye ailments but they may also have been connected with poetic vision.

In medieval Welsh mythology, Gwyn, as Pen Annwn ‘Head of the Otherworld’, is the guardian of a cauldron that is warmed by the breath of nine maidens and will not brew the food of a coward, suggesting it is associated with initiation into the mysteries of the awen tasted from its bubbling waters.

It seems Gwyn, who like Finn, has tasted the wisdom of the salmon from the hazelnuts from the nine hazel trees, and received his awen, later adopts his father’s role as a wisdom-keeper.

***

How, then, does this ancient Celtic mythos appear in and relate to the Water Country? On Cockerham Moss two Romano-British silver statuettes dedicated to Nodens as Mars-Nodontis were found. This suggests that a temple lay nearby. Cockersand Abbey, the closest sacred site, is dedicated to Mary of the Marsh, a Christian overlay on an earlier water-goddess – the wife of Nodens. I know her as Anrhuna which means ‘Very Great’ and is probably only one of her names.

The church on Castle Hill, the pen which gives its name to Penwortham (earlier Peneverdant ‘the Green Hill on the Water’ as it stood on Penwortham Marsh), is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, as was the holy well at the hill’s foot. The large number of Marian dedications in the marshy areas of Penwortham and Preston with their sacred springs hint at the underlying presence of this water-goddess.

The legend of Penwortham Fairy Funeral, set on Castle Hill, with its fairy leader ringing a passing bell and singing a mournful chant as he leads a procession of little black-clad men in red caps, bearing the fairy-double of an unfortunate young man to his grave suggests the presence of Gwyn.

Past the pen, sacred to Anrhuna, Nodens, and Vindos/Gwyn/Pen Annwn, runs the river Ribble. From Ptolemy’s Geography (2AD)we know Belisama is the goddess of the Ribble. She is the sister and/or consort of Bel, who is later known as Beli Mawr, father of Nudd/Lludd. The Ribble is rich in salmon and Maponos/Mabon and his mother Matrona/Modron were worshipped upriver at Ribchester. Modron is the daughter of Afallach (from afall ‘apple’), King of Annwn, a name of Gwyn.

Here, at the Green Hill on the Water, we find a parallel with Lydney ‘Lludd’s Island’. With salmon swimming upriver past a site associated with Mabon to the source where perhaps once stood nine hazel trees.

These stories run deep through this land as they ran through the land of our ancient British ancestors. Before its draining it was truly a water country of intertidal marshlands, reedbeds, carr, lakes and pools, peat bogs, and a damp oak woodland in which hazel and its nourishing nuts were precious.

It’s no wonder they were associated with Nodens, ‘the Catcher’, the wise fisher-god. Perhaps, by sacrificing their enemies to Nodens with hazel, the water dwellers repaid him for his generosity.

Another possibility is that some of the bog burials were devotees of Nodens sacrificed willingly to their god. Awenyddion who, like his son, had imbibed the hazel-rich awen. Lindow III’s consumption of hazelnuts before his death may have been a last act of communion. The man buried with the hazel staff might have carried it as a symbol of his role as a wisdom-keeper.

Hazel grows on the banks of Fish House Brook, which runs through the area once known as Fish Pan Field in Greencroft Valley into the river Ribble. In autumn its nuts are eaten by grey squirrels before they can drop into the brook where, due to changes in water level and pollution, fish no longer swim.

Still, as I pass, I think of the myth of Nodens and his nine hazel trees, Anrhuna’s transgression, Vindos/Gwyn eating the salmon imbued with awen from the hazelnut and his eye-bursting poetic vision, which he has gifted to me as his awenydd to pass on and share with my communities.

