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Story Path: Poetry for Today, ‘Feeling’ History and Leaving Footprints for the Future

Author:

Ann loves to write poetry and stories. Current poetry on Nature, Travel & beyond, including varied poetic structures.

Base Camp for a Walk

The Shepherd & Dog in Fulking, Sussex; a path to the right starts its ascent to the top of the Sussex Downs

The Shepherd & Dog in Fulking, Sussex; a path to the right starts its ascent to the top of the Sussex Downs

Spiritual Bond

I have been investigating paths of all sorts lately. In my travels down this subject, I came across the poet Edward Thomas whom I’d heard of but hadn’t read. I have now, mostly due to a mention of him by Robert Macfarlane, a travel writer, nature writer and academic. The two men have a common interest in the spiritual relationship between nature and mankind.

Thomas was attracted by the idea ‘of inner landscapes being powerfully shaped by outer.’ Macfarlane also talks of ‘Thomas’s vision of path as story, with each new walker adding a new route or plot-line to the way.’

I love that viewpoint and it inspired the following poetry.


In the Lee of the South Downs

Gateway to the path, under the trees

Gateway to the path, under the trees

Story Path

I walk the chalk in shadow of Down,

down where slim waters bubble

over stones, in the rill

scribed ‘twixt fern and

cow parsley, burbling the tale

of way-farers compounding the track.


Listen to its soft, ethereal back-words

from those who trod the beat afore,

leaving track, leading

pack-horse, hoofs a-thud

on chalk-floor, d-dum, d-dum, d-dum,

following upwards white-winding to ridge.


Chalk takes up the baton, weaving porous beneath the sole

of souls brushing leaf, catching bramble, siding fields

of buttercup meadow, bees a-dancing

yellow, generating buzz, back-hum to

rhythmic stride, rising, rounding, resting, gazing

ever up, gaining the voyage along the mystic Ancient Way.


Ancient Way, brighter white, conductive, flat-ridge track

compounded, solid, where jostled routes from Weald

and sea swap prints and stories. Wide

sky-canopies of wind, glimpse of waves

from lime-green commons, dark wood finger-signs

to past encounters, to future mind-meld, trading of wares,


following the path of compassionate history

to future sites, understandings and friendships.


Mystic Chalk-Mood

Chalk paths, single file man-imprinted here, there parallel ruts of invisible carts pulled by middle prints of silent hoof.

Chalk figures, the Long Man of Wilmington carved in powdered grooves, leaning on his calcareous canes.

Porous hue creates back-lit grass, my green, the green that draws me home.


Downland

I’m keening my eye through the mists of the Weald

from my kingly vantage point where the Devil was thwarted.

Atop the Downs my ancestors watch me, crowding round

to share the view, to share the story.


“At night the Devil swore he would cut through to the sea,

drown the Weald and all within. A nun challenged him and

he took the sweet nun’s bet, ‘You must do it before dawn breaks.’

Almost through, the Devil swore his victory, then ceased his dig -


a faint light appeared, he cursed the dawn and fled in anger.

The pious nun smiled. Her candle flickered higher and higher

until the dawn broke through to full day.”


My ancestors cheer, echoing stories told round the camp fires,

on the battlegrounds, on journeys to find freedom and prosperity.

I spy the church tower, the grazing fields and a small cottage below,

my home so many years ago. I join the group nearby.


We will disperse along these ways, to merge the paths and the stories,

the history and the myths, connecting the children to their futures

and their dreams, guiding the way, giving them stories of their own.


The Well by the Roadside

Wayfarers' Well - refreshment by the wayside

Wayfarers' Well - refreshment by the wayside

Inspiration

Memories of a walk in Sussex are mirrored here, especially in ‘Story Path’. An almost hidden, narrow path goes from Fulking in the lee of the South Downs, to Devil’s Dyke, atop the thread of folding ridges on the South Downs Way.

I used to tread this path often at weekends, with my cousins. We would start at the top of Devil’s Dyke high above Hove, from where you can see the sea to the south and Sussex Weald to the north. We’d walk down to the small flint village of Fulking, have lunch at the pub by the roadside, then, fortified with a juice drink, walk back to the top. There was always something different to notice along the way, a variety of plants depending on the season and if snow was around in the winter we’d finish with a snowball fight at the top. Those are some of my happiest memories; me, Mum and Dad, Mum’s cousin and his wife and their two boys (more like brothers to me).

