Some Lincolnshire Poems

A Day in Woodhall Spa

I am a member of the Lincolnshire Group of the Betjeman Society and we recently had an excellent day out based on Woodhall Spa. This event was jointly arranged by Baz Morris of the Shires Group and Horace Liberty of the Lincolnshire Group and took place on 15 September only a few days after the tragic terrorist attack on America. Jill Rundle a member of the Lincolnshire Group sent this poem to Horace thanking him for an excellent day in Woodhall Spa.

When the news was far from bright what a day of rare delight,
Travelling in modern car, back in time to Woodhall Spa.
Dark green leaves embrace the street, at the Kinema we meet
In the wooded woodland town, quite a jewel in its crown.
Introduction, coffee - good, at the 'Teahouse in the Wood'.
Then you guide us, not too far, on a tour of Woodhall Spa.

Break for lunch, once more we meet, Kinema gives us a treat.
On the screen, 'Late Flowering Love' - did J.B. join us from above?
His voice described the tennis fun, in Surrey with Joan Hunter-Dunn.
Myfanwy set his heart a-whirl, and so did Thelma's sister Pearl,
While Judy, at the poultry farm, romped in the hay and caused alarm.

We could have watched these larks all day, but out we came, the sky was grey.
Still, off we went so we could see, where Woodhall Junction used to be.
Station years from any train, in the thirties once again.
Grassy track, but one can dream, of the golden days of steam.

To distant past to end our day, thirteenth century place to pray.
Stony lanes to Kirkstead Church, make our cars give quite a lurch,
Alone in fields yet still held dear, they've had a harvest service here.
Abbey church 'outside the gate', so it escaped its patron's fate.
Raffle prizes in the rain, then back inside the church again.
I read my poem, J.B. style, and hope that it would make him smile.
I'm sure he would have liked this day, "thank you" is what I want to say.
I feel we've been on J.B. ground, with past and future all around.

The Betjeman Society at St Leonard's Church, Kirkstead
on 15th September 2001. Jill Rundle is on the front row
seventh from the left with Kit Lawie next to her on the left.

Some More Lincolnshire Poems by Jill Rundle


Travelling Along a Lincolnshire Road in Winter

The car in front's a pleasant sight,
With red lamps gleaming in the night.
It sets a pace I like to go,
Not too fast and not too slow.

In contrast to this peace, I find,
How different is the car behind.
Its lights are glaring, threatening, clear,
Why does it have to come so near?

Friend in front, behind, the foe,
Along the country lanes we go.
But, perhaps the one who's in the lead,
Does not admire my lights or speed.

He's not aware that we are friends.
I'll be glad when the journey ends.
City folk don't ride this way,
Their streets are always light as day.


Dusk, dim, dull and dark,
Leaden skies, December gloom.
The bitter chill of winter numbing his feet.
Biting wind across the fen,
Raw, and cutting in piercing gusts.
No protection in the lane.
Snow, bleak on the furrows in the fields.
Icy water in the dyke,
Freezing flakes drifting in the glacial air.
And now the trees, bare and black,
Offering scant protection from the cold.
He struggled on along the frost bound road,
A solitary figure in the snow.

At last he reached his journey's end
A cottage almost lost within the copse.
He pushed aside the broken wooden gate,
And stumbled up the footpath to the door.
He turned the key and entered in the gloom,
And shone his torch around the sombre scene.
So bare, so shabby, so uncared for now.
No warmth, no welcome and no blazing fire.
No child, no cat, no cheerful cooking sounds,
No lamps, no chat, no songs, no life at all
But he remembered how it once had been,
Had told the agent he would buy it now.
And she, amazed, had let him have the keys -
And thus he came back to his childhood home. .

The Lincolnshire Country Driver

I'm such a careful driver, the leader of the pack.
The others stretch behind me, I'm never at the back.
My pace is very steady, I travel nice and slow,
Twenty-five or thirty. is how I like to go.

I have a good position, well over to the right.
It's very hard to pass me, though this fool thinks he might.
I move well in the centre, to foil this foolish plan.
I am a careful driver, he is a careless man.

