Green fields and blue skies on the South Downs Way

Old Winchester Hill Poem

3rd September 2015

It has been a busy week as usual and unfortunately much of it in the office. However I have got out this week to help colleagues install 2 new Barn Owl boxes on Pyecombe golf course through which the South Downs Way runs. So with luck you may in future years be lucky enough to see Barn Owls in the area.

I’ve also been working on updating some of our information sheets we have for drinking water taps, campsites and parking etc. So these should be available to download from the website shortly.

Investigating if specially adapted pony drawn disability vehicle can legal be driven along the SDW has also taken some of my time this week as has reviewing all the large events that have taken place along the trail this summer.

Our resident poet Lizzie Gallagher has also sent in another poem for you. This one about Old Winchester Hill. This site is one of my favourites along the SDW and well worth a little explore if you’re passing. I believe that this poem won Lizzie an award and is due to be published in a new book. Congratulations lizzie.

On Old Winchester Hill

High on Old Winchester Hill, I wonder:

Did Victorian archaeologists miss the point

With their methodical measuring tapes,

Their neat white note-cards & their tapping trowels;

Their careful record books & counted shards

Of flint & iron & pottery?


The hill is healed now of all diggings: hollows & barrows

Softened by falling rain, by grass & honeyed clover,

By golden gorse & trefoil; by thistledown & scabious;

By poppies’ red splash & purple coils of rampant vetch.

Now rock-hard ramparts, humps & clumps of earth are blurred:

Jumbled by time & tempest, roots & rabbits.


What’s left to mark the memory of ancient ancestors

And long-lost clans?—those who lived before the builders of Stonehenge,

Before Romans drove their roads in dead straight lines & marched to ruin,

Before Arthur cantered out with wandering knights

Or Alfred was enthroned in royal halls at Winchester—

What’s left to mark their memory?


Only this: a gentle wooden seat to rest upon with you,

To stare back down & through the ages;

And this: our love shall last, not overlords.

We carry seeds of sweetness in our plantings

As surely as feathered corn-cockles flare

Open for another summer & another—


As surely as the children born to us

Will walk upon this hilltop once:

Their eyes fixed on the azure glory of the sky,

Their feet sunk deep in kingly blue of cornflowers

And golden hoards of seed-heads where today we go

In tracks of those who settled here six thousand years ago.

© Lizzie Ballagher

If you liked Lizzie’ poem you can read more of her work on her blog at

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