Poems by Janet Vernon.
The mercury lamp was blindingly bright,
blackening the surrounding night,
a Buff-tip appeared, pale wings a-flap,
he was lured by the light into the trap.
Secure in shady egg-box ‘caves’.
Green Carpets, Heralds and Riband Waves.
With pretty names like Puss Moth, Purple Thorn and Burnished Brass,
they flew in from surrounding trees, some settled on the grass;
with bodies furry-coated to guard against the cold,
patterned wings exquisite, some delicate – some bold.
Shouts of delight – a Lime Hawk-moth was seen!
dove grey, soft pink, and a pale olive green.
Circling, bird-like, he perched on someone’s arm,
his scalloped wings quivering, so trusting and calm.
Then all at once a flurry of moths flew in from everywhere,
and landed on our clothing, on our books and in our hair.
Much laughter, swishing nets and capturing in pots,
we identified Peach Blossom and a Magpie with black spots.
Too soon our moth encounter ends,
we shook the ‘caves’ and freed our friends.
The show was almost over, and with ghostly fluttering flight,
they said ‘Goodbye’, and silently, flew off into the night.
The Heath Infancy
Turned upside-down your soil is now pure,
Buried – the chemicals, muck and manure.
Machines have returned you to heathland once more,
Releasing your spirit, letting it soar,
Responding to management, teamwork and vision,
You’re gathering pace, you’ve made it your mission
To nurture the flowering shoots of young heather,
Planted and sown disregarding the weather
By a lot of kind folk armed with tools in the fall
United in purpose and answering your call.
Your wildflower meadow, lovingly sown
Enjoyed summer glory but now is windblown
Scattering delicate seeds far and near,
To provide for the insects and birds come next year.
Your resident jewel – small butterfly blue
Was starring the heather this summer on cue.
With soft hues of autumn your trees are now kissed
And your mornings obscured by chill autumn mist,
Your beauty – now fading to see winter through
Will emerge in the springtime all fresh, bright and new.
In wintry slumbers perhaps you will dream
Of a coveted wish with a watery theme,
A shimmering pond will be yours very soon,
Glinting in sunshine, reflecting the moon.
There’ll be tadpoles and newts and grass- snakes that slither,
And dragonflies darting hither and thither.
May your dreams be sweet as you sleepily lie
Beneath your seemingly endless sky.
The Heath - Morning Time
Still and breathless, in the half-light of morning,
Golding the sky the sun brings the dawning –
A new day is born with the gilding of trees
And silence is broken by mornings’ first breeze.
Runny bunny rabbits venture out of their holes,
Kestrels on high search for mice, shrews and voles,
The dance of life begins once more
And follows the rhythm of natural law.
The exotic scent of tall nodding thistles –
Counterbalanced by fierce, thorny prickles.
Warbling skylarks in hovering flight
With long brown tails and wings edged in white.
Small butterflies blue with wings silver-studded
Emerging in sunshine on heather pink-budded,
Protected by ants whose vigilance brings
Security whilst they inflate crumpled wings.
A green tiger beetle searching for prey
Hurries on by in his scuttling way.
A lizard – motionless – eyeing up flies
His grey-brown body in good disguise.
Lost within this world of heather
Time is just a fleeting feather –
Of fire which burns too fast for me
For soon it’s plain for all to see
The brilliance of the noon-day sun
Signals half this day is done.
A sense of weariness now growing,
Homeward, feeling calm and knowing
There’s something about this heathery place
Which leaves me with a smile on my face.
Butterflies of Prees Heath
A Brimstone beauty on sulphurous wings
flies high on the wind where the skylark sings,
four flakes of yellow adrift from the sun,
tentative proof that spring has begun.
A newbie arrives and plays hide and seek,
among hawthorn leaves sits a Green Hairstreak.
Flashes of orange and soft, smoky brown,
disturbed by my feet not far from the ground,
male Small Heath butterflies parry and fight,
defending their patch with erratic low flight.