***

SOURCES

Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain, (Cardinal, 1974)
Anne Ross, Life and Death of a Druid Prince: The Story of Lindow Man, an Archaeological Sensation, (Touchstone, 1991)
David Barrowclough, Prehistoric Lancashire, (The History Press, 2008)
Finnchuill, ‘Catching Wisdom: Nuadha, Nechtan, Nodens’, Finnchuill’s Mast, (2016)
Jody Joy, Lindow Man, (The British Museum Press, 2009)
Kay Muhr, ‘Water Imagery in Early Irish’, Celtica 23, (1999)
Miranda Green, Dying for the Gods, (The History Press, 2002)

Fish House Brook

Fish House BrookFish House Brook is a stream in Penwortham, which runs from behind my street, Bank Parade, through Greencroft Valley to the river Ribble. Since I started litter picking in the valley three years ago I have been clearing the brook, walking it regularly and researching its history. This article traces its course from source to mouth and provides snap shots of the ways people have related to it over the last few centuries.

~

The source of Fish House Brook and its earliest stretch have been culverted underground. Its course is indicated by the street names Bank Parade and an adjacent cul-de-sac called Burnside Way. It runs underneath the gardens on the eastern side of Bank Parade.

Bank Parade and Burnside Way, courtesy of Mario Maps

Bank Parade and Burnside Way, courtesy of Mario Maps

A few months ago Gordon at number 14 kindly invited me into his garden to see the site of its steep banking, which is now occupied by a pond.

FHB tributary's old valley BP no. 14 - CopyHe also lifted the grille to let me take a peek at the swiftly flowing underground stream.

FHB culverted tributary - CopyThe brook now emerges from a concrete pipeline behind Malt Kiln Cottage.

Fish House Brook, sourceThe following maps show Fish House Brook running from behind Malt Kiln Cottage into Greencroft Valley in the 1840’s and today.

Malt Kiln Farm and Greencroft Valley

Malt Kilm Cottage and Greencroft Valley 1840’s, courtesy of Mario Maps

Malt Kiln Farm and Greencroft Valley

Malt Kiln Cottage and Greencroft Valley now, courtesy of Mario Maps

Malt Kiln Cottage

Malt Kiln Cottage

Malt Kiln Cottage originally housed a water mill used to mill grain for beer. A picture of the pool behind the mill leat can be found on the Tithe Map (1838). Elizabeth Basquill provides a detailed account of how the malsters in residence used water from the stream and adjacent well to soak barley in a malster’s trough before it was dried and delivered by horse and cart round the corner to the Black Bull pub (2).

Malt Kiln Cottage, Tithe Map, 1838

Malt Kiln Cottage, Tithe Map, 1838

During this period Fish House Brook must have been much larger and more powerful to turn a water wheel. Its diminishment shows the effect of building 300 houses and their accompanying pipelines for clean water, drainage and sewage during the Central New Towns Project in the 1980’s.

Greencroft Valley

Greencroft Valley

Greencroft Valley is the largest surviving green space between the new estates. The old field lines remain intact, indicated by rows of trees. The wooded areas provide living space and nesting places for hedgehogs, squirrels and birds including magpies, wrens, a variety of tits, nut hatches and a woodpecker.

Greencroft Valley

Greencroft Valley playing field

The brook has had its share of pollution problems, mainly from grey water out of faulty washing machines. Since reporting this, it has been less frequent. Frog spawn and frogs have been seen, and a few smaller insects. However, there is no sign of any fish. This is disappointing as the 1840’s map shows a fish pond, which according to the Tithe Map was in Fish Pan Field, suggesting local people used to pan in the brook for fish.

Fish Pan Field

Fish Pond and Greencroft Valley 1840, courtesy of Mario Maps

Fish Pan Field

Greencroft Valley now, courtesy of Mario Maps

The brook is culverted from Greencroft Valley beneath Hill Road South.

Fish House Brook, Culvert under Hill Rd SouthIt emerges close to Rosefold house and cottages.

