A Gateway by Peter Foster
Let’s step through this gateway.
We’ll go down through the meadow,
And walk in the footsteps of history.
Close the gate and stay on the path,
Don’t trample the crop. There’s a stile
By the oak at the far end of the field
Onto a lane that leads back to the village.
It’s an old meadow, not ploughed for generations;
Not since horses were used.
See the regular undulations: lands;
Or in Lancashire: reiens.
A land-written record of ancient skills
And techniques for us to read,
If we can understand the language.
See the mixture of grasses and plants:
Timothy, cocksfoot, fescues and ryegrass,
Narrow- leafed dock and mayflower.
In spring it’s a carpet of dandelions;
Not weeds here but a magic carpet
Of taproots lifting trace elements
From the soil for cattle to tap into.
When mown and sun-cured, the hay
Possesses an aroma like no other:
Sweet and herby, mystic; this is a scent with history
Beyond living memory; it evokes a warm byre in winter,
And even in an urbanite, an innate sense,
Of a golden, pastoral age that only
Existed through biscuit-tin mythology.
The crop has formed its own ecology over time;
Through seasons: under winter’s white mantle to
Haw-frothed hedgerows in spring and
Searing, summer, hay-time sun.
It has grown, cropped, seeded and regrown;
Been served up as fodder or grazed;
Providing milk for humankind.
This meadow defies science
Its grasses are old “unproductive” varieties,
And yet; and yet, it thrives. Below the sward, through a
Mystic alluvial alchemy of geology
The meadow becomes a self-perpetuating organism.
A living history; a spiritual oasis amongst the analysed, fertilised,
Monetised acres of modern agronomy; it is a symbol of the unknown.
The unpractised eye sees just a stretch of grassland:
Ten acres bounded by hedges and ditches.
But to those who have worked it, walked it,
Felt the sward beneath their feet, this meadow is
A connection with the toil of artisan farmers
Who were a part of the land they worked,
And whose souls have seeped into the turf.
This should be the realm of the yeoman.
Where the hedgehog, vole and brown hare
Call home. Where kestrel, skylark,
Swallow and swift fly freely.
But cloud-shadows darken the meadow.
Indifferent eyes view the land and visualise
“Little boxes” upon eponymous thoroughfares.