Poem: Maidens Grove/Grave – Lockdown III

On some maps, especially old ones, part of the wood near where I live is called Maidens Grove, or Maidens Grave. I can’t help wondering what was the fate of the maiden, and how long ago her story may have been told. It feels ancient to me, something passed down and down until it was forgotten – but perhaps not by all, perhaps someone knows the tale, still, and still tells it.

At some point this land seems to have been used as a quarry, and there is an abrupt slope down to the bottom of the wood, which I like to reach via a steep and narrow path through an arch of holly bush – it has the air of a portal, an entrance into a different world. And down here, it is different. The soil and the plants are darker and denser, and the land is crossed by streams. It’s here I gather the ransoms, wild garlic, when they emerge. It’s here I look for snowdrops. The paths are thick mud. You need to think about how the weather was a few days previously to guage how robust your boots need to be, and the trees sometimes suffer from the unstable ground, even though more sheltered from the wind.

The trees that fall are left where they fall, food for so many creatures, giving back to the soil.

And so, down here in Maidens Grove, or Grave, I came across a new loss, a huge straight tree pulled out of the ground. The image of it wouldn’t leave me alone. I’ve been trying to find a way of writing about the vastness of the losses we are all facing with the pandemic, and the desperate sorrow of each one of those losses. This poem isn’t it, nowhere near, but something of the sadness of the time seeps into it. I don’t want to look for signs of hope, for the new life that might come, and yet in the wood at least I found myself noticing such signs, by hopeful reflex, and began wondering if I could accept that they were there, even by the grave of a great tree.

Poems this lockdown aren’t coming so easily. You can read about the very gentle, informal project here. I will continue to share them with you as they emerge. Shared experiences are hard to come by, and I am encouraged to find that we can find connection here, on line, and I hope that with this poem, we can take a walk in the woods, wherever you may be spending this difficult, winter lockdown. So thank you for your time, and your company. I hope we can all find hope, in due season.

Maiden’s Grove/Grave

Here, down in the
sheltered hollow
of Maiden’s Grove,
or Grave,
dark paths
of deep mud
are laid across
with sticks,
marks of the care
and kindness
of those who have
walked this way before.

Here, these paths
are edged with the
first signs of ransoms
emerging, pale and
curved, beckoning
in all this darkness.

Here, as the small stream
cuts slowly, year by year,
through layers
of gravel and clay,
a great tree lies fallen,
stretched back into
the heart of the wood,
green with ivy only,
blocking the water’s flow.

Its fall has splintered many branches,
and about it,
other trees stand wounded,
open, half felled by this great fall.
I feel the moan and the
crash of it,
its life-roots darkly upended,


but here,
the deep bowl its
roots have left
is already filled by
the seep of water,
black with an ash grey sheen,
where a few of last year’s
leaves float,
overshadowed
by this great spread
of root and earth.

The bowl is new
in this old, shifting
landscape,
not yet softened by
new growth –

and yet so soon, so soon,
its surface pits and circles
with movement below,
stirred by some creatures
who have found it, already,
already made it a home.

This dark bowl seems a spring
from which the stream flows now,
a source, a beginning,
down, over stones and branches
and spoilheaps of mud
to here, where I stand,
where the dark
path crosses.

Around it,
a tangle of brambles
and a scatter of birds,
and unseen,
a creep of creatures
comes to this place,
the tree’s root-grave,
sprung open,

rolled away by a mighty wind,
so full of life,
already, and already
that life begins its work,
softening, decaying,
and now,

I am allowing
myself to wait,
to wait and see
who will come here,
what will rise again here,
in Spring.

In a few weeks, the ransoms will be up and fragrant and ready to eat.

4 thoughts on “Poem: Maidens Grove/Grave – Lockdown III

  1. Hi Andrea,

    Thank you so much for this refection. I walk regularly in these woods and have found great solace there during Lockdown. Have you discovered the hidden seat?

    Doreen xx

    Liked by 1 person

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