Two Green-veined Whites, a blissful mating pair,
transfixed I could do nothing but keep quite still and stare.
The star of the show – the Silver-studded Blue
enters the mid-summer stage right on cue,
sipping the sweet honey-bells of pink heather
and dancing on air in sunshiny weather.
Four Skippers live here – Dingy, Essex, Large and Small,
the moth-like dingy’s not dingy at all,
camouflaged wings in soft velveteen,
trying his level best not to be seen.
Meadow Browns and Ringlets – high-summer beauties,
compete for nectar with Small Copper cuties.
A Gatekeeper who, in the absence of gates,
finds a nice bramble and patiently waits
for a female to settle and flutter her wings,
and quicken his pulse and tug his heart strings.
As rose-hips and fungi and berries appear,
au revoir to our friends ‘til springtime next year.
From sweetly scented honesty
and pungent garlic mustard,
to fragile-looking cuckoo flower,
white petals lilac-dusted.
Vivid orange and startling white,
green marbled under-wings,
such energetic dancing flight
this pristine beauty brings
to woodland rides in dappled shade
and flowery roadside verges,
in amongst the plants from which
its larval form emerges.
THE HEATH - TEN YEARS ON ……..
Released from restrictive ties that tethered,
you’ve morphed into land now sweetly heathered.
Your spirit – once broken – has woken and stirred,
attracting things budded, feathered and furred,
and there are many strings to your heathery bow;
with an easy grace swallows swoop low
over your pond where crowfoot blooms
float like feathers and a dragonfly looms -
poised in flight on shimmering wings
above whirligig beetles swimming in rings.
You’ve had bat nights, moth nights and countless butterfly days,
egg hunts, history talks and wonderful fungal forays.
Hedgerows were planted for creatures to nest,
and a bench was installed for the weary to rest.
A pond-dipping session with a local school
was proclaimed by the pupils as “wicked!” and “cool!”
The ‘beating of bounds’ is an ancient way
of establishing where the boundaries lay;
so, with sticks, a jolly band
beat the borders of your land.
Lovingly restored to its former glory,
the Control Tower tells its wartime story.
The tower now boasts a different role
with conservation as its goal.
Birds and bats nest and mate,
moths and butterflies hibernate -
safe within those concrete walls,
as the nights draw in and winter calls.
Way up high a skylark sings
and buzzards soar on lazy wings;
and hairstreaks dance like purple sprites
in oaken branches at giddy heights.
Small creatures waking beneath our feet,
gently stirring in summer’s heat –
itsy bitsy butterflies emerge from the dirt,
in blue summer dresses they dance and they flirt.
As your horizon melts with the setting sun,
and all is said and all is done,
you can happily heave a great big sigh,
content beneath your great big sky.
The Scented Heath
As winter releases its icy hold
and springtime’s tale is yet to be told,
catkins explode into soft yellow pillows
appearing before the young leaves on willows;
their subtle scent timid and fleeting
shyly announcing their annual greeting.
Coconut-scented golden gorse
flavour the air year-round of course.
Rich and warm and musky-sweet, evoking summer’s glory,
creamy heads of elder-flowers tell their fragrant story.
Poisonous hemlock breathes out its foul breath,
exhaling a stench reminiscent of death.
If you handle the head of musk thistle with care
and bury your nose in its face if you dare –
the odour is spicy, exotic, intensive,
echoing perfumes extremely expensive.
Creeping thistle, ragwort, honeysuckle and heather,
marinating gently in warm and sunny weather,
aromas infused in a floral mixing bowl,
lifting the spirits and gladdening the soul.
Elegant and tall – yellow primrose of the night,
honeyed petals luminous in softly fading light.
The pungent scent of wily fox punctuates the air
as he goes about his business to and from his lair.
And autumn comes with the shortening day,
smelling of leaf-mould, damp and decay.
Crisp autumn winds begin to blow,
and perfume-makers cease to grow,
and all is cleansed by winter rain,
to start afresh in spring again.