My friend Simon, who is always stuck-in-a-book, grew up in Eckington in Worcestershire and recently mentioned to me a poem called Upon Eckington Bridge by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.
UPON ECKINGTON BRIDGE, RIVER AVON
by: A.T. Quiller-Couch
PASTORAL heart of England! like a psalm
Of green days telling with a quiet beat–
O wave into the sunset flowing calm!
O tirèd lark descending on the wheat!
Lies it all peace beyond the western fold
Where now the lingering shepherd sees his star
Rise upon Malvern? Paints an Age of Gold
Yon cloud with prophecies of linkèd ease–
Lulling this Land, with hills drawn up like knees,
To drowse beside her implements of war?
Man shall outlast his battles. They have swept
Avon from Naseby Field to Savern Ham;
And Evesham’s dedicated stones have stepp’d
Down to the dust with Montfort’s oriflamme.
Nor the red tear nor the reflected tower
Abides; but yet these elegant grooves remain,
Worn in the sandstone parapet hour by hour
By labouring bargemen where they shifted ropes;
E’en so shall men turn back from violent hopes
To Adam’s cheer, and toil with spade again.
Ay, and his mother Nature, to whose lap
Like a repentant child at length he hies,
Nor in the whirlwind or the thunder-clap
Proclaims her more tremendous mysteries:
But when in winter’s grave, bereft of light,
With still, small voice divinelier whispering
–Lifting the green head of the aconite,
Feeding with sap of hope the hazel-shoot–
She feels God’s finger active at the root,
Turns in her sleep, and murmurs of the Spring.
‘Upon Eckington Bridge, River Avon’ is reprinted from An Anthology of Modern Verse. Ed. A. Methuen. London: Methuen & Co., 1921.
So I thought it would interesting, as I was staying a few days in nearby Tewkesbury, to have a look at this bridge and take a few photos. Due to traffic problems and road closures yesterday my only chance was to take a diversion from my journey home and check it out this morning, en route for Leeds.
Eckington Bridge was built in 1728 of local sandstone and is a scheduled monument, enjoying a Grade II listing. I like Q-C’s references to the countryside and to battles and man outlasting his battles and returning to the land. There is nothing too dramatic about the landscape of Worcestershire but again it isn’t dull and flat and featureless. Man has definitely had a hand in shaping it. No barges passed down the river as I stood on its bank today and I’m afraid I wasn’t sufficiently brave enough to stand on the bridge’s parapets.
Bredon Hill, near Eckington
When I arrived at the deserted car park and picnic site by the River Avon I risked frostbite to take a few snaps and life and limb to cross the road to see the bridge from both sides! I’m sure on a warm summer’s day when folk are picnicking and messing about on the river its a divine spot. Quite frankly a couple of minutes were enough and I soon leapt back into the car to make way along various motorways home.
Simon, these pictures are for you!
A three-and-a-half mile walk is recommended – for a warmer day, perhaps?
That water looks pretty chilly!
River Avon and Bredon Hill
Canoe Launch and Walks
The Bridge from the ‘other’ side
I had just finished reading “Q’s” Troy Town when Simon sent this. I’m so glad to see the photographs. Thank you.
You are welcome, Sarah. I always associate that bridge with possible frostbite! I’ve never read any “Q”, although I seem to have heard of him for ever.
Lovely! I’m impressed you got out of the car at all, seeing as it’s been so freezing. It’s actually quite moving to see it, and to think that another dove has been there. I think I miss Eckington-the-place more than I do any people from it, dreadful as that sounds!
Fun fact about Bredon Hill… ‘Bre’ means hill and ‘don’ means hill… so it’s Hill Hill Hill!
Glad you appreciated the efforts, Simon, no problem finding a parking space!
What an ancient-looking, crumbling bridge! I’d never heard of Eckington before though I’ve visited Tewkesbury.
Well I only heard of it from Simon but I see signs to it on our many journeys between Leeds and Devon – we always use M1, M69, A46 and M5.
[…] expanse of flat, grassy land called Severn Ham (‘Q’ mentions it in his poem ‘Upon Eckington Bridge‘) bordered on the other side by the River Severn. The two rivers meet at Tewkesbury and […]
My memories of Eckington Bridge – standing isolated above surrounding floods (traffic lights still working!); half-destroyed by an out of control tractor plunging throught the parapet; beginning (almost) of the home-made raft race and termination of the beautiful riverside walk… do go back on a summer day and walk down to Strensham lock. Happy days in Eckington with two small boys risking flooded wellies when the river broke its banks in winter – and wonderful afternoons on a friend’s boat, meandering along the river Avon as Bredon Hill ‘moved’ from side to side as the river twisted and turned. Ah…………………..
Welcome Mrs? Thomas! Ann, possibly? Thank you for posting these lovely reminiscences of happy times spent with two small boys at Eckington. I must say I do like the idea of the boat on the Avon – on a warm, sunny day, of course. Even with the traffic lights I dared not risk standing on the bridge!
Yes – sorry – Anne AKA OVW or SIAB’s mother! Did you notice the pedestrian refuges on the bridge? Just room to squeeze into, out of harm’s way!
Anne, welcome again, and glad I guessed correctly! Oh, yes, I noticed them but still the rumble of lorries and fast cars put me off – to say nothing of the freezing cold that only allowed me to stay out of my car for a few minutes. Definitely need to revisit in summer 🙂
[…] there before, nor I believe had Carol, but Simon (Stuck-in-a-Book) used to live not so far away in Eckington so he was pretty familiar with the town and its book shops, of […]
I have just purchased at auction a beautiful colour woodcut from1929 entitled Eckington Bridge by the English/Canadian artist Walter Phillips, and found your photos and comments while looking up where the bridge might be. (despite my name, I am Canadian, and live in Victoria, British Columbia) In the woodcut, there is no parapet (cement?) on the bridge, but otherwise it’s very recognizable, and I enjoy seeing these photos of the landscape and river. Bredon Hill is familiar from the poem of A.E. Housman. I’ll try to photograph and post a picture of the woodcut.
Thank you, Gwyneth. I imagine the bridge does look much as it did in 1929 but there must be a lot more pressure on it with today’s traffic. I would love to see a picture of your colour woodcut of the bridge. Difficult times aren’t they? I would love to travel back to the Bredon area. I do miss it. Hope you are keeping well.