From 1976 to 2000 I lived in Mid Calder, West Lothian, very close to Calder Wood, from which my press is named. The wood was part of the Almondell and Calder Wood Country Park. The Calder Wood part was left natural and only lightly managed, and I loved that. It was full of wildlife and wildflowers – the bluebells were fantastic. Almondell was the Park headquarters, with a visitor centre, the Ranger Service staff, walks, a barbecue area, footbridges over the Almond, toilets and other facilities. I got to know many of the Rangers, and in the latter years I worked with some of them, leading walks on plants and poetry, showing people the old shale mines in the wood, and many other activities.
Where’s this leading? Well, last night I was at a friend’s birthday party in Winchburgh, and she told me that Kirsty, one of my Ranger Service friends, was going to be there. Kirsty arrived, and we had a great catch-up – I hadn’t seen her for ten years. One of the walks we did together in 1998 focused on plant names, plant lore and plant uses. We led a group of adults and children round the park, looking and talking, and then we sat in the picnic area and wrote poems about the things we’d seen and heard about. My own poem, which I punningly titled ‘Kirsty’s Walk’, was later published in my second collection – Seven Senses – in 2000, and Kirsty hasn’t seen it. So this is for her:
Jane hangs on tight, as she pendulums
on the pegs of the climbing log,
in the field squared with sitting-coats
against the wet grass.
At the base of the lime tree
a barrel of twigs protects;
staves of winter fodder
against the season’s hunger.
Chestnuts spread green gloves,
seeking applause for the magnificence
of their show-off candelabras
against the green curtain.
Toadflax tapestries the old wall
above the coupling jewelled beetles,
and campion’s double tongues speak out
against a distant barking.
The reluctant petals of wood avens
bob to Robert’s fine herb,
and lepers shun the golden daisies
along the path scented with wild garlic
against the sun’s enthusiasm.
We all depend, hang on,
as ivy cleaves to the rough bark
of Douglas’ fir,
while Emily plays on
in her barbecued pleasure,
against the coming of age.
Copyright (c) Colin Will, 2000