An Adlestrop moment

Machno Valley © Colin Woolf

Machno Valley © Colin Woolf

I’m taking a bit of a diversion from my usual Hazel Tree topics because it’s late June.

I think I’d better explain.

There are lots of poems that I admire, and while I was remembering some of them recently it occurred to me that most of them are connected with the seasons.

And every summer, around about now, the words of Edward Thomas’s ‘Adlestrop’ are going round in my head, and I’m looking for my Adlestrop moment.   Not every summer has one of these, but when it happens you just have to stop and enjoy it.  It doesn’t have to be late June, but it’s even better if it is.

Hay harvest, credit David Stowell via Wikimedia

Hay harvest, credit David Stowell via Wikimedia

It’s hard to define what constitutes an Adlestrop moment, but when you read the poem it becomes clearer.  It’s just something about summertime in general, that feeling of stillness and serenity on a summer’s day when thinking is too much like hard work and it seems as if the Earth itself is drowsy.  For the last two or three years there has been a marked absence of Adlestrop moments, but I have experienced at least one already this year, which is a good sign for things in general.

Here is the poem I’m talking about.   I have to say it also brings back memories of late afternoon English lessons at school with the sash windows thrown open to let out the heat, and pigeons cooing in the trees.   I don’t think I was as struck with Edward Thomas back then!

Yes.  I remember Adlestrop –
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly.  It was late June.

The steam hissed.   Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform.  What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

– Edward Thomas

Original Adlestrop station sign, now in a bus stop.  Credit Graham Horn via Wikimedia

Original Adlestrop station sign, now in a bus stop. Credit Graham Horn via Wikimedia

So, have you had any Adlestrop moments?   (I won’t mind if you think I’m utterly, barking mad!)

Comments

  1. What a beautiful notion, I wish I was having an Adlestrop moment today. I certainly have had such moments in the past, and have high hopes for more this summer. After reading this post I feel I’d like to close my eyes with the warmth of the sun on my face and drift off listening to birdsong and bees….It puts me in mind of Blandings Castle, have you ever read any P G Wodehouse? His Blandings series in particular seem to be full of Adlestrop moments.

    • Thank you, Lorna, I’m glad that I managed to convey what I was meaning (with the help of Mr Thomas of course!) That is such a coincidence that you mentioned P G Wodehouse – I was looking at an article about Jeeves & Wooster this morning. I haven’t read these or the Blandings stories, and it’s about time I did!

  2. Wonderful Jo! I don’t think you are utterly barking mad at all…I think I will head outside with the pups, sit in the sun, and do nothing at all…my Adlestrop moment.

  3. Yes, yes! Thank you SO much for giving us one of my all-time favourite poems. I too first came across it at school (always had a problem with that line ‘no whit less still and lonely fair’) and it struck a deep chord. I learned it off by heart. Ever since, I have searched for a place, or sound, or moment, that echoes the poem: I had never thought of them as ‘Adlestrop moments’, but of course now I see that that is exactly what they are. And on reflection, I think perhaps my own blog is essentially about seeking them every day.

    Off the top of my head, I can think of two from the past. One was a hot summer’s day twenty-odd year ago, when I escaped the dusty and tourist-crowded confines of Oxford to drive to a friend’s family home on the Oxfordshire/ Glocs. border. I made my friend take me on a detour to Adlestrop. Alas, the station is no longer there; but the sign is, as you show, and the magic of the poem can still faintly be felt if you are attuned to it. We drove on, to friend’s house, and welcoming family, and french windows open to the warm afternoon, and oak trees casting pools of deep shade in the parkland beside the village church. An English Eden.

    Another such moment was on a visit to Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire. Again, summer. Lying in the long grass of a meadow near the circle, watching a lark flutter high up into the blue, twittering its joy just as Vaughan Williams imagined it.

    I am very glad to be settled in Scotland, my ain country. But there are some memories of my time in England that I would not forget for the world. I think perhaps this poem was formative in the making of them.

    • Thank you very much for sharing your Adlestrop moments! I can only imagine how it must have felt at Avebury – somewhere I’ve always wanted to go – and I’d love to have visited Adlestrop itself. In fact, I used to take a train journey down that way quite often, but I never had the experience that Edward Thomas describes! The countryside around there is beautiful, quintessentially English, and I hope it is still as unspoilt as I remember it. Like you, I love Scotland very much, but there are times when it’s nice to go back in time and remember the woods and meadows of some of the English counties. Some of my earlier Adlestrop moments come from our time in Hampshire, and a few from my childhood in Shropshire. Not that I recognised them as such at the time!

