I’ve just been on a glorious walk, went on to Primrose Valley in Leeds. Ever since I was a child, it’s been a magical place. Even now, despite the efforts of the council to tame it – it’s still magical.
Now, I’ve lived in this area (on one side of Primrose Valley or t’other), for about twenty years. In all that time there were rumours about the council wanting to build houses on there, however there has always been strong local opposition to this.
The council went as far as to stop maintaining it (or so it seemed, I’m sure they would say otherwise).
So when I saw that sign, what first came to mind was bulldozers raking over my childhood memories, memories of football, rugby, laser tag, even school (I went to Crossgates Primary School – for my sins), and other childhood hi jinx. It’s a terrifying thought.
You may be asking what’s this got to do with poetry, or literature, technically it doesn’t much. It’s one of the places I used to write though, and a place I’ve written about plenty of times. It’s somewhere special to me. I’m going to re-post one of those special stories at the end of this post.
Anyway, back to the point (yes I digressed, and that’s the subject of my latest poem), it turns out, I don’t need to be worried. I put on my detective’s hat, and tracked down what was going on – despite English Partnerships being co-opted by Homes & Communities Agency, they appear to planning some kind of restoration and care work on the fields. Okay, yes I spent about three hours working all this out, but most of the documentation is from 2006, it’s just taken that long for bureaucracy to kick in and do something.
There’s very little on the Leeds City Council website about it – but I guess it’s been so long since it was announced it’s just slipped well down the relevant results.
It makes me happy that it’s safe, makes me happy that one of my childhood memories remains intact, even as others vanish and warp out of recognition.
I mentioned before that I have an idea for a new poem – I’m going to be writing it there, in good old fashioned ink and paper. Though, as a matter of respect for the maintenance and improvement of my beloved valley, I’m going to obey that sign (if I’d found out that they building on there, I would have happily risked being arrested in protest).
If you’d like to see some more photo’s of my walk out across Primrose Valley, follow this link to more, including Bailey, our three year Yorkshire Terrier, oh and me (I’m the one with the ginger goatee, and bandana on – he’s the silver haired little dog, trust me) – Primrose valley with Bailey – May 09
Anyway, as promised here’s one of my old stories, written back in December 2003 (I’d like to think I’ve improved as a writer since then – however it’s a story that means something, so I don’t mind exposing it):
Oh and I won’t bore you with the real history of Primrose Valley just yet – I’ll save that for another time.
A Journey into an Old Land
The man arrived at the land of his pilgrimage, a somewhat special pilgrimage. For too long he had been away, but now it felt as though he was returning home as passed the first gate into another world. As he followed the winding path, what fell before his eyes was not the greenery he had remembered, not even the calming natural browns of the falling autumn. There was rubbish, probably the waste from the border houses, it saddened him to see in such a few short years how people had neglected this place of magic.
He pushed forwards past the border paths, he came to the avenue, drop off to the left, a near solid wall of trees to his right. Now the beauty of the land showed, from the drop off he could see out over the mundane world, the world he belonged to, yet didn’t. The trees marked his land of magic, his journey into a land of his gods. There were three passages through the trees, the one closest was a hard track through the trees, there was a game path, but his was not an arduous trek, so he looked up to the path that was a few minutes’ walk away.
Stood by the entrance was a dog, a large dog, it hadn’t seen him, it was sat there as if guarding the way. The traveller thought he heard someone calling, must be the dog’s owner, but in a land of wild magic, stray animals were always a possibility. He turned and took the closer path, half way up the path he heard something behind, him then a bark. He turned slowly, aware that sudden movements could be the end of him.
In front of him there were two dogs, the large dog from before, and a little one. The big one looked scruffy and dirty, as if it had not been groomed for a long time, though it wore a collar, which told him once it had been a domesticated pet. That didn’t help him no, the big one was growling, breaking every so often to bark, the little one was just barking. Both seemed menacing. The man held his bag out in front of him, aware of the only weapon he had being a small knife in the bag, which he couldn’t use to harm these animals because of his own beliefs, and it being no good anyway. He hoped if the animals attacked he could maybe buy him some time, to do what he didn’t know.