Rose Fold Cottages

Rose Fold Cottages

According to Elizabeth Basquill the cottages and yard were part of a tannery. During the late 19th century Fish House Brook was used to wash hides. ‘The hides were soaked in slaked lime first, then washed, and the hair and flesh scraped off.’ This process would have caused considerable pollution to the stream. Two adjacent fish ponds, which Elizabeth believes may have existed from the medieval period were ‘later used as tan pits for washing the skins’ (3).

Rosefold

Rose Fold 1840, Courtesy of Mario Maps

Rosefold

Rose Fold now, courtesy of Mario Maps

The first stretch of the brook, heading northeast, cannot be followed behind the houses. Where it makes a rightangle and heads northwest, a footpath runs alongside it. This follows the line of a much older route that led from Middleforth Green to St Mary’s Well (4).

Fish House BrookIt then bends right and passes through Campbell’s Park Homes following its old course round the back of the mobile houses.

Fish House Brook, Campbell's Park Homes

Fish House Brook, Campbell’s Park Homes

Campbells Park Homes, Meadows

Fish House Brook 1840, courtesy of Mario Maps

Campbell's Park Homes, Meadows

Fish House Brook, the Meadows and Campbells Park Homes now, courtesy of Mario Maps

The residential park nestles within the triangle of Penwortham Junction. The train lines pictured closed in 1965 and are now covered by beech, birch, sycamore, bramble and an array of wildflowers, forming important wildlife corridors.

Campbell's Park Homes

Campbell’s Park Homes

Another tributary enters Fish House Brook, running from the back of Far Field across the meadows. The pathway to St Mary’s Well crosses it, and there is a newer footbridge further south. At this time of year the meadows are thriving with mayflowers, buttercups, plantain, wild carrot, orange tipped and cabbage white butterflies and an abundance of bees.

The Meadows

The Meadows

The brook runs through Penwortham Allotments (unfortunately out of bounds) then is finally culverted beneath Leyland Road under Fish House Bridge.

Fish House Bridge

Fish House Bridge

Fish House Bridge

Fish House Brook culverted under Fish House Bridge

The 1840’s map shows a lodge beside Fish House Bridge. Alan Crosby says the bridge took its name from a timber building which ‘served as the quarters of the manorial river bailiff.’ This dwelling was adjacent to the fish garths, which were mainly used for catching salmon between December and August. It was the bailiff’s task to make sure the fishermen from different townships abided by the rules of the fisheries (5).

Fish House Bridge

Fish House Bridge 1840’s, courtesy of Mario Maps

Fish House Bridge

Fish House Bridge now, courtesy of Mario Maps

It is clear Fish House Brook derives its name from the Fish House, and as far as I know, no trace of an earlier name remains.

~

Each of these locations holds a story and discloses a relationship between the brook and the people who have depended on it. Since water started being piped in the 19th century, we’ve had no need to fetch it from wells or streams for drinking or bathing. Due to modern farming and production methods few of us rely on local waterways for fish, mill our own grain or tan our own skins.

This has a distancing effect. Due to continuing building work, I cannot imagine a time when the water from Fish House Brook will be safe to drink. It is uncertain whether fish will return, although some small fish were sighted by mum in nearby Penwortham Brook.

Small fish photographed by my mum in Penwortham Brook. Can you identify them?

Small fish photographed by my mum in Penwortham Brook. Can you identify them?

Whilst it’s impossible to turn back the clocks, I think there is time to get to know and understand our watercourses, and the lives and motivations of the people who have worked with and changed them. This article is an early marker stone on the journey through this process for me.

(1) Courtesy of Mario Maps
(2) Elizabeth Basquill, More Hidden Histories of Penwortham Houses (2011), p6-11, 42-44
(3) Ibid, p34-36
(4) St Mary’s Well was famous for being the cleanest source of water in the area and was attributed healing properties. Local people used to walk a mile to access their favoured water source, and it was also a site of pilgrimage.
(5) Alan Crosby, Penwortham in the Past, (1988), p48

Half Moon and the Holly King

Half moon over Greencroft ValleyHalf bitten moon cries a waning scream.
Her severed pieces are brought by the stream
to the cavernous lair of the holly king
who grinds his axe on a sharpening stone
and prepares his block for the gore of heroes.

