Lockdown, a poem by Michael Powell

Inspired by walks in scenic Weardale, Michael Powell shares a poem highlighting the importance of nature during the testing days of lockdown.

From Crawley Incline over Bashaw Rigg

The gamekeeper’s track wanders up the moor,

Today’s escape from lockdown’s iron grip

And the dream-world of these sleepwalking days.

Up here permitted daily exercise

Means freedom and a chance to breathe clean air.

A cool breeze gently combs the heather and

Whispers through the walls of the old sheep fold.

The moors create their own social distance.

It is breeding season for upland birds;

Curlews glide effortlessly across the moor

Murmuring their soft and wistful love-weep,

While lapwings wheel and dive in mad display,

Bleeping like strange demented aliens.

We climb to the summit of Collier Law 

Where, drawing our breath, we stop to survey

The broad sweep of the dale spread out below.

The land dreams in sleep beneath the heat haze

Of a warm, dry spring no-one expected;

And untroubled by human contagion The lowland trees are thrusting into leaf,

Eager to embrace an early summer.

Leaving behind our silent reflections

We follow Black Burn to make a descent

Where tetchy red grouse urge us to “go back”

And small heath butterflies basking in heat

Scoot away to avoid our tramping feet.

By the time we reach Shittlehope we are

Thinking of home and what waits for us there.

The daily briefing and the new death toll,

The current R-number, clap for carers:

The liturgy of nightmares still to come

That haunt our subconscious pandemic dreams.

What sustains us through these darkest of days

Is our connection to the airy moors,

That upper world of sunlight, wind and rain

Where Nature’s cycle turns the wheel of life,

Regardless of our self-inflicted woes.

We too are children of this world although

In our hubris we often do forget.

These troubled times remind us of the need

To slow down, slacken our pace, and stop;

Hear once again that deeper, ancient pulse

That drives a living world in harmony.

In darkness we can sow the seeds of hope

But all must strive to bring them to the light.

Stay at home

But stay tuned

Work to restore the balance

Save lives.

Explore a live reading of Lockdown

The films were created by Lonely Tower Film & Media and the project supported by the Weardale Area Action Partnership Covid-19 assistance fund.

Michael Powell
Local Poet

Michael has lived in Weardale, County Durham, for the past 25 years and has grown to love the rich and special natural history of the North Pennine uplands.

During lockdown, he has counted himself to be extremely fortunate in having access to wild moors close to my home where he and his wife have been able to take daily exercise. The attached poem was stimulated by one of their walks during the first lockdown in early May when Michael realised just how important daily contact with the natural world was in maintaining his mental wellbeing and sense of proportion during these very difficult times.