Vernal Equinox Walk
20th March 2019
Around the Arlingham Peninsula
On a map, the Arlingham peninsula is irresistible. Created by a large meander in the Severn estuary, it appears to jut at a rather jaunty (or even phallic) angle toward Newnham and the Forest of Dean. Well endowed with footpaths and history and subject to the tidal forces of the estuary, it seemed the ideal place for an equinox expedition.
It was an early spring day full of skylark song, Lady’s Smock, Celandines, Violets and lambs. We began at Arlingham, pausing at the church of St Mary the Virgin to admire the single hand of its clock, pointing out the hour only. Even today, do we really need another hand to show us the precise minute?
We progressed to the banks of the Severn: to wide estuarine skies and marching pylons. Crumbling WW2 defensive pill boxes sinking into Severn mud marked our route. At the site of the “old passage” we looked for traces of the old way to ford the river to Newnham and discussed the many lives lost to the waters.
Sabrina washes our bones
by Robin Treefellow
How your waters flow,
the ebb, surge and ripple.
We may keep nothing in the end.
Not our faces, names or talents,
all is given up to Sabrina’s moon burnished tide.
In death we are sloughed naked.
She pours through every corner of your soul,
washes out of ancient necessity
the places you named secret and out of reach,
forbidden to most.
How Sabrina completes us,
with this cold, slimy sluicing out.
She works through all
we carried in life,
puts her many witch willow fingers,
through the life baggage she tidally
spins and sorts.
She smoothes our bones into jewellery,
how Sabrina brings out the glow in our bones
as we all go adrift,
Every shard into the estuarine flow
slipping off like glass eyed eels,
into the silver no-faced moon,
to sleep on her breath reborn
in Sabrina’s silky mud.
The last part of me I hoped I could keep,
Sabrina sucked in with her serpent kiss.
Shivering in reeds
I hear the sedge warblers chafing
I stood there
precariously resting on her sifting shores,
waiting to become immured once more,
to sink into absence unmade.
Dissolve and dispersed
nothing can stay,
Sabrina offers only temporary footing
before the tide goes out,
and we are swept away
through to the last bit.
We cannot stay or keep,
the river flows away.
We’re left with only bones.
Our circumnavigation continued past fields of ancient ridge and furrow, blackthorn hedges and lambs. The Severn constantly to our left looking deceptively fordable. Surely we could just wade from sandbank to mudflat, all the way to the other side?
Wisely, we turned inland to traverse the neck of the peninsula, through a Ladybird book landscape of lambs playing in ancient orchards and Bluebell woods. On reaching the Severn again, we returned footsore to Arlingham via riverbank and mud heavy footpaths to complete our circumnavigation of this singular geographical feature and ancient place.