Silent and pensive he waits in his cave.
The moon arrives and his blood red eyes
are filled with silver swimming.
Outside the blackbirds sing
a song which knows no kenning.

The half formed moon describes her sorrows.
The king laments his lack of heroes-
vision waned and bravery gone.
Blackbirds sing their endless song
of an empty sky and bloodstained block…

then as hope elides a knight of dawn
approaches on a starless horse
with fire-lit eyes and maenad’s locks.
She boldly casts her gauntlet down
at the feet of the holly king.

The half formed moon departs from his arms.
He performs his task with an aura of calm.
The blackbirds watch in silence.
Then moon and lair are gone.
Dawn rides free, afraid, yet unharmed.

Holly, Greencroft Valley

Awenydd

I.
As the longest night looses
darkest claws I walk amongst shadows
at dawn where moonlight floods
through the arms of trees
and a solitary lamppost lights the vale.

Lamppost, Greencroft ValleyII.
River-trees stand stark and tall,
consistent in her mind’s
unravelling of currents and tides,
cormorants and gulls,
a ragged heron.

RibbleIII.
The host’s roar to a lullaby
quells as moon leads dawn
over chiming hills to be swallowed
by cloud as the hunt returns
to graveyard and mound.

Moon over Castle HillIV.
My lord of the fay
makes his presence known.
He speaks to the mist within my bones
like the lych gate unfastening,
awenydd– my magic word.

Lych gate, St Mary's ChurchV.
The spirit paths are mine
to walk for an evanescent pulse
of dawn. Time stands still
from vale to hill and the stream
sings: awenydd, awenydd.

Fish House Brook

Greencroft Valley

Greencroft ValleyGreencroft Valley is located in Penwortham, and is split down its centre between Kingsfold Ward on the east and Middleforth Green to the west. From (at least) medieval times up until 1984 the valley was farmland. The 1839 Tithe map shows the fields at the south end of the valley (between Pope Lane and the old Oak) as belonging to the Mayor family, who owned Malt Kiln Farm and Cottage. The cottage was originally a water powered mill, where barley from the local fields was made into grain. Following this, grain was soaked in a stone trough, ‘chitted’, germinated, dried in a kiln and ‘riddled’ before being placed in sacks to be taken by horse and cart to the Black Bull Inn. The land was bought by the church in 1860[1].

The fields north of the Oak belonged to the Baker family, who lived in a house called Alderfield, and later became Miss Whittam’s riding school (the site is now covered by Greencroft). The old hedge line can still be seen between the old Oak, the adjacent trees and another oak tree of a similar age near the Malthouse Way entrance. Another visible hedge line divides the green from the woods close to the Maltings. This divided the fields belonging to Alderfield from Fish Pan Pasture.

The presence of the mill combined with the two fishing ponds on the Tithe Map and the large culvert adjacent to Hill Road South, all form evidence that Fish House Brook was several times larger and more forceful than it is now, showing the drastic shifts that have been brought about in the water table over the past 150 years. Another point of note is that there was a well in the valley close to the edge of the brook, to whose steps a path ran from Alderfield; this disappeared with the building of the new estates.

The large and irregular field patterns suggests they date back at least to medieval times. A 1590 map refers to the land that stretches from Pope Lane to Castle Hill as ‘all these ancient and several lands of the manor of Penwortham as well as the Queen’s as of freeholders and copyholders[2]’. The first entry for Penwortham in the Domesday book cites the existence of ‘two ploughs,’ in reference to Penwortham End and Middleforth Green. Evidence from the Dock Finds shows the area adjacent to the Ribble near Castle Hill was occupied from the Neolithic period onward. If this was the case in higher Penwortham, then judging by the population figures (the population of Britain was higher in the Iron Age than it was during the Norman period[3]) it is possible Middleforth Green and the valley have been occupied and farmed just as long.

