The Wall beneath Rowcroft Railway Bridge
I love the railway bridge over Rowcroft in Stroud,
I love the way it continues the lengthy viaduct that straddles the A46,
I love that Dirty Old Town industrial revolution-
Collectivist working class feeling,
When dreaming underneath the arches,
And I love travelling over the bridge and viaduct too,
Whether it’s to Paddington or Cheltenham,
And I love walking the Up-platform,
To gaze down at the edgelands below,
The rebarbative railing and the obligatory supermarket trolley,
The litter, the detritus, the security signage …
But I have to confess,
When I walk under Rowcroft railway bridge,
Whether to or from Stroud town,
I usually scurry through,
Trying to avoid the congregations of pigeons,
And consequent widespread excrement,
As well as the fag smoke, vaping and sputum –
I usually keep my eyes to the ground,
Trying to keep my shoes clean,
And am oblivious of anything above or beyond the pavement.
What with that first day of spring type feeling,
I glanced up towards the sky,
For the very first time,
A solitary old stone wall,
Just two stones thick
(One stone at the top),
At an angle of some 45 degrees,
Rising from the ground right up to the arch of the viaduct
Adjacent to the Rowcroft bridge.
Is it really possible that Brunel’s Great Western Railway,
‘The Permanent Way’,
Running all the way from Paddington to Cheltenham Spa,
Through engineering marvels such as Hanwell Viaduct,
Sonning Cutting, over the Thames,
Swindon Railway Works,
Is at one point,
Finely balanced with even-steven tension,
Upon a mouldering solitary old stone wall in Stroud
In a sort of oxymoronic embrace of fragility and stability?
What else is the wall for?
Merely to gratuitously divide empty space?
What would happen if the wall was taken away?