A hawthorn stands high on the Quantock Hills,
weather-shaped but sturdy, its branches gnarled,
its thorns sharp under May-bride blossom,
its roots grasping the shallow turf
on rock laid down four hundred million years ago
under the sea of another world.
It stands where footpaths rising
from the sessile oak of Hodder’s Combe
skirt Lady’s Edge to cross the old ridgeway,
then head down again past Beacon Hill
and the round barrows of ancestors
entombed four thousand years before.
It watches generations come and go:
drovers herding their flocks back and forth
stop to break their fast on bread and cheese;
schoolgirls in slacks walking the hills
shelter from downpours under its branches;
a bevy of Land Rovers following the hunt halt nearby
and binoculars search out hounds and stag;
a group of older women, Leki sticks in hand,
pose as someone takes their photograph;
mountain bikers flash past in single file
and hurtle downwards with no backward glance;
a solitary walker pauses to soak in the view,
from the Welsh coast across Somerset levels
to Glastonbury Tor.
The hawthorn sees four hundred years slip by
as summers follow winter in their turn,
till this year, when its leaves burn brown in early sun
and the hum of bees about its bloom is softer still,
it feels the shift of epochs in its sap
and senses change has come.