Posted on 31st October, 2016


....and finally, it's Day Thirty One of this year's Blog....


Special thanks to Tom Langlands, Elizabeth Waugh, Fiona Russell, Hazel Lowther

and Leonie Ewing for a continuous stream of images -

and all the writers, experienced and otherwise, who contributed over 150 poems,

60 or so prose pieces and many responses to the prompts on the

Southlight Facebook page, to make this such a lively project.







Nature Diary 30th October 2016 : Fiona Russell



We call them 'Andy's Ashes' - except these are not those kind of ashes but two ash trees that sit just to the south side of the track on the steep hill up to the farm. The bottom foliage of these trees are flat;  neatly trimmed by sheep that graze the inbye land.  Andy was a shepherd who worked on the farm from 1965 until the cold February day that he died in the 90's.  At the age of 76, (having never actually retired), Andy quietly passed away in his sleep. These two ash trees that he planted are a living monument to the kind, quiet man who lived, and loved the land on which he worked. There was a sensitivity to Andy that extended to his collies, to the livestock that he cared for, and even to us as pesky bairns who followed him around during our holidays.   We have watched this duo of trees grow for almost thirty years. This year their tops are covered in ash keys. The advent of tree disease Ash Dieback is one which we dread coming into the valley as there are so many ash trees adding character to the landscape. There is a field on the farm called the Ash Park in which an ancient ash tree stands in the stane dyke. The leaves on the old ash fell overnight leaving a carpet of yellow three days ago. The following day the tree had 'black leaves' as a flock of starlings replaced the dying leaves. Sometimes I think the ash may be thought of as perhaps a lazy tree. They are frequently the last to come into leaf in spring, and often the first to shed leaves in autumn, but no matter, they are a major local tree in the area. Many ancient ash trees stand on places where there are older farms, and settlements, some where only a few remnants of buildings lie in the undergrowth, or those that are just recorded on older maps. 

The rotation of the sheep farming year has again come full circle. Tups are out with the ewes on the inbye, and a new promise of life has begun. This autumn we all wonder what the coming winter will throw at us. Desmond, Eva, Frank, and Gertrude were storms that caused varying degrees of havoc on the farm, as they did in many areas.  Locally, riverbeds were deepened, and banks eaten back. The local dippers disappeared after a Storm Desmond, and I missed their winter song piercing the coolest of days. It was many months before I saw the small, dark bobbing birds with white bibs back darting along on the river.  The damage to a ford across a syke has recently been reinstated after last winter's storms making it, once again, easier to get two cuts of hill ewes back to the farm steading. The storm dropped the water level by an incredible three feet. Not only has there have been significant changes to the riverbed, but also to associated plantlife. The acid yellow blooms of coltsfoot were washed away. This is a constant reminder of the changing times in which we live, and how nature will adapt with time. 







Shall you coo once more,

Sitting on coping stones

Above drooping peach leaves

Lit by a weary sun;

Bronze light lending warmth

To breast feathers, old bricks,

A hidden stone seat,

Where lovers once sat;

Silent now, just as alone,

Dove flutters, turns, flies away;

How I yearn to follow,

Beyond all walls.


Anne Micklethwaite




Whooper Swan - Tom Langlands



Owed to a leaf 


Lightest of spring greens,

barely opaque against the sun,

you unfurl amongst your kin, and together look to the light

with everything possible ahead you know your place

and following helios’ path you stretch and grow.

Experience darkens you


Mid year you cloke your core with summer shade,

darkest of emeraldstones now, you are of the powerhouse for the World.

Leathery surface protects your factories, providers of the green,

 as they busy round your cells.

Collecting light for the good of society.

Cleansing the foetid exhalations and disgorging waste 

for the good of things less green.


Nearly time now,

Your kin are falling all around you.

You are old and dry, no longer useful.

You wait with the rest for your turn

to be cut off from all you need,

to float silently on a heartless breeze

into the oblivion of the dark, peaty earth below.


Lorna Sharpe




The Shearing Shed - Liz Waugh



Virgin Goose Watcher


I’m not a novice.


I have a bird table,

a book, binoculars

and a camera.

I put out bread, wholemeal,

and make fatballs when I remember.

Once a pied flycatcher pair

occupied our nest box.


I’m not a novice.


We drive to Mersehead,

a ginger brown and frost day,

potholes under puddles,

the car rocking on the track.

I’m scanning the bird counts

on the smeary white board,

don’t quite get the abbreviations.


I’m not a novice. 


I’m scanning the horizon,

seeing nothing; under my nose

a field of black walking sticks

stand up, beaks to the air,

a carpet of Canada geese

swinging like soul singers

move towards take-off.


I’m not a novice


But I duck when their flight

clears the hedge in a brown wedge,

Close enough for a feather count.

their wheeling ascent sharpens,

all but one drop back, the rest tile

themselves –  a V for vision –

an A for astonishment.


Vivien Jones




Path - Leonie Ewing







Make A Comment

Characters left: 2000

Comments (0)