For forty years I've driven, the missus by my side.
She never took to driving, in fact she never tried.
I do our thinking for us, my flat cap on my head.
Oh, that chap's overtaking, does he want to end up dead?

I ought to take his number, but I can't see what it is,
The police should know about him, I think he shook his fist.
He's gone into the distance, my pace is slow and true,
I'm a very careful driver, and I always have a view.

Pre-Beeching : A Lincolnshire experience

I once had a dream that I rode on a train
From Mareham-le-Fen up to Kirby on Bain,
Then Tunby and Coningsby, not very far,
To Tattershall, Kirkstead and then Woodhall Spa.
As Martin and Timberland slowly went by
The train chuffed contentedly, happy was I.

But, all of a sudden, it gathered up steam
And seemed to go mad as it ruined my dream.
From Braceby and Laceby to Wood Enderby,
Then Humby and Mumby and Sutton-on-Sea.
From Aby to Swaby and straight up to Louth,
Next Old Leake and New Leake and Kime [North and South].
And so the train rushed through the Lincolnshire names,
Goodbye Market Deeping and Deeping St James.
Hello Potterhanworth and Thornton-le-Moor
And Tattershall Thorpe - have we been here before?
Oh look, there's Old Bolingbroke, can we alight?
No, Holton-cum-Beckering's there on the right.
Grimsthorpe and Cowbit and Gedney Drove end,
The train lurched past Markby and stalled on a bend.

And I tumbled out as the train steamed and hissed,
And with a faint sigh just dissolved in the mist.


Lincolnshire People

The following poem has been composed by Jill for the
title page of my next book, Lincolnshire Natives and Others.

Here's Volume Three about those who appear
At some time in their lives in fair Lincolnshire.
St. Botolph came first, to give Boston a name.
And Guthlac, a hermit, brought Crowland its fame.
There are Churchmen in plenty, some high and some low,
And Thomas de Aston, Archdeacon of Stow.
Poets and Painters and Authors abound,
And Pick, who built railways under the ground.
Aeronaut, Astronaut, Actors galore,
Astronomer, Air Marshal and many more.
Henry Law James, good at ringing a bell,
And Pitman the shorthand inventor as well.
An Anarchist, poor at obeying the rule,
And Sutton the founder of Charterhouse School.
Headmaster, good at using his cranium,
And Folkard who bred a hardy geranium.
Designers, broadcasters, woodcarver and nurse;
I think it is time to give pause to this verse.
With so many people to view in the book,
No doubt you are keen to start having a look.
Wonderment at Woodhall Spa

Jill also wrote the following poem a few years ago and she read it at
the visit to Woodhall Spa by the Betjeman Society on 15 September 2001.

Slashing raindrops woodland stirring, steel grey Rover engine purring,
Windscreen wipers gently whirring, off to Woodhall Spa.
Late October breezes blowing, street lamps in the distance glowing,
To "The Beeches" we are going, snugly in the car.

Turn the comer, house well lighted, Kate and Tom jump out, excited,
I wish I'd not been invited, scared and feeling shy.
It's John's party, lots of chatter, laughing children, noisy clatter,
"Come on Wendy, what's the matter? Come on, have a try."

Kate and Tom both join the dancing, funny uncle leads the prancing,
I see John, he's sideways glancing, as I stand alone.
"Now what's next?" asks cousin Connie. "Hide and Seek", says Uncle Ronnie
Thus behind a curtain, Johnny, finds me on my own.

"Hide me, Wendy," is his greeting, so we stay our two hearts beating,
Holding hands with joy at meeting, bliss that could not last.
Lights are on the game is ending, soon with others we are blending,
Party food and cake impending, magic moments past.

"Goodbye John," the party's over, Kate and Tom climb in the Rover.
"Goodbye John," but I'm in clover, settling in the car.
Kate and Tom recount at leisure, "Wendy had no party pleasure."
They don't know the thrill I treasure, leaving Woodhall Spa.


The following poem is by Kit Lawrie

Marden Hill
(With apologies to Jean Ingelow)

A mile south of Marden at the fens northern edge
East Keal is perched on a much drier ledge.
The high tide laid its awful