For a list of and links to all poems please see the main Poetry Page

 

Dick Brice

 

One of the best-loved forest poets and song-writers, whose song ‘The Land Between Two Rivers’ was the theme music for Dennis Potter’s ‘The Changing Forest’, when it was broadcast on BBC Radio Four. It has since become a ‘Forest Anthem’ having been sung by choirs from as far away as Holland and Zimbabwe.

From the mid-sixties to early eighties Dick and his wife Di sang with ‘The Farriers’ an award-winning Birmingham based folk group; but once back in the forest, the history, characters and dialect have provided material for an astonishing range of poem and song, which goes all the way from lamenting the lost world of the mines to celebrating the forest heritage –a gift to be treasured and passed on to future generations.

 

 

This Forest Land

 

This land is ours; we hold it all in common.

From Fairplay Tump down to the Severn sea;

From ruined Tintern up to Flaxley’s Abbey

Our forest home belongs to you and me.

 

This forest’s ours; we’ve held it through the ages;

Now guard it safe for generations still to come.

Keep it secure for those who follow in our footsteps,

Who shall inherit this our forest home.

 

This land is ours and it will be protected,

Though some may say it is but rock and soil.

It’s worth is more than all the wealth of strangers

Our fathers paid for this rich earth with poor men’s toil.

 

This forest land, we keep it for our children;

Safe in our blue-scarred, work-stained forest hands;

From Wilderness down to the Chepstow river,

From Ruardean across to Newnham sands.

 

This land is ours; we hold it all in common.

From Fairplay Tump down to the Severn sea;

From ruined Tintern up to Flaxley’s Abbey

Our forest home belongs to you and me.

 

This forest land belongs to you and me.

 

 

Wigpool by Brenda Edwards

 

The year’s end in winter’s grip

Barren trees and dying grass encircle the pool,

Its reeds brown and withered in the murky water

Remnants of leaves drift on its silent surface.

A sunless place where no birds sing,

A forsaken place of gloom and sorrow.

For every day with tormented unseeing eyes

She wanders through the woods.

Her long white gown makes no whisper on the ground.

Her anguished face is gaunt, tear streaked.

Yet a scent of blossom drifts about her head.

What grim secret does she hold, that she can’t let go?

The pool seems to beckon her and she is drawn

To its cold blackness. Tenderly it envelops her

But no ripples show that she was there.

Only the perfume lingers on.

 

 

Brenda Edwards has lived in the Forest for ten years. She writes poetry for pleasure.

Her poem is based on a legend of a woman in white who haunts Wigpool

 

 

‘Another Shift Done’

 

Monday morning go to the mine,

Up early in the morning to get there on time.

Into the baths to clean lockers first

Fill up your can for the later-on thirst.

Up to the tally-man to pick up your check;

Tighten the muffler that hangs round your neck.

Down to the blacksmith - a sharp blade for your pick;

The hooter’s blown: go up to the pit.

Into the cage; the gates close with a clang.

Someone comes out with some old forest slang.

Lift off the dogs, then downward we go

To the depths of the mine far down below.

The cage seems to bounce as the brakes are applied,

Secret thoughts – for another safe ride.

Down to the coal-face, there’s work to be done

Deep down in the ground, away from the sun.

There’s Don, Fred and Ken, Mike Burns and myself

Colliers on a face in the Coleford High Delf

A slight fall of roof, it scrapes off the skin

I wash it clean with some drink from my tin.

We work on the face in boots, trousers and vest.

It’s good to have bread and a well-earned short rest.

Then back to the coal face: we must get it clear.

Look forward to the darts and a cold pint of beer.

It’s quarter past one – to the trolleys we stroll:

Another shift over from this dark grimy hole.

Into pit bottom, we wait for a while

For the afternoon shift there’s always a smile.

Onto the cage, up into the sun

What a joy for us all – another shift done.

 

 

Dave Harvey

 

A Forester born and bred, miner, free miner, living history –  immortalised twice in forest sculptures – as the free miner in Cinderford town centre and in the sculpture of a miner being rescued from a rockfall in Northern United Colliery in 1963 – that stands at Rusticks in the Dean Heritage Centre. That’s him being rescued, and his poem ‘Big Phil Bennet’ (see below) commemorates the event and honours his rescuer. Writing it, he says, also stopped the nightmares he still had about the event years later. What he doesn’t say in the poem, but adds when talking about the incident: ‘about five minutes later the whole place caved in and the face was lost'.

 

 

‘Big Phil Bennett’

 

I remember down in Northern

On a face called ‘Twentythree’,

How the roof on this long coal-face,

Near squeezed the life from me.