He stood there facing the animals, he slowly started stepping backwards, he stood on a stick, fortunately it appeared the animals were more wary of him, and stepped back at the noise. They held their ground again, edging forward. Fear permeated every part of the man’s being, but he knew that he should remain calm.
For whatever reason the animals went through the tall grass and circled round, calmly, but quickly the man went back the way he had come, keep a wary eye behind him in case they came down the path behind him. He went back to the green avenue, he walked it up to the second furthest entrance, always wary of the dogs. He went through the passage way of trees on both sides to the open land beyond. As he stepped out into the open land. It was glorious rolling hills, banks of the valley, flat plains trees, oh so many old and glorious trees. The signs of autumn were there, the yellow and brown patches to the mostly green trees.
As he looked over to a hill, just further past he could see the two dogs running round. Were they guardians of this land, was he not meant to be here? He could see no one else around, had this place changed so much that his Gods no longer welcomed people to this holy place. He decided to wait the guardians out. They ran round for a bit, then went over the hill, ahead of him and over into the trees to his left. He turned right and headed for the hill, it would be a good vantage point to eye the land, and keep his eyes out for the dogs.
Strangely the idea of being hunted, the idea that the longer he spent in this world, the more danger he was in, it reached to him, he was now part of the land. He was hunter of his own spirit, but while he was here he was also the hunted. Should the way he treated this land, his respect for it falter then he would find himself no part of this world, or the mundane world.
From the hill he could see all around, most of this area of the valley was his to see, he couldn’t see where he wanted to go, the land concealed it, held it protected against its bosom. He looked for the two dogs but could not see them, somewhere distant he heard a bark, so he took it as a good sign and headed further into the valley. He came to another passage of trees, this one lead down to the pond, an old area where water come up from the ground, ran for a bit then went back into the land. It was a beautiful place, a place of power, yet tranquil. Passing the tree’s he could hear the birds moving, every so often he thought he heard breathing, more than birds something larger. He hoped it wasn’t the dogs, but just in case he was extra vigilant. He pushed the fear aside, he wasn’t willing to enter a place of the Gods with fear in his heart or in his mind.
As he walked down the passage way, the water before him seemed to speak invitingly. He recognised the siren’s call of water nature, but he knew beneath the calm surface was a danger unseen, the depths, though not deep would trap a man still, then pull him under. He had heard the stories when he had been a child. He walked down by the water, he walked past the island, the stones that led to it were no longer there, and round it was over grown with reeds. He sighed, once it had not been like this, but he took solace in some things didn’t change. The feeling of the area was still the same, and it felt good. He spent a few minutes there, before heading back part of the way he had come. He took a right and head over some scrub land. He went to the end of the pond, a place unseen by most. It was a small pool, set a foot or so below the ground level, with rocks. Trees crowded round to one side, he sat down, and meditated. This was where the Gods spoke to him when he was a child. This was where the fairies came to play.
His visions came and went, he saw the past, and he saw the bits of the future he was allowed to see. When all was done, his sense of peace returned, he got up, leaving a small gift to the land. A piece of bread and a piece of topaz. He head off back to the plains, taking the long way enjoying the land around him.
He heard a bark in the distance as he got to the plains, he looked round, and following the line of the hill he could see the two dogs in the distance. He was very aware they could come down a straight route from where they were to the passageway to the green avenue. He decided that he’d risk it, be it the gods will, that their two guardians stop him. He got near the passageway, and looked round, he could the see the dogs coming towards where he was, they weren’t running, they were ambling down. He quickened his pace, but remaining casual, he got through the passageway, constantly looking back to know if he had to run or not. The dogs stopped at the end of the passageway, not following him. They loitered in the area sniffing round, and watching him. The guardians were allowing him to leave, they had allowed him to enter, but had given him a warning, though he was in a land of immortals, he was still mortal, and his will did not countermand the lands. If only the rest of the world understood that.
He left the way he had come, saying thank you to the lands, leaving just a common stone he had found on his travels through, he left it by the entrance, significantly telling the land he that he returned what he took. His final mark of respect before stepping back into his world.