South Hams Poems

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From The Ferry Inn at Salcombe, by Clara Hayes

Majestic river gleaming down to the sea -

or so I assumed when I first fell in sight.

A village scattered over the hill to our right

with cattle below, all black and velvety.

Yet somehow I'd taken the hill to be to our west

with the water flowing away from us to the sea,

as was the way of all waterways? Arrested,

I fell into a 'westerly-reverie'.

And then the rub: dusk fell, but where was the sun?

The sky behind the village church was a shroud

of purpling dark with only a vestige of cloud;

the wayward west was turning into one

end-of-the-sky explosion behind us. Some

local trickster spirit laughed out loud.


Glitter, by Clara Hayes

We, a fortunate two,

sipping, gazing on the glory

of south Devon curves

and this besides -

we witness the shimmering rise

and swoop of gulls

in a distant swarm over ploughed

fields, stark sunlight catching

their white wings, making them glitter

in a there-again, gone-again swirl,

a dance triumphant

before the black clouds.


Coastal Path Walk, by Laura

Silent harbour glinting in the spring day sun,

air fresh with promise

of summer heat and bustling bodies

making their way with anticipated glee

down the ferry steps to the sparkling sea.


The ferry man ambles, glancing at the sky - he is late - my fellow passenger tells me,

'never a minute past the hour have I known him to be'.

So we start our journey venturing into the blue

As I have seen its deep, choppy and turquoise hue -

The estuary spreads out before us as we leave the harbour quaint,

spray hitting the bow whips the whirling sound

around and up jumping off I sink

cushioned on white sands, ready for the walk ahead.


East Portlemouth 

- rich with history

of middle age mirth and toil

And sailors' tales -

Now invites the walkers along its trails.

I walk where the sea usually comes, for this path is changeable

With the tide - some days the high road must be taken,

Weaving its way in tune with the beach.

But today sand stretches out enticing and vast, and I tread it soft

Until delving at last into the forest's darkened boughs -

Apple trees with peeping buds appearing,

weaving deep through wooded lands, glimpsing

the harbour spreading out into the sea, curving round the echoes of the bays,

hinting of views through bramble and tree.


The path winds around the headland until open sea breaks out

wild and billowing middle distance light

deep on the waters

as the waves crashing below

rush in and out of the sweeping coves.


Stonechats beckon pebbly calls,

yellow gorse blossom pervades the air,

tinges the landscape with amber glow.

Its brother plant the dodder spreading pink delight,

Apple trees and tufty flowered thrift, wind-sculpted hawthorn leave nothing there to miss.

When peeping into view comes the tip of a Lookout!

Bright and beckoning on the horizon line,

With promises of cream tea, cakes, seats in the sun,

Kite flying and summer days of good British fun!


Life Down Here - a Few Uncompleted Lines, by Clara Hayes

‘You just have to think of those feel-good TV dramas, set

in boundless beauty, sunshine coast.

Doc Martin would more or less get the gist -

(escapist hokum, as you would doubtless put it).

‘Well, here’s bad news for you – it’s . all . too . true.

The sea is this picture-postcard blue -

no, it’s even better, sorry. But realise,

we have to live in this paradise!

‘Holm oaks reach out from cliffs, impossible, sheer

over oyster sands and seawater sparkling, clear.

Footpaths abound - along beaches, wooded ways,

over hilly fields, past spreading bays.

‘Something true, something so beautiful -

(Clara wants suggestions for a last line.  The ones below, highlighted in yellow, are three that she has rejected.  She is looking for an acerbic punch line, without being too sharp.)

as long as the ‘fauna’ doesn’t defile it all.

even the lichen, clinging to roofs and walls.

if certain people too often make it hell.