The occupation and land use changed dramatically between 1979 and 1984 as a result of the Central Lancashire New Towns project. This was set up in 1973 and aimed to draw together Penwortham, Preston, Walton, Leyland and Chorley in a vast urban sprawl with a population of half a million, covering 55 square miles with houses[4]. During this period the estates of Greencroft, Malthouse Way, Alderfield and the Maltings were built- over 300 houses, bringing an approximate number of 600 people[5] into the area, in stark contrast to the small number who occupied Malt House Farm and Cottage and Alderfield. It was during this period that Middleforth School, which was founded in 1861 and was formerly a Chapel-School situated where Church Brook House now stands at the bottom of Marshall’s Brow, was moved to its present site[6]. It seems needless to say that the impact on the nature and wildlife of the area must have been huge.

This open green space and woodland now forms an important habitat for wildlife, a roosting place for birds, a possible swimming place for stream life and a pleasant vista for dog walkers and play area for children, and is the only place amidst the new estates where the traces of so many centuries of our rural past is preserved. Home to a plethora of living things, from those with roots and leaves, to those with legs, tails or wings, it is an eco-system that deserves care and respect, and this is the purpose of the Friends of Greencroft Valley.

[1] Elizabeth Basquill, More Hidden Histories of Penwortham Houses, (The Friends of Hurst Grange Park, 2011), p6-11, 42-44.
[2] Alan Crosby, Penwortham in the Past, (Carnegie Press, 1988), p67
[3] There were 3 million people in 700 BC compared to 2.5 million in 1086 http://www.ukagriculture.com/countryside/countryside_history.cfm
[4] Alan Crosby, Penwortham in the Past, (Carnegie Press, 1988), p145
[5] Going by the average figure of 2.32 people per household http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/statistics/pdf/1172133.pdf
[6] Penwortham Magazine, Issue 3.

The Colloquium of the Brooks

Ribble close to Mill Brook

 

 

 

 

 

On the silted shore of the Ribble
Where the gulls dip and call
The river banks her vista
And the tides ebb and flow
In unending expeditions
From the land to the sea
The brooks broach their quantas
And descry their misery.

Fish House Brook:
How long now?

Penwortham Brook:
Patience little sister, can’t you see the times are changing?

Fish House Brook:
I’m barely in a position to perceive change
Caught in the constrictions of the concrete culverts
Cut by the man-made channels, blinkered in blind
Alley-ways, forced through dire traps and grilles,
Stumbling in terror via that jail house prison
Cruelly manufactured for me below Hill Road South.

Mill Brook:
If you would look beyond those despotic fixities you would see
The dark pall of the industrial era has lifted, your brother
And I are freed from servitude, our water running clearer by the day.

Fish House Brook:
And you see this as consolation?
Do you not remember when the magnitude of our flow
Turned water wheels, had the force to overturn wagons
And shifted the lay of the land to sculpt our valleys?

Mighty Belisama, you must recall our glory days
Before they shifted your course from Watery Lane to Castle Hill,
Deformed our travails, forever destabilised our tables?

Belisama:
Quarrelsome brooks, stare firmly at the quintessence
Of your course and see all that remains constant is change.
Since the ice lords rode our backs, pitched us deeper
Into the frozen earth, and through the aeons before
Our wills and paths have never been wholly our own.

Fish House Brook:
That the principalities of nature shape us I do not disclaim.
But these men… with their yellow jackets
And heaving ploughs, excavators and cranes,
Winding cords, caterpillar rolls, drop down drains,
Their discernment as dense as a builder’s helmet,
Vision blank as a steel lid, they are numb as their machines.

Penwortham Brook:
Not like the orphans who worked my looms.
I remember their knocked legs stumbling to my bank,
How they stared into the rainbow of my polluted depths.
With wide white eyes they contemplated their horror in me,
Knowing not what they were or what I could be.

