Autumn is here and the landscape is changing. I made some notes on a walk across Doxey Marsh, in Stafford. A few short weeks ago people were out brambling and wiping the sweat from their brow. It may be cold and damp, but the changes are beautiful to watch…….
Dog walkers leave fleeting prints in the sodden turf. The outline of clumpy size tens give way to the ditch-water. A heron tilts its head and sweeps away over the M6. The riverbank is pitted and gouged by hooves. The willows have been pollarded so they rise thick-trunked and stop abruptly, sprouting snappy, wirey branches like sparks of electricity. Hawthorn plugs thick, gnarled roots, like an old man’s knuckles, deep into the soil. Rabbits have scraped sand and gravel from the bank. At the edge of the marsh the land rises away from the flash into the cemetery. Leaves begin to fall forming a sodden mulch like uneaten cornflakes. Ancient yews shadow tombs and angels and a benevolent Christ.
At the crossroads, in the darkness beneath a Scots pine, there is a monument to the fire-dead of the town workhouse. Their poor souls continue to wander. A neat line of war graves, marble white against the slanting rain, fall away toward the marsh. The distant castle is grey and blurred, a faint silhouette against the gloom.