Leicestershire's Beacon Hill sports a deeply ancient & location-unique rock called Beacon Hill Hornstone. I say it 'sports' because, like an impertinent goat, that's just what the hilltop does ... it sports strange stone horns, that will poke fun at you. For indeed (and talking of creatures!) even that toughest of beasts, the one known as the Bullock, even he once broke a part of his hoof here. For this vitreous-hard creamy coloured stone although often sharp-edged is overall extremely slippery-&-wrongly-angled. And the landings are jaggedly bad. Yessss , , , one can almost get a window-cleaner's squeak out of the stone if you wipe it fast in the wrong way. It is as if the crags here have been polished by countless rockshoes, all over, and yet this cruel-frictioned snaky skin is the very same the stone was born in ...
... way way back on some unimaginable Precambrian day when volcanic ash transformed to rock ...
... By now, over the years, I've actually made friends with this stone, which is saying something for someone who prefers the comfort-rough of grit. It took many repeated visits before this rock's gloss yielded its strange angles of grab to me. And it does, in the right kind of light, as sun just skids West's edge ... it does ...
like some giant shattered goat's skull's being
the archaeologists are wind, rain, and Time itself.
Look closely – you'll notice
chalked holds & fingerprints.
Beacon's dwarf oaks & stunted birches hint
Bonsai-feelings; as if some wild gardener's made
delicate suggestions to them. Sometimes
the grasses & bracken hiss. Sniff
the stone-riddled earth & wiry tussocks, really breathe
in their musk untamed mood –
why the farmers' only lasting marks
are drystone walls; why cultivation stays
in the fields & pastures below. The only
true stranger to here's the trig-point; a squat
concrete-robed monk. Kids clamber
over him ... whilst kites, mischievous angels, excite
or frighten dogs, and thrum
their strings conducting children's glee. Stand
next to the summit's monk, look,
when it's clear enough, towards the West –
there's Bardon Hill;
its ugly radio-mast crown, its quarry-gash hidden –
Leicestershire's granite guts have given
London its kerbstones, and now give
England's highways their aggregate. But
Hornstone's too strange for road builders – so
this hill's core will stay untouched.
Beacon Hill will not be eaten; will
remain a reminder of Eden.
Note: Allegedly (please dispute at will!), Leicestershire's Beacon Hill commands the largest uninterrupted landmass view in Europe. There is an interesting graphic here.
Acknowledgements: A version of the verse section of this piece was commissioned by BBC Radio Leicester & Leicester's Arts & Leisure Services, and was first radio broadcast (read by Mark Goodwin) in October 1998. The poem – Beacon Hill – was also first published by the literary magazine The Coffee House.
Mark Goodwin is a poet-sound-artist. He lives on a boat in Leicestershire with his photographer partner, Nikki Clayton. Mark has been making poetry for over three decades. He has published six full-length books & seven chapbooks with various poetry houses, including Sheffield-based Longbarrow Press, & Bristol-based Shearsman Books. Both Mark's books with Longbarrow Press – Steps (2014) & Rock as Gloss (2019) – were category finalists in the Banff Mountain Book Competition.
Mark (in collaboration with photographer Nikki Clayton) has also published a recent cragging-related blog piece with Longbarrow Press, which can be found here. He will be reading from Rock as Gloss at the Carlisle Poetry Symposium on Saturday November 16th 2019 (free entry and all welcome):
- CRAG NOTES: June Emanations 14 Jun