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Feather's Miscellany: Engraved On Stone

A poem by John Waddington-Feather is to be engraved on stone at a Shropshire beauty spot.

Destiny decreed some years ago that I leave my native Yorkshire and go to live in Shropshire. I left one beautiful county for another, for wherever you travel in Britain there’s natural beauty. Area vies with area showing off their best.

I settled in gentle countryside five miles south of the county town, Shrewsbury, in a place called Old Coppice. As its name suggests I live surrounded by trees, mainly silver birch trees. Half a mile away on the crest of the little rise behind us is an exceptional escarpment called Lyth Hill; a conservation area which overlooks magnificent views.

Across the valley below lies another range of hills which includes some of the oldest hills in Britain: Wenlock Edge, the Wrekin, Caer Caradoc, Lawley Hill. Swing round another few degrees and you view the Stretton Hills and Long Mynd. In the far distance lies Clee Hill and on a clear day hints of the Malvern Hills, Elgar Country. But closer at hand is countryside made famous by the poet, A.E.Houseman, and the Shropshire novelist, Mary Webb, whose old home lies a stone’s throw from my own beneath the Lyth.

Recently, my ego was boosted when the county authority decided to replace the old topography stone on the crest of the Lyth. It’s a large boulder which has embedded in it a tablet describing all the points of interest which can be seen from the Lyth, all the hills I’ve mentioned above.

These details will be on the new topography rock with the addition of two poems: one by Mary Webb describing the flora on the Lyth, and another by myself which I’ve printed below. It came as a great surprise to be told that the committee responsible for the topography stone had chosen my poem in which I’ve tried to capture the thrill I have each time I walk the Lyth, the sudden coming upon the breath-taking view as you leave the little lane which leads to it.

In summer the countryside is ablaze with colour. Lush green meadows sprinkled with crimson poppies, hedgerows alive with wild roses, golden cornfields blazing in the sun, all surrounded by hills blued in the quivering light.

And one day soon on a tablet of stone on the crest of Lyth hill, alongside Mary Webb’s poem will be my own and my name inscribed on stone. After my initial reaction of delight, a more sober one took its place. Now that I’ve reached my threescore and fifteen years, I suspect that the next time my name appears on stone, I‘ll be under it!


Lyth Hill Walk

Martins fleck the sky above the Lyth,
And one keen-eyed kestrel combs
The gorse and bramble rough for food;
Higher still two buzzards sword the air
With piercing cries, quartering their land
For carrion and prey.

Beyond, across the valley, Caradoc and Wrekin
Hold their watch, just as millennia ago
They saw the legions march the road
To Viroconium; and later still saw Norman overlords
Dot the waste with mottes
To guard their new-won realm.

Ancient, these blue hills in the haze
Harmonise with farms and woods below,
Co-ordinate an age-old beauty
Which is Shropshire’s own;
And though I walk this way a thousand times,
That sudden vista from Old Coppice road
Will never fail to thrill.

John Waddington-Feather ©


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