I Found The Poems In The Fields And Only Wrote Them Down : A Visit To John Clare’s Cottage

This week I’ve been staying at lovely Lynch Lodge in the sleepy village of Alwalton, right on the edge of the city of Peterborough.

Lynch Lodge was re-erected around 1807 as a rather grand entrance to the three mile long drive to Milton Park, which was then owned by the Fitzwilliam family. It had been moved from the Drydens’ house at Chesterton when their house was demolished. So, the taller part of the Lodge predates the rest of the building by some 200 years when it stood as a Jacobean porch further away. Families who inhabited the Lodge would have done so to primarily serve the owners of the estate by opening and closing the gates.”

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Upon Eckington Bridge

Eckington Bridge

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

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!

Information board

A three-and-a-half mile walk is recommended – for a warmer day, perhaps?

River Avon and Bridge

That water looks pretty chilly!

Bredon Hill and River

River Avon and Bredon Hill

Canoe Launch

Canoe Launch and Walks

Other side

The Bridge from the ‘other’ side