Thursday, 5 May 2011

In Edward Thomas Country - Wild Flowers on Ashford Hanger


Last week, on a hot, late April day, I walked with friends in the wooded lanes above Steep, in Hampshire. We knew that we were walking the lanes and woodland tracks beloved of the poet Edward Thomas, who lived with his family in Steep during the years before the First World War. Thomas wrote of the English countryside in both prose and poetry, but his acceptance as a poet and public acknowledgement of his greatness came after his death in the Battle of Arras, aged thirty nine, on 9th April, 1917.

After a morning exploring the village of Steep, we drove up the high, winding road to the lane above Ashford Hanger. Out along the narrow lane we walked, with birdsong all around us, and the scent of blossom mingling with a sharp, garlic tang of wild Ramsons on the hot, noonday air.

A cottage gate fringed with honesty and chickweed flowers.......


...violets by the lane edge.....



...and then the glorious seas of wild garlic, in flower by hedge bottom and beneath beech trees.



Yellow Archangel......


Yew branches mingling with the bright green of new beech leaf. Yew, beech and oak have grown together on these ancient hills for millennia.


Through a gap in the hedge, Spring wheat grew dark green in downland fields.


Wild clematis, in Autumn the Old Man`s Beard of Thomas`s poem "Old Man", tumbled fresh and green through a tangled hedge and up the nearest tree.


Holly blossom......


deep blue Germander Speedwell.....


...and everywhere, twisted roots of tree ivy ........



....and holes were leading underground from the bases of ancient trees.


Ramsons in a veil of white blossomed beneath the coppiced trees.....




......and shared the shade with Archangels.....


...in a wooded lane where felled branches lay to rot amid uncurling ferns.



We reached the junction of two tracks and carried on along Old Litten Lane.


Through a tunnel of leaf and dappled shade, buzzing with insects........



...until we left the track on a footpath through the trees.....


....looking back through the silent years and feeling that something of the poet remained with us still, in these wooded English hills.


6 comments:

Ann Somerset Miles said...

This is so lovely - in itself a Thomas poem; words and pictures. Just beautiful. (I am almost sure however that the 'old man' Thomas writes of is Southernwood (Artemesia), for he says, "old man or lad's love, in the name there's nothing, to one who knows not lad's love or old man' - and then he goes on to describe the scent of the leaf. Mind you, it's 60 years since I studied and learned that poem off by heart so I could be mistaken.

Bovey Belle said...

Beautiful - so we didn't take exactly the same pictures after all!!! It was a day I shall NEVER forget.

Kath said...

How wonderful. Makes me yearn for the woods. Guess we are headed tomorrow :-)

WOL said...

What a paradise of wildflowers! I can't believe violets grow wild there.

Dartford Warbler said...

Ann SM - you have sent me back to reread the poem and yes, I stand corrected. I`m sure he does not mean Old Man`s Beard in the poem, but Artemesia ( I did not know it as Old Man, or Lad`s Love). Would this be the Artemesia also known as Wormwood? That certainly has a bitter, pungent and memorable smell. We had some in our last garden.

Angie said...

What wonderful photos of all those wild flowers ...shame they are thought of as weeds in most gardens and not allowed to flourish. I did enjoy the wander with you.