Grey roadsign points, grand holm oak gestures, nodding stately crown,
reclining high in bristling lordship over terraced town,
commanding upright standing from lime consort at his feet,
trim pollard dwarfs to farmyard giants lining vineclad street.
Warm brick and honeysuckle trellis swirl in citrus breeze,
Allotment Alf snores in his deckchair near unfurled sweet peas,
three children launch boat twigs off crumbling bridge to chanting stream,
as thirsty mare and foals lap keenly, chestnut coats agleam.
Fields sprawl beyond the gatehouse, far hills circle castle grounds,
in dappled shade ewes settle while their joyful offspring bounds,
swans sail through silver ripples to alight on bulrush isle,
nudge downy cygnets waddling ways in double, triple file.
Triumphal archway waves our passage through its ample flanks,
two golden beeches linking limbs on daisy-speckled banks,
then afternoon of fort adventures, fresh ice cream supply,
and gliding past the mulberry tree, a joyful peacock’s cry.
* * *
This poem introduces my Sudeley series, which is inspired by watching Happenstance perform at ‘A Victorian May Day’ and ‘Happenstance Day of Dance’, on 5 and 26 May respectively.
I lived in Winchcombe for a number of years and one of my favourite walks was ‘the Sudeley Stroll’, from Abbey Terrace, down
and along the scenic drive. One summer I worked as a waitress in the restaurant
and I walked this route about five times per week. The poem is a mixture of memories
from the late 1980s to the present, with a peacock at the end to recall the
handsome fellow who attended the Day of Dance. He may turn up again later
Like ‘The Winchcombe Morris side of yore’, ‘To Sudeley’ is a fourteener: ~ — ~ — ~ — ~ — ~ — ~ — ~ — (‘mulberry’ here has two syllables, for a jaunty air). I enjoyed revisiting the castle grounds and I owe thanks to Mrs T. for her caution that positioning sheep in ‘alder shade’ might result in their settling too close to the river and possibly falling in altogether – hence ‘dappled’ in my final draft.