Posts tagged ‘rivers’


Ghosts of the River Wharfe

The River Wharfe between Appletreewick and the Strid is one of the most beautiful and iconic stretches of water in the British Isles. It features in a number of my tales, especially “Summer Dusk” in Abandon Hope and “Descending, or Falling” in the final pamphlet, The Wedding Invitation.

river wharfe

The river valleys of the Yorkshire Dales function as a kind of destination in these tales. For the central characters in “Summer Dusk” it is a place of final freedom, of oneness with nature. In “Descending, or Falling” it becomes a resting place of a different nature.

A river is rarely seen as an image of destination. It passes through the country, it is a conduit, something to travel. It is the metaphor of a continuing journey or of learning. The unique nature of the Yorkshire Dales makes this conventional reading less persuasive.

wharfe roots

The rivers are at the heart of the Dales. They are crossed, they are a focus, they are at the center of villages, they feed the fields and are fed by the moors. They define the valleys which they follow, but which were not made by them (being glacial). Few people actually travel down them.

Barden, at the center of this stretch of the Wharfe, has as a timeless quality about it. It has castle ruins, an 18th Century bridge, a Late Victorian Gothic aquaduct. On the river mandarin ducks, dipper and kingfishers can be seen. The woods around the river hold roe deer and woodcock. In the skies above red kite, osprey and sparrowhawk wheel. In spring the flowers are incredible. In the autumn, the mists melt the trees and the moors into one.

barden aquaduct

It is not surprising that this idyllic and yet atmospheric river is full of ghosts. They gather, they rise, free and eternally in peace. This is their resting place.


Rothko Room


A London bright with April crowds,

With bridges arching north to south,

And skies a Hockney kind of blue:

A day for hitching heads to clouds.


We never really meant to stop,

There was no choice: we wandered in

And stop. We did. In charcoal grey,

And claret rich as Thames and Fleet.


The sound was drowned, and heartbeats slowed.

The room was emptied just for us.

I heard you breathing, knew the pulse

Of blood had found its perfect rate.


Outside the room a London boomed.

Inside we merged, surrounded, gripped.




Waiting for the Swans


I felt the water rising up

And turn to mist around my tongue.

I slipped and fell, the mist fell too,

And up the waters rose within.


I lay beneath and dreams became.

I saw the sun, I heard the moon.

It whispered solitude and turned

The mists and waters through my bones.


I held the fish within my chest,

A flicking heart to measure years.

And hooks and wires began to tie

My ankles, wrists, my empty eyes.


But soon the swans will pull me free,

And let me rise again to see.




The Southern Pole


The reptile river winds its banks

Through stories deep as nightjar’s eyes,

Where crickets sing the moon its hymns,

And life comes writhing from the soil.


Each leaf has grown a thousand tongues,

And darkness glows with hummingbirds.

The air is water, steam and cloud,

The snake skin stream is hot to touch.


The frogs have tales of human feet,

Which ventured here and left no trace.

They smoothed the wriggling earth a while,

Then turned to rock, then back they turned.


Beneath these countless births and change,

The scream, the cry, the song remains.