Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Snowless in Sadness Copse







No snow today, sadly, where I live

up on the hill a few feeble flakes

fly on a frisky breeze

then dematerialise

like the ghosts of winters past.

Still, I find comfort in the crisp cold,

wrapped in warm clothes

yet not wholly insulated

from the rasp of raw elements

recurrently connecting me

with the same



Walking on, I relish

the firmness of the frozen earth

beneath my feet, no longer mud-sliding,

as they carry me, unconsciously

to Sadness Copse, which is

strewn with recent memories:

fire-blackened cinders, manoeuvred logs

and the familiar, familial

feel of the place.

A place of refuge, where

I once went

with friends

to salve our sadness

with the balm of companionship.


Today - alone, snowless, sad -

I’m consoled instead

by the stark, leaf-stripped trees,

the ice-cold clarity of the air

and the tiny tips of emerging bluebell buds.

I’m minded, and reminded, to believe

That whilst friends still have their place,

In this place, I’ve founded a friend.


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Frozen smiles


My daughter gathers frost, early

one cold winter morning;

her hands pink and glistening wet

as she fills a blue bowl to the brim,

and smiles.


A week later, accidentally

I find her breakfast bowl in the freezer,

beside blackforest fruits,

still full of ice-cold memories

and smiles.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Recipe for a Do It Yourself Wassail

The word wassail comes from the Old Norse phrase ‘waes hael’, literally meaning ‘be healthy’ (as in hale & hearty). It cultivates & celebrates a sense of shared merry-making in mid-winter when it’s dark and cold outside. In the West Country the focus of a wassail is the apple orchard, where we gather together not only to bring cheer to ourselves but also remember the naked trees in their dormant state – being thankful for their generous abundance over the last year & wishing them well for the growing year ahead. It's a reciprocal ritual: a good-spirited, merry wassail in winter ensures a good, plentiful apple harvest in autumn. Sadly, this year it’s not possible to congregate with a revelry of friends and family in the orchard but we can keep the flame alive with a solo or ‘bubble’ wassail in the garden or any local community space with an apple tree…


(Picture by Annie Maudsley)

Key Ingredients: pieces of home-made toast, some local cider in a large jug/bowl (hot & mulled or cold & au naturelle), a crown made out ivy and/or other evergreen vegetation, old pots & pans.

Suggested method (adapt as necessary):

1.     Choose a Wassail Queen or King (or both!) from your bubble to lead the ceremony. E.g. throw an apple to be caught or hide a coin in a cake. If it’s just you, then that’s easy! The Queen/King wears the crown alongside a suitable expression of serene ceremonial grandeur…

2.     Process together en masse into the orchard/garden. Music, dance and fire adds to the sense of occasion (otherwise hum the theme-tune to the Archers out loud!) Make your way to the biggest/oldest/only apple tree in the orchard or garden, known as the Apple Tree Man. Circle 3 times clockwise in a merry, mincing manner around the tree then stand facing his trunk.

3.     Scare away the bad spirits and malignant elements from the trees with loud noises: banging of pots & pans or howling loudly; the louder the better (neighbours allowing). Some folk do this at the end but I think it’s right to clear away the bad before inviting in the good spirits (or do both!).

4.     Sing to the tree. There are many wonderful wassail songs, named after their place of origin e.g. Somerset wassail, Gower wassail, Cornish wassail etc. I usually sing these words: “Old Apple Tree we wassail thee and hoping thou wilt bear/ For who knows where we all shall be at apple time this year/ For to fare well and to bear well and merry all let us be/ Let everybody take off their hats and sing to the Old Apple Tree.” (Tune here:

5.     The Wassail Queen dunks the toast in the cider bowl (called the Loving Cup) then places pieces in the branches of the trees to feed the birds, especially robins (symbols of Robin Goodfellow), and to bring good fortune and fertility into the orchard for the year ahead.

6.     Liberally sprinkle the cider from the Loving Cup onto the roots of the tree, giving a little goodness back to the source of our sustenance. Don't forget to have a hearty slurp of cider yourself whilst shouting out loud: “Waes Hael!” The traditional reply is “Drinc Hael!” meaning 'drink healthy' (self-defining term!).

7.     Propose a toast, in words, to the Apple Tree Man, such as this:

Apple tree, apple tree

What you have given to us, we give back to you

Grow well roots and bear well tops

Next year may you have a bumper apple crop

Hatfuls and capfuls and three-bushel bagfuls

And little heaps of apples under the stairs

Pip pip [everyone answers: hooray!]



Sunday, 3 January 2021

A river of words

My 9 year old daughter, Annie, and I have been spending some quiet time together, in these unfestive moments of midwinter, observing nature and writing. Recently we spent time by a local river and she wowed me with these perfectly poised written words... 

I sat on the river bank, in the shade of an alder tree, watching the green water turn silver at the rising of the moon. The trees were black silhouettes against the red sky and long shadows were cast by the setting sun. Willow trees hung their orange branches over the river, dipping them into the cool water. Green waterweed waved in the current and tiny minnows darted about until they saw me and vanished into the waterweed leaves. In the middle of the river was a small patch of land, a tiny island. Yellow stones covered it and all around one side were tall lime-coloured water rushes that shook in the breeze. A crow landed on the island. It had dark eyes, shiny black feathers and ash-coloured legs and beak. I hid in the long grass so not to scare it. The crow went over to a biggish stone and used his claws to turn it over. Underneath was a wriggling pink worm which the crow immediately snapped up in his beak. I heard a rustling noise from the opposite bank. The crow looked up and flew away. Suddenly, out of a hole in the river bank, popped a small, round head. I recognised it at once. It was a water vole.
Annie Maudsley, 3 Jan 2021.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

This, that, then...

This walk,
up and over Bothen Hill,
is a favourite way
to make sense of the world;
let my feet find a rhythm
for the rest of me to follow.

That day
the wind was unsettling, creating
a swirl of emotions, inside:
uncertainty. And the certainty
that things were changing,
soon. The way home
was shadowed by dark
clouds gathering in the evening;
like crows and jackdaws
returning to roost.

the sun broke through.
Clear, golden light falling, 
like rain, over Colmer’s Hill,
and Bridport below,
with rays 
of hope.