The Golden Valley and Holiday Haunts

Ghost walks

When clouds sail like galleons across a sky
Streaked with thunderous purple waves,
And rain-mists swirl in from the River Severn;
When silhouettes of chimney stacks
Stand like the high, tall masts of sailing ships,
And when summer winds blow with autumn’s keenness,
It’s time to walk east along the canal,
And remember the dreams of the summer:


The public bar in Bridie McShane’s,
Glencolumbkille, County Donegal,
Dark, varnished and dusty just as it should be,
A single unlit light bulb suspended,
Shadeless, from the smokened ceiling;
Those giant bottles of Powers and Paddy,
There behind the busy bar,
The till rattling and clinking away,
Pints of Guinness settling in a line,
Ready for the grasp of black suited farmers;


Bare feet treading across the endless strand,
Buckets and spades banging on the pebbles,
A rubber ring brushing along the grass,
The waves of the sea and the children’s cries
Growing ever fainter and indistinct,
As we stride towards the railway station,
A rattle of change for a last ice cream of the season,
The train gathering pace for home
As the rain drips down the carriage windows;
You begin to think about your satchel,
And where the hell did you put it,
Back on that carefree last day of term.


But there’s an aquamarine flash of a kingfisher,
Over there, just by the canal roundhouse,
Past the mouldering canal lock gates,
Beyond Brimscombe Port boatyard and foundry,
Where Cotswold stone mills, sluice gates and races
Stand cheek by jowl at river and canal,
Turnpike road and Great Western Railway;
Down there in the aptly named Golden Valley,
Where space and time are so compressed,
That two hundred odd years of historical change
Are compressed into just a few short yards and metres;
Who needs a holiday when you have the Golden Valley?
It’s haunted.