      I’m very glad to hear that you love the poem too. I’m reassured to know that I’m not the only person going around on this kind of quest!! 🙂

  4. Jim Cunningham says:

    If you’re mad than there’s utterly no hope for tireless dreamer. Let the Adlestrop moments cleanse and restore us all. Thanks for taking us there.

  5. What a great vibe you are describing here🙂

  6. One of my favourite poems too, the combination of this and some descriptions in Thomas Hardy, notably the farm in Tess of the Durbervilles and much of Far from the Madding Crowd bring me to my knees with homesickness on the other side of the world. One summer for me was full of these Adlestrop moments … I wrote about it in a recent blog, Places in the Heart..
    .After living in many places in the world, I still think that indefinable Adlestropeness, makes the English country the most beautiful in the world…
    Another memorable Adlestrop moment was driving through LIttle Tew on a summer’s afternoon in 1961…. the dreamy silence, poppies blowing in a cottage garden, red brick cottages… stillness, every-one gone on a hot June afternoon, the smells of hay, and a chicken pecking in the dust by the road…..
    This post was a delight..

    • There is something about the English countryside even now, with all the development, traffic and urbanisation, that strikes you as very Hardy-ish and timeless, and I hope that is never taken away. I noticed it only recently on our trip down to Warwickshire. I’ve always wanted to visit Little Tew and I’m pretty sure the Rollright Stones are somewhere near there, which I would dearly love to visit. Thank you very much for your comment!

      • The Rollright Stones are in the other direction from ,my memory of living at Kineton in Warwickshire, I went to see them when there were still some very strange vibes hanging around them… and of course, all round there are dreaming demesnes like Compton Wynyates…
        I always think that Cider With Rosie captures a lot of this atmosphere and strange country custom….

      • I’d love to have seen the Rollright Stones when they still had their aura hanging around! I’ve got an old book called ‘The Pattern of the Past’ by Guy Underwood who did a lot of dowsing work in that area and came up with some fascinating findings. There’s so much we don’t know about these ancient sites.

  7. As a postscript to Valerie’s comments, may I add my own impression of the Rollright Stones? I suppose it’s nearly twenty years (gulp) since I visited them, but I suspect that not much has changed. I’m not given to dramatising landscapes, but I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere of this ancient stone circle. The stones are small and rough: there is a legend that they are dwarves turned to stone for a misdemeanour. I felt a powerful energy from them, masculine, watchful and unfriendly. I felt like a trespasser when I entered the circle.

    It was strange and almost frightening: I had arrived with no expectations and the strong reaction took me by surprise. I will not be antagonising them with with my presence again! The prehistoric landscape around Avebury, on the other hand, is far more humane and friendly, as well as being in an equally beautiful part of England. The village is charming too and very tolerant of all the visitors. I’d recommend a visit there one of these days.

    • That is an extraordinary experience, and I can well believe every word. I am even more keen to visit the stones now, and I wish they weren’t so far away! I had a similar experience at Callanish – it had a strong energy which I felt was excluding me (because I was female) from entering. In fact, I felt that no one should really be inside the circle at all. I wanted to go up to a tourist guide and his clients and tell them to keep out – which I didn’t, of course!🙂 I would love to know what it is within these stones that still has such a powerful effect on us. Was it there before the stones were put there (in other words, the reason they were sited there), or is it there because of the rituals that they were used for? I now want to abandon my editing work and become a druid. Thank you very much for sharing your experience! If you have had any other, similar ones, I hope you will share them sometime.

  8. Even though it is now October I think ET’s poem still can conjure up those long hot still summer afternoons. Wonderful!

    • It’s so evocative – you kind of hold your breath while reading it! Thanks for commenting and following! Welcome to The Hazel Tree.

      • I wrote a poem entitled “Barnes Bridge 1973”. “Yes. I remember Barnes Bridge, the railway station, because………………………”. It was one of those warm summer afternoons. We’d just come off the train & when the train left the station it was as if it pulled a curtain open, onto a whole different world, The sounds of a summer Sunday & the silver Thames winding its way into my subconscious.

      • Thank you for sharing that, Ash! I like the idea of the silver Thames winding its way into your mind. I used to travel through that area quite often, and it’s so beautiful.

      • I didn’t write my poem until many years later when I was sitting by another river near Hereford (the Wye).

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