The walker treads the trail;
Sharp, grey, gravels grate
Under his swiftly moving feet,
Small swirls of dust erupt
And are cleared by the breeze.
The walker climbs the hill,
A small speck in a mass of green;
He labours under the sun,
Soon drenched with sweat,
Seeking the relieving summit.
The walker watches from the hill:
His eyes scan far out – distance –
Cows, walking loose-hipped,
Like golf-cart-towing caddies
Seeking that ever lost ball.
A squat, single-storey building
Sits on the end of the dead rail road,
Once Tidworth Railway Station,
But now, it is the modern NAAFI,
A memorial to railway restaurants.
Red-brick, building blocks bar the valley floor,
A giant’s cattle-grid and a child’s playground.
Four children, on bikes, noisy with youth,
Bustle and chatter on the tank park,
Their loud cries carried on the breeze.
Oil-stained dirt, slickly shines on the park,
The tarmac: metal-track imprinted, crumpled and ruined.
Youth dismounts and swarms over a parked APC,
Someone has left the front hatch open
And soon all have disappeared inside.
A car grinds up the road to the tank park,
Noise reaches the boys and, guiltily, youth disembarks
Speedily; they grab their bikes and hide behind the carrier.
Squaddies, clad in green overalls, busy sweeping roads;
Others paddling, knee-deep, cleaning an open sewerage ditch;
More lift drain covers and dig dirt from the traps.
Fatigue parties compete: completing garrison cleaning;
Four-tonners, laden with wooden boxes, transport
From Camp to Married Quarter Barracks, moving.
Impressive loads are carried by the ‘Imprest’ men,
Soldier ants converging on the Regimental Nest;
Meeting the containers at the tank park hanger,
Prior to the periodic Regimental Move.
A shot sounds to the front – shotgun loud –
A clear and clean report upon the air,
Then one off to the right, dulled by distance,
Again, a shot, the second from the front,
Sharp and clear and very, very close by;
A rabbit erupts, suddenly, to the right
From an impossibly tangled hawthorn bush;
A crow rushes noisily into the air, screaming
To all who will listen his anger and fright.
Water gangles from a broken pipe
In the hill-top reservoir;
Flies are drawn to the humidity,
Flying in stacks of bodies,
Twining and rolling and whirling,
But never, never colliding.
A snail with a grey and brown, banded shell
Speeds, slowly, competing with the black slug
That clings and then flops, sloppily,
From the springing grass stems;
The trees appear like small, green puffs of smoke,
Billowing in the capricious breeze,
Tints changing as the sun sets behind the hill.
Far away, a sharp taper of grey, an old church
Resurrected from the green, grenade smoke.
A small green glacier flows between the trees –
Accidentally over the hummocky ground;
Multi-coloured flares strut about,
Golfers in small, herd-like groups
Distinguishable from the cattle
By the cut and colour of their hide.
The sun lowers itself into the ground
And shadows appear all around
Like tank-range, puff-targets
Slithering from the secretive ground.
The watching walker sees all this,
He stands, brushes dirt from his seat;
Takes a last look and then turns;
Gathers his pens and notebooks
And trudges onwards, over the hill.
His mind is full and strangely saddened,
He can feel his heavy, beating heart
And the hot prickling of the tear ducts;
All objects seem close, and yet, distant.
Soon he will leave this English spot
Never to return here again…