Fish House Brook:
At least then we were seen. Now the people stagger
By blind as drunks, ditching debris on our banks.

Mill Brook:
Humans… still given wholly to gods
They cannot see. Servile seeking invisible wealth
Not even gleaming gold. Their only idols strip plastic
Features on the screens, flip in pixels to wide dumb grins.

Fish House Brook:
The vapid screens suck out their lives.
They are not aware of, nor do they understand their sacrifice.
Whilst trapped within their drains we wither up and die.

Penwortham Brook:
Belisama, tell her that isn’t true.

Belisama:
How many years have men visited our banks?

Fish House Brook:
Well, I remember when we were treated with reverence.
Do you recall the long days spent by smiths at the forge,
The bold shatter of sparks, the bright ring of the hammer,
The beauty of gifts delivered in resonant ceremonies,
Swords, axes, heads crafted from stone and those of enemies
Whilst now all they drop in is litter and fag ends.

Penwortham Brook:
It was when the factories rose that the human race
Became effulgence and we it’s dumping ground.

Fish House Brook:
Now red fades to grey and the system is dying.
Their wonders drop, one by one, like falling dolls.
They roam the streets, jobless and desolate.
There is no hope in their eyes.
They have no strength left.

Belisama:
Bearers of the brooks, steerers of the streams,
Deliverers of my bright waters. Do not dismay!
Like the course of a river, times will change
We are bound into a whole with sea and rain.
With he who brings the tides come the waves.
I still commune with the lords of the glaciers
And they say we have not got long to wait.

Fish House Brook

Fish House Brook

Rainwater sharp drums the earth’s dark soil,
With a tantalizing splash sinks into her pores.
Through a tumult of tunnels, tumbling forth
From a pipeline vessel comes my concrete source.

Sieving through stones I wind my way around,
Slipping by silt, diving sleek from platforms,
Foaming effervescent, wooden rails hold my course.
I’m driven through the gauntlet like a wilful water horse.

My tributaries tremble through constricting veins
Their water has been stolen by the sewers and the drains.
The contusion of pipes plugging earth’s damp flesh
Dumps on my banks, spitting domestic waste.

My hydrophonic pulse with the force to drive a mill
Springs from showers and spins in washing machines.
Weeping by wounds of flesh pink clay,
I seep through grooves as the land is washed away.

When the earth’s dark skin is sealed under concrete,
The last dash of water in the New Town monster
And my channel dies tight by their eyeless folly
My streaming ghost will scream through the valley.

Litter in the Valley

If the doors of perception were cleansed
Everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.
For man has closed himself up.’
–          William Blake ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Litter in the valley-
when people pass by
I see their minds are littered with debris;
carrier bags squashed, squeamishly sodden,
crisp packets tattle in the trees.
Chocolate wrappers with dirt in their pockets
chase like dogs without leads.
Discarded, a full can with a wasp in it,
dead, fermented in the void.
Shattered bottles glass the earth,
cider vessels huge and vacuous,
squeezed shut as if by the jaws of some great mutt.
A sip of vinegar slides along the bottom,
seeps out leaving a stench-
stains on the valley,
a land of garbage.

Cleanse the doors of perception and you will see
roots from the earth’s depth towering upward to infinity,
peppered bark- tan, brown, silver, grey,
tough, rough, notched, spot a gnarlen face.
Feel the clog of loam on your feet,
smells like umber, hidden paths and treats.
The swish of the leaves, damp and orange curls
twitching brown, yellow curve citrine,
amber shells, red night dancers and newly fallen green.
Halt! Hear the intangible snap, see them float,
swaying like boats, turning like sun dials
as bright beams break through the boughs,
raising mist from cold clarity of the stream.

So why crust over this sacred vision with debris,
facies hippocratica, waste site insult to all that is living?
Everything sings, everything feels and dreams.
Open your mind and clear the litter from the valley.