 

It was on a Monday morning,

When the roof had a weekend crush,

Conditions like we’d seen before

But it didn’t worry us.

 

The roof on this here coalface,

Would run like seashore sand,

And I am grateful to our Lord,

Phil Bennett was at hand.

 

The conveyor caught the roof supports,

On which I did rely,

It trapped my legs and ankles,

With a timber 'cross my thigh.

 

The fall was getting heavier,

How much more could I stand,

When a giant of a man appeared,

My life was in his hands.

 

His arms under my armpits,

Hands clenched across my back,

This man he dug his heels in,

And I heard more timbers crack.

 

He heaved and heaved and heaved again,

Men shouted ‘Get out, Phil!’,

He heaved and shouted ‘Help us, Lord!’,

Or I’d have been there still.

 

Phil pulled me from this crashing roof,

The memory haunts me still,

I owe my life to this big man,

A giant called ‘Big Phil’

 

Play Me

 

Four Seasons in the Forest

By Dave Harvey

 

In early Spring the snowdrops peep

From laying in the ground fast asleep.

The daffodils next will show their heads

Turning parts of the Forest into bright yellow beds.

 

These are the signs that Spring is here,

Young green shoots to feed baby deer.

The babbling brook still runs deep

After Winter snow, rain and sleet.

 

All kinds of birds, with robins red breast,

Are gathering together to build their nests.

The blackbird sings his song on high,

Because another Winter has passed by.

 

In early May, when the weather gets warm,

The honey bees they tend to swarm.

The Forest turns to all shades of green,

The most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.

 

After long hot days of visiting sites,

The nightingale sings into the night.

You may spot a doe and a baby fawn

As another day begins to dawn.

 

From August on, take a long crook stick,

For there’s lots of blackberries to be picked.

There are signs of Summer coming to an end

For Autumn weather is just round the bend.

 

Autumn comes with colours so bold,

Of yellow and reds and browns and golds.

These ochre colours all can be seen

All through the woods in the Forest of Dean.

 

Hazel and chestnuts on the floor

For nature’s pets to fill their store.

The Autumn leaves fall on the ground,

Leaves a soft carpet all around.

 

Then the first slight frosts appear

To show that Winter’s drawing near.

When nature’s animals seek to doze,

Hibernate for Winter! I suppose.

 

The snow turns the Forest to a blanket of white,

The frost all day that glistens at night.

The sound of the fox on the cold night air,

For a long night’s hunt away from his lair.

 

At the end of December

A new year is found.

For nature’s world,

It goes round and round.

 

 

 After a battle

 

On near and far horizons

the blackened upturned trees

like Nature's crucifixion

remain for all to see.

A ghostly, sad reminder

a tally of the cost

A lasting valediction

For all that we have lost

 

 © IJH.    Aug.2014

 

 

 

Reclamation

©Vicky Hampton, 2015

 

There are quarries where men flaked history.

Three centuries and more they split, knapped

and nailed the country’s hardcore over their heads,

bedded stone down on rafters for their new-weds

and children to play under, their old to die.

 

There are streets hatted in the finery of that labour.

It’s lichened now, the colour of April catkins, and

sags badly with the weight. Where it falls

sifting yellow Caterpillars turn to light of day

the cobwebbed prayers and ghosted I love yous.

 

There are places where the dismantled are left,

counted, classified, bleak; where wind shrieks

through black eyes punched in old tiles

leaning against each other like mourners, scrubbed

and gone that asphyxiated grey of the lost.

 

There are faces on those stones which are inscrutable.

By day they are tired exiles, in line for transportation.

Beneath a moon, they are dragon scales -

pewter runes to roof time itself -

awaiting reclamation by the ancient ones.

 

 

Originally from Wales, Vicky Hampton has lived in and around Ruardean for twenty years. She is a qualified Writing For Wellbeing facilitator.  “I’ve written poetry pretty much most of my life,” she says, “Wherever a landscape tells its stories to me.” Vicky is a member of poetry-writing groups in Cheltenham and Monmouth, and regularly reads her poems and short stories at The Queens Head (Monmouth) Writers Showcase. Some of her poems, written soon after moving to Gloucestershire, are anthologised in ‘Forest Poets of Today’. Her poem, ‘Reclamation’, inspired by the stone roof tiles typical to the Cotswolds and her native Wales, won in the 2015 Chipping Sodbury poetry competition.

 

Coal Mining

A Tribute to the Forest of Dean Miner

 

Black harvest gleaned from the belly of earth,

For thee we seek.

That sweat we offer - a mark of thy worth,

Yet we are weak.

