A question of a hill
It looked just like a landmark, seen through a Larkhall window,
round and green, a childish sketch.
Not far, as the crow flies, though not being crow, that didn’t help,
I had no wings and had to wind my way,
circling the site, wary as though it might unfold, turn mean,
if not approached correctly. Long before I went there,
the hill had arrived inside my head as song, a place of booming
hearts, unlikely eagles. Little Solsbury Hill:
I guess its full name didn’t scan, but a man with an angel name,
shaped it solid out of music, more real than on a map,
where it was nothing, but a curving series of thin red lines,
I felt compelled to go, feel them underfoot.
Ran across a bypass, crossed a threshold by mistake, over a road
once resisted fiercely, but now settled, more or less,
missed the official walker’s lane that wound beneath the hedges,
leading to the trig point at the top, staggering in the wrong way,
I began to wonder, what makes a hill? Did all this tarmac count?
Fences, PRIVATE SIGNS, the houses? Were they
part hill as well – landscape like the stone and grass? The buzzard
overhead, was that part sky, part bird, part hill?
I was not yet aware, clocked the signpost, brown cows grazing
on the heath, can heritage stock, count as landscape too?
Or can a place be only ground? Topography, the fall and rise of rock?
Wind twisty hawthorns, litter, blue dog-shit bags? The view?
What was Solsbury, what was not? The only answer, a small city
under sudden dusk, a scattering of light, defiant in the dark.
I walked up Little Solsbury Hill in 2020, during that strange time when lockdown was briefly lifted in the summer, at least for UK travel. I have also written a blog about it, which you can read here.