In Witches Lane the spell is cast,
And suddenly it’s clear to me:
In all the signposts I have passed
There is an ancient poetry.
Sheepwash, Slugwash, Snatts and Scallows
Soften with their euphony
The unquiet echoes of the gallows
On Hanging Birch and Deadmantree.
Lost village life in Pump and Pound,
Gun and Thunders wreathed in smoke:
How blessed was the peace once found
By travellers on Resting Oak.
My bicycle and I now follow
The tracks of long-dead industry
Down Tanyard, Scrapers, Pit and Hollow,
Up Powdermill and Nursery.
Shepherds, Sharlands, long and steep,
Markstakes winding through the trees
Rocks and Sandy, driven deep
By feet and wheels and centuries.
Ragged Dog, Darp and Dern,
Through Langtye’s sweeping bends I fly,
Take in Potato, Ham, then turn
Down Robin Post to Bird-in-Eye.
A thousand years of history
Enshrined in Hill and Road and Lane.
They share their tales and mystery
And lead me safely home again.
I’ve accumulated 13 years and literally tens of thousands of miles cycling the lanes around my home, but it was only the other day that I really started thinking about their names. They’re historic, quaint, comical and vivid by turns: I can’t quite believe it’s taken me so long to realise this, and then string some of the choicest together to make a poem.