The little brook was one which fed a well at the bottom, a wayside drink for travellers down the ages. It is next to 'The Shepherd & Dog' inn which has served passers-by with stronger stuff for hundreds of years.

My roots are in the South Downs. I was brought up just north of them (in the house I talk of in ‘Downland’), went to school just south of them (Hove) and followed numerous paths up and down them, even through them when the train to school ventured through a pots-and-pans clatter in a tunnel through the chalk. My heart still soars when I turn a corner and see them on my occasional visits.


From Beachy Head to Winchester

From Beachy Head to Winchester

The South Downs Way

The area called the South Downs was designated a National Park in 2010.

It is one of 15 National Trails in England and Wales and was the first bridleway National Trail in England. It is also the only National Trail to lie entirely within a National Park.

Stretching from the ancient cathedral city of Winchester, first capital of England, in the west, through to the white chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head at Eastbourne in the east, almost all of its stunning 160 kilometre length is off-road.


Edward Thomas

I referred to Thomas in my introduction. Born as Philip Edward Thomas (3 March 1878 – 9 April 1917), he was 'a British poet, essayist, and novelist. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences and his career in poetry only came after he had already been a successful writer and literary critic.

In 1915, he enlisted in the British Army to fight in the First World War and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917, soon after he arrived in France.

Thomas immortalised the now-abandoned railway station at Adlestrop in a poem of that name after his train made a stop at the Cotswolds station on 24 June 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.’


Paths of Choice

What are the paths you enjoy following? As well as inviting you to answer the poll, I would love to hear why you enjoy them, what you know about their origin, their purpose and their make-up. Whether land-based or sea-based or air-based, I’d like to know. Thank you.


Sources

Information on Edward Thomas from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Thomas_(poet)

and from Robert Macfarlane's ‘The Old Ways’, published by Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0-141-030358-6

Information on the South Downs National Park from

https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/wp-signup.php?new=southdowns.gov.uk



Your Paths

© 2020 Ann Carr

Comments

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on July 29, 2020:

Umesh Chandra Bhatt: Thank you for reading and commenting.

Ann

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on July 29, 2020:

Well composed.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on July 16, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy, for your kind words. That area has a special place in my heart - it is my roots. Glad you like it.

Ann

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 16, 2020:

The area where you grew up is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing more information about it as well as photos, plus your evocative poetry.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on July 03, 2020:

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee: Thank you. I'm glad it had an impression on you.

Ann

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on July 02, 2020:

Story Path touched my heart...

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on July 02, 2020:

Thank you, Linda, for such a kind comment. The area is certainly beautiful, made all the more so because it is surrounded by busy towns and the main route to London (road and train). Fortunately, all the villages in the lee of the Downs are almost as they were when built, with flint and chalk stone. There is much history in all that countryside.

Ann

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 01, 2020:

The poetry, prose, and photos combine to create a lovely article, Ann. The area that you've described sounds beautiful.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on July 01, 2020:

Thank you for the visit, Jo. Yes, we have lots of trails and many paths are maintained by the National Trust or English Heritage. Public footpaths and rights of way are a big thing here - we like to wander at will!

I appreciate you visiting and commenting.

Ann

Jo Miller from Tennessee on July 01, 2020:

One of the things I so admire about the UK are the numerous walking paths all over the country and so accessible.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 28, 2020:

Hello Denise, good to see you. Yes, it would be amazing to leave that legacy. They used to 'clean' the chalk lines regularly on these figures but a few years ago they concreted in the lines of the Long Man - not so romantic now, which is a shame. Now they can just wash him down! There are a few chalk horses around Sussex, Hampshire and Wiltshire which I think remain in chalk.

The scale is amazing; clever when you think that they got the perspective just right for viewing from afar. But that's the artist's talent of course.

Your Californian walk sounds wonderful. I hope you manage some walks now that you have new hips.

Always good to have a visit from you, Denise.

Ann

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 27, 2020:

I used to take several long walks in the California foothills where the scrub oak grew and the paths followed around some soapstone hills. When my hips started giving me pain and I needed two hip replacements, I had to stop those walks but I still love thinking about them. I'd love to see the chalk man and the horse. I've read about them and seen pictures. It must be magnificent to see. Some ancient artist used the natural materials in the hills to create a lasting treasure. Wouldn't that be something... to have a creation that lasted hundreds or thousands of years?

Blessings,

Denise

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 26, 2020:

Thank you, Liz. Glad the poems bring back some memories. I had no idea of Edward Thomas before but I'm glad I've discovered him now.

Good to see you. Hope all's well in your neck of the woods.

Ann

Liz Westwood from UK on June 26, 2020:

I thought the name of Edward Thomas sounded familiar. I recall now studying some of his poetry while looking at World War 1 poems. I know this part of the country a little. Your poems bring it to life again for me.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 25, 2020:

Gypsy Rose Lee: Thank you for your lovely comment. Yes, I would miss walking in lanes, woods and forests and there are so many woodland flowers especially in Spring.

Good to see you here.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 25, 2020:

Hello Flourish. Those trails sound great, especially with eagles' nests. Sadly, there are no eagles in England - I would have to go to the Highlands of Scotland to see any.

Thank you for your visit, much appreciated.

Ann

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on June 25, 2020:

Most inspirational and wonderful poetic journey. That is the one thing I miss now that I am in the US and in Florida. Back in Latvia, I enjoyed walking along country lanes and walking in forests. It was always so lovely and peaceful.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 25, 2020:

I have always enjoyed meandering on trails in local woods. We live near a river with some eagles’ nests that we like to visit from afar. They are enormous and so captivating.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 25, 2020:

Venkatachari M: Thank you for your kind comments. Thanks, too, for telling us about your walks and scenery; it sounds beautiful. Glad I brought back some memories for you!

Ann

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on June 25, 2020:

Very inspirational and awesome poetry on paths, nature, and everything related.

I love walking and traveling through paths admiring at the beautiful sceneries on both sides of the path. There is one large cantonment area here in Hyderabad that I always enjoy whenever passing through it in the autos or cabs. I wonder at God's artistry and creation. I used to trek through hills and valleys along with family members and friends when I was working in a northern Indian state and was living in their factory colony for many years. We used to picnic there sometimes.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 25, 2020:

manatita: Thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad you liked this. I've always had a strong affinity with nature, but then I was brought up in the countryside and to enjoy the outdoors. If I feel down (not often) I have a walk down to the sea, only 2 minutes away, and that calms and lifts me.

You are well-travelled and have obviously trodden many paths. There are small, short ones and grand, long ones, and all have their meaning, beauty and history.

You keep safe and well too.

Ann

manatita44 from london on June 24, 2020:

Your recent writing reminds me all the more of how much you love nature. I myself have visited some of your areas and I have visited many a brook.

Paths are interesting beauties on this Path called life. I have been up Anapurna and Kilimanjaro, but I have also done the trails in Ka'waii, Nepal, Cologne, Austria and other interesting places.

You are fortunate, because I feel that nature do help us and can be great healers in times of need. Devon and Cornwall were both very meaningful to me, as well as a walk though the forest of Abraham heights ... the joy of getting lost and then re-surfacing along the river. Ha ha.

Story Path is the best for me. It tells the narrative well. Stay safe and well.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Thank you Mary, for your very kind comments. I'm glad you feel you've come a long way and I hope you find the paths of freedom and peace, with a bit of excitement along the way!

I'm happy you love the words here. I love to choose them and try to make them fitting, so your words are a great encouragement.

Ann

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 24, 2020:

Ann, this is wonderful. It makes me feel nostalgic about all the paths I have trodden. I realized how far I have gone. Of course, I have lived for many years, too. I am now embarking on a new path alone. It is challenging but also freeing. I admire your poetry and love the words you use.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Thank you, Ruby! That was a good walk down memory lane! It was great then wasn't it?

Ann

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 24, 2020:

Oh how I yearn to return to the days of carefree living in my home-town, a place full of good and honest people. As a kid we would swing on a grape vine above the Wabash River and jump, reaching the bottom and effortlessly emerging to the top. I don't think anyone owned a door key, the windows were opened wide in the summer. We knew what neighbors were having for supper, the aroma was telling, and wonderful. I love to drive by my high school, the memories of games played, and if we won, how happy we were. We had a small building just for teenagers to go to after school. We had a jukebox and we danced to Jerry Lee's rock and roll. We called it The Shack. Oh, the good old days of living carefree. Thanks Ann, I loved reading about your path and your poetry.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Well, what a coincidence Shauna! You managed celebrations before the lockdown then!

I've now added a short bit about the South Downs Way, following your question, so thanks to you for that.

