Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Poem Tree - Wittenham Clumps

A little bit of poetry while we wait for the Mini to be mended.
Pythius wants to chat:
Helen has gone out. I am left alone in the cottage. She says I am in charge, but actually it’s those pesky cats Harvey Sweetie-Pie (ginger mog) and Buster a crazy mixed up Burmese, who are really in charge.
As they have taken over the best chairs in the main room, I have decided to sneak upstairs and chat about poetry.

The pesky cats relaxing

Border collies are not really into poetry, but Helen is, which means that there are times when poems feature in our walks.
Sometimes, there is a plus side to her love of poetry as it takes me to magical places like Wittenham Clumps, which is a doggie paradise, providing I accept moments on the lead if we bump into the sheep, who act as lawnmowers and keep the Clumps neat and tidy.
Wittenham clumps are two ancient hill forts topped with trees that stand close to Little Wittenham, South Oxfordshire. They stand tall and proud and dominate the landscape for miles around.
Castle Hill

My favourite walk is Castle Hill, the largest of the two clumps, where Helen and Auntie Liz often walk (or should I say climb?) to visit the poem tree.
The view from the top of Castle Hill is stunning There are panoramic views of the Berkshire Downs, Didcot Power Station chimneys and the historic riverside town of Dorchester that nestles in a fold of the Thanes.
Helen’s favourite trick, having reached the top of the Castle Hill, is to throw my ball right down to the bottom. I bound after it with great enthusiasm at first, returning carrying the ball in my teeth. After about half a dozen throws I am not quite so enthusiastic and the girls are usually laughing at me.

Pythius tries to read the plaque

Fortunately they recognise my need for a rest after a while and make their way to the poem tree and the plaque on which the poem has been transcribed. This gives me a chance to save face and catch my breath. It wouldn’t do for them to discover even Border collies get tired occasionally.

The poem is all gobbledegook to me. After all, anyone standing on the top of Castle Hill can see how beautiful the surrounding countryside is, why should anyone need a poem to tell them more?
That said, Helen and Auntie Liz seem to enjoy reading the poem. If they are happy, I guess I am happy.

The Poem Tree
While walking this area we have to be careful not to disturb ground nesting birds, but there are loads of places I can run. I love the unspoiled wildness of this ancient place.

Helen says
This 250 acre nature reserve is managed by Northmoor Trust and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Information maps, which detail the wild life that inhabit the area, can be found at the entrance by the car park.
The poem tree died several years ago and all the words that were carved on its trunk by Joseph Tub of Warborough in 1844/5 are now twisted and rotting. They are certainly very difficult to read.
However, thanks to Dr Henry Osmaston, who took an accurate tracing of the poem in 1965 when the tree was still alive and the words were more legible, visitors are able to still read the poem which describes the scene laid out before them.
The plaque commemorates the poem’s 150th anniversary.

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