Rude hands that claw at your dark rugged walls,

Dim eyes that peer through the dust of your falls,

That craving for comfort how strongly it calls,

Of thee we speak.

 

Gone are the days of our fathers before,

For thee they sought.

Small though their yields yet sufficient the more

Thy face they wrought.

Simple their methods and basic their need,

Unspoilt by demand of others' base greed,

From the fruit of their knowledge they planted the seed,

From which we're taught.

 

But with the coming of machine and its power,

An age had gone.

What they won by week was now gathered by hour,

But their light shone.

But when that new era was profit no more,

And all that were left were the tiny and poor,

With nought but the skills of those days of yore,

You still go on.

 

Keith Morgan was born in Coleford in 1942, has lived in the forest all his life and was encouraged to write by the late Harry Beddington, one of the best writers of the forest dialect. Keith’s love of the Forest of Dean, its people, humour, heritage – and all that makes it special is reflected in his  work. That includes of course the sheep, the real kings of forest roads and the subject of his dialect poem ‘Varest Ship’ (see below).

 

Varest Ship

 

Wooly yudded varest ship

Thee's got more rights that I,

Thee co'st wander where thee's please

Where I must pass on by.

 

Thee can't be 'alf as stupid

As you da vust appear,

'Cause no one ever bothers thee

Or so it do appear.

 

If thee do lie down in the road

An' 'ave theeself a kip,

No one ever moves thee on

'Cause thee bist varest ship.

 

Thee do'snt work ta get thee bread

Thee do'snt rise at seven,

If I was free as thee be free

I'd think I was in 'eaven.

 

Wooly yudded varest ship

I wish I was one too,

Then I could wander through the woods,

Side by side with you.

Chris Morris

 

High on May Hill is a simple celebration of our valley and it's hill.

 

 

High on May Hill

 

A beacon on the Forest’s northern flank,

Outstanding yet within its loose embrace,

May Hill’s high grassy slopes are Longhope’s crown,

The copse within it’s summit earthwork banks

Its jewel. A Sunday walk (whose country pace

Includes a detour for the friends from town -

Refuelling at the cider house) soon turns uphill

High on the cusp where pasture turns to heath,

The gorse and bracken dominant until

The famous scots pine grove. Spread out beneath:

 

The giant pylons, rushing arrow straight,

Criss-cross the contours where the railway line

To Ross once ran its level route, sedate

And certain (now its sad remaining signs:

A sheep collecting pen, abandoned bridges,

Disconnected footpaths and a fenced off

Lorry park). Beyond, the woods of Ruardean,

Breakheart and all the piney ridges

Drop down to the snaking River’s swollen trough.

 

Up Blaisdon’s valley, lost in shades of green,

(The pastel froth of blossom long since blown)

Plum orchards, potent with their autumn fruit,

Play host to grazing sheep (their lambs now grown

And gone for Sunday lunch). High summer suits

These hills: bright sunshine lends a Tuscan glow

To stone and whitewashed cottages and farms

Spread thinly on the slopes (in rain they show

A dullness that’s best known as Celtic  charm).

 

Now high on the summit, in the wood, drawn

Deep in shades of charcoal quiet as the night

(Though tricks from May Day’s jingle jangle dawn

stay resonant) the trees are split by sunlight

Slanting through the diamond coloured canopy,

One hundred Scots Pines planted, so we’re told,

To celebrate Victoria’s Jubilee.

From wide across the Vale the trees bold

Standing gives May Hill a singularity

That lifts it from a simple grassy dome,

Endows a landmark popularity,

Provides, from the far Scarp, a welcome home.

 

 

The Riddle of the Forest  by Val Ormrod

 

Here trees rush at you from the shadows,

their gnarled trunks shudder upwards

to a far-off sky.

Overhead, branches wrestle for light.

A shipwreck of forest lies below.

Faces watch from the foliage,

and sinewy fingers

grasp at tree roots.

 

Where is this place?

 

Here shadows huddle in spaces,

plotting in hollows and scowles*.

Fear hides in corners;

the air shivers

and a bat flaps from an underground cave.

A wild animal shrieks into the startled silence.

Wings beat upwards,

bruising the air.

 

Solemn boulders, stoic as judges

keep watch over every walkway.

Beneath the trees,

fungi bulge from a knot of roots

and ferns erupt in giant feathered fronds.

Wooden bridges totter across gulleys,

their knock-kneed legs

trembling in the chill air.

 

Where is this place?

 

Moss creeps over the stones,

slimy as Gollum.

In the swamp,

a pair of luminous eyes meets yours,

before submerging.