Ann

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 24, 2020:

Ann, Edward Thomas and I share a birthday. I, too, was born on March 3rd!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Correction, that last comment of mine should have read 'since 2010', which was when the South Downs National Park was designated as such, finally being acknowledged as an important geographical and historical site.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Hello Shauna! Yes, it was a great inspiration to me growing up there. I now live in Somerset which is just as beautiful but not so 'grand'!

A chalk path is just a beaten track where the grass has been trodden down to reveal the chalk beneath, like you can see in the picture headed 'Chalk Tracks...' The South Downs are riddled with them. The South Downs Way has been a protected walkway since 2001, as part of the South Downs National Park. It has the advantage of being totally accessible, with pathways through farmland. It was the playground of my youth!

If you look on a map of the south of England, find Sussex, then find Brighton on the coast - take a heading due north towards London and 10 miles on the other side of the South Downs is where I lived, from the age of 4 until I was 15.

Ann

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 24, 2020:

Ann, your countryside is so beautiful. I can clearly see how you become inspired with the spirituality of nature and the many lives that came before you. You are truly blessed to have such unspoiled splendor available to you.

Tell me, what is a chalk path?

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Thank you, Pamela! I appreciate your kind words. I've always loved walking and studying nature. I can't remember a time when I didn't as my parents loved it too.

That story is an old folklore one that I learnt a long time ago. It's true that the cut goes a long way into the hill but doesn't quite break through!

I hope you're safe and well, Pamela. Keep watching those birds and squirrels!

Ann

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 24, 2020:

Ann, This is a beautifully written article. The poetry is beautiful and I think exploring the realtionship between nature and man is a great thing to do. I appreciate nature so much and I love watching the birds or even the squirrels playing. I have always loved walking almost anywhere and now I don't do as well.

I will say I am glad the nun beat the devil. Thank you for sharing this poetry.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Thank you kindly, bill, for such lovely words. It is good to sit and watch the world go by isn't it? When you tread a well-worn path it's fascinating to wonder about its history. I often go off to find out as much as I can and that sometimes unearths surprising facts.

I'm so pleased you like this; thanks again. Your friendship and admiration are greatly valued and both are reciprocated!

Ann

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2020:

You captured it all perfectly, my friend. I have a favorite path in the city here, and often sit on a bench and think of all those who have walked before me, and the history of it all, dating back hundreds of years to virgin forests and struggling to make a toehold.....overwhelming and yet very humbling and connecting, you know?

Anyway, this is brilliant work!

Sending you admiration and friendship on this fine Wednesday.

bill

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Thank you, Charlie. Nature is a powerful influence on us all, I think. Now it is more valuable than ever.

Ann

Charlie Halliday from Scotland on June 24, 2020:

I loved reading this Ann. It reminded me of how much I used to be oblivious of the beauty and tranquillity of nature that surrounded me.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Thank you, John. So glad you liked this. I particularly enjoyed writing this one, probably because it's about a place deep in my heart.

We touched on a little part of Noosa on our way up to Imbil some years ago. It certainly was beautiful.

Edward Thomas was criticised for not keeping to the traditional style, he was more informal, almost 'chatty' and didn't use much punctuation. I find it refreshing.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

Thank you so much, Lorna. I deliberately tried to keep the language 'traditional' and a little old-fashioned, to suit, so I'm thrilled you felt that!

I love the open, wild places but I'm not confident when it comes to tackling anything steep - slight vertigo!

I value your opinion and appreciate your support.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on June 24, 2020:

JC Scull: Thank you very much!

Ann

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on June 23, 2020:

What a delightful article and poetry, Ann. Thank you for sharing a little about Edward Thomas too. I will have to look at his poetry. I just love going on rambling walks up roads I haven’t been before. There was a path in Noosa National Park that skirted the coastline connecting various beaches I used to love to walk in my younger days when I lived closer to the coast.

Lorna Lamon on June 23, 2020:

A lovely collection Ann which reminded me of poetry in the Old English style, which ties in perfectly with your theme.

I have always enjoyed walking through the countryside at home and on my travels. I simply love to be one with nature and find it soothing and inspirational. I have mountaineered from an early age and feel closest to the majesty of nature when I climb.

I love the last verse of 'Dowland' as our paths merge and we connect to the past and the future. Beautiful and inspirational poetry.

JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on June 23, 2020:

Ann, Well done.