The faces in the branches are watching you

and the wood holds its breath,

waiting for your next move.

 

Amongst the limestone traces,

a pulse beats, deep in the earth.

Here in this land of hobbits,

of wizards and elves,

of mazes and Merlin and magic,

where goblins and dragons pursue heroes and rings,

the riddle echoes through the forest.

It demands an answer.

 

Where is this place?

 

 

* Scowles - geological features that originated through the erosion of natural underground cave systems formed in the carboniferous limestone many millions of years ago.

 

 

Val Ormrod has lived in the Forest since 1988 and writes short stories, memoirs, poetry, a blog about her pets, and is currently working on a novel.

 

 

Brenda Read-Brown has been writing poetry since 1997 and was Gloucestershire Poet Laureate 2012-13.. Brenda has won many slams, and performed everywhere from Texas to the local pub. A selection  of her poems can be found in ‘Arbitrary edges’ published in 2013, which includes, she says ‘poems I am proud of, the ones I like, and the ones other people like'. We’re proud to include two of Brenda’s poems here – ‘Justified’ and ‘When A Butterfly Lands’

 

 

When a butterfly lands

 

When a butterfly lands

On a sandwich-supporting finger,

No brakes scream,

No rubber burns,

No uniforms flick switches,

And no seat-belts are unclipped,

But time stops,

Just long enough

For the tapestry of upright wings to be admired,

For the finger to know privilege,

For nearby watchers to feel envy;

For the skin's warm tarmac to capture the impression

And keep it.

 

 



Justified

 

Just today I just noticed that I use the word just just about all the time, instead of only which makes me feel lonely, and indecently often in place of recently, and sometimes when I really mean merely, or dearly, or, queerly, even really itself; or, more matter-of-factly, when I should put exactly; and it certainly isn't prudery that avoids the hint of rudery in setting down, squarely, barely. I've never denied despite my pride that I can be idle, and don't always take the trouble to decide the precise word for my meaning, but sidle round with this vague evasion; but it's annoying and demeaning that the occasions are strangely rare that I use just to signify fair; where, in fact, it would be truly justified.

 

 

Carol Sheppard

 

Carol is a poet, playwright and writer based in the Forest of Dean.  The beauty of the forest inspires much of her poetry and writing.  She also writes a weekly column in The Citizen newspaper. You can find more of Carol’s poems in ‘Trails Through The Forest’, the book she jointly produced with Matt Caldwell and in which her poems are accompanied by his photographs'.

 

 

I'm a Forest Sheep

 

We know you folks hate us, but we don't care a bit.

What's it to us if you rage and roar?

We shut our eyes and have a good snore.

You can chase us, if you like, with a big stick

but we can run away, if needed, ever so quick.

We'll get you back, don't you worry,

when you're in a rush, we can slow your hurry.

We'll take hours crossing the road,

back and forth, doing the Green Cross Code.

We can be prone to changing our minds

halfway across the road and the we find

that's not where we wanted to go, not really,

but it was fun to see your face, so cross and surly.

 

Old Ma, she takes the longest

but really, she's faking, she's really the strongest.

We'll poo on your pavements and wee by your gate,

fall asleep in front of your car and make you late,

we'll sleep on the roads with our bums stuck our

and pretend not to hear when you beep and shout.

Anyway we can go where we please,

We'll jump your garden gate, your hedge or your wall,

eat all your flowers, leave footprints in your lawn.

The foot and mouth nearly wiped us out,

so I may be new here, but I can shout

I'm a forest sheep, through and through,

so, 'ol butt, don't treat us like you do.

 

 

AUTUMN

 

As I was driving up Plump Hill

I saw the leaves of gold

Awakened by the autumn hues

Such colours brave and bold

Virginia creeper’s regal red

Resplendent tumbling gown

Whilst copper shone through forest green

And bracken turned to brown

 

I love this glorious time of year

When leaves from trees are shed

And oak and ash dim lights above

To put their green to bed

For autumn brings a time of peace

Returning life to earth

When death and growth sleep silently

Till spring reclaims its birth

 

18th September 2008

 

Jennifer Smith

 

 

Jennifer Smith has lived in Little London for about 18 years and started writing poetry about 7 years ago, she finds herself inspired by just about everything - often in the middle of the night. There are times when she just HAS to write and other times when she has to work quite hard, having been asked to write something for a special event or person, for example, three day's notice for the Queen's Jubilee for the Parish Magazine!’

 

Gordon White

 

Having written and performed his poetry in Herefordshire for eight years, becoming  known locally as ‘The Bard of Bromyard’, Gordon moved to Coleford a few years ago. Now retired and with inspiration from his new surroundings he hopes to add to his portfolio.

 

 

The Wife

 

My wife is brilliant and since the day that we were wed

She's been able to remember things I never ever said

Where we were when I never said it, if we were home or away

The clothes I wore, the state of the weather and even the time of day

 

She remembers all the little things I somehow managed to get wrong

How many years have we been married, not sure but it's far too bloomin' long

She reminds me of all the mistakes I made,as if I want to know

And not things that happened last week, but years and years ago

Little insignificant things like an anniversary I forgot

I didn't do it every year, just 5 times, that's not a lot

 

I've found the secret to happy marriage, single beds is what you need

One of them in Coleford, the other in Berwick on Tweed

What do you want for Christmas I said, feeling a little apprehensive

How about a divorce she said, I wasn't thinking of anything that expensive

 

She's always moaning and groaning and I'm always dodging the flack

She said what would you do if I left you, I said move house in case you came back

I must say she's let herself go, she's not in very good nick

You should see the size of her, her blood gets travel sick

 

I'm not saying I don't like her and you couldn't call it hatred

But if she lived in India I'm sure she'd be bloomin' sacred

She says I never listen, I say I never heard her

If only she knew how often I've contemplated murder

 

She's been many things to me, lover, companion and nurse

The only reason I don't get rid of her is I might get one that's worse!

 

 

Kay Wozencroft – Forest Bard 2006

 The Tally They Missed The sun had scarce woken in the Sky Bare a word had been spoken By the men standing Nigh Taking their tally chips Their hats and their Picks Stepping to cage as their Lamps they Fix Not a word fell from a Lip As they descended into Cruel black Pit Not a smile not a Laugh Silence a while As they tread narrow Path Dust in the air stinging their Eyes They pause in despair Listen for Cries Silence is whole And shocking and Bleak No sound of faint Knocking No voice heard to Speak Twelve men that morning Their loved ones had Kissed But fear came without warning And a tally they Missed Yes a tally they missed One man was still Down When the sour gas hissed Spreading death all Around Eleven had been pulled Alive from the Gloom But a tally they missed And one man faced his Doom And down they had gone Not one would turn Back All looking for one In the soul chilling Black And twelve men kept a deadly Tryst Whilst womenfolk wept For the tally they Missed An hour, nay two maybe They had been Down Then a whistle was heard From deep in the Ground And the cage brought them Up again to the Light Eleven had gone down for One Life to Fight But twelve men came up And a dear brow was Kissed And thanks given up For the tally they Missed.

 

Peter Wyton

 

Former Gloucestershire Poet Laureate, who can regularly be heard on BBC Radio Gloucester, Peter goes all the way back to Children’s Hour on the BBC Home Service, when his first teenage poems earned him the princely sum of 7/6d (35p in today’s money) per poem.   Thirty-five years in the RAF then intervened before he again took the poetic plunge. Since 1996 he has performed at festivals and arts centres all over the country and entered for and won countless competitions.

 

 

The Ladies of the Charity Shop

 

The ladies of the charity shop

Were given a brand new till.

They never got the hang of it

And now they never will.

They only approached it in groups of three,

With expressions of loathing and pain,

One to push buttons,

One to have kittens

And one to try again.

 

The ladies of the charity shop

Were a most harmonious clique.

They all popped in on a rota system

At least three mornings a week,

To drink gallons and gallons and gallons of tea

And have a good chinwag about

Cardigans, ornaments, wrestling tournaments,

Gall-bladders, goitres and gout.

 

The ladies of the charity shop

Maintained, with no hint of apology,

That they never expected to find themselves

At the forefront of till technology.

The old model suited them down to the ground.

When they wanted to put in some cash

And the drawer got jammed

They said "Bother" and "Damn"

And gave it a good old bash.

 

The ladies of the charity shop

Have been in darkest mourning

Since a quarter to ten last Wednesday

When, without the slightest warning,

They opened the new till to put in a pound,

The contraption showed its teeth,

Gave a frightful roar like a carnivore

And swallowed Jemima Moncrieff.

 

The ladies of the charity shop

Phoned divisional headquarters,

No repair man came, but a TV crew

And a posse of press reporters.

One asked the ladies a question

With a tabloid glint in his eye.

"Was the victim nude?"

They said,"Don't be rude,

This isn't the W.I."

 

The ladies of the charity shop

Have sold off all their stock

To a nice young man with a Transit van

And a stall on Camden Lock.

At their manager's suggestion

They all went on the spree,

Got merry on sherry

On the Brittany ferry

And buried the till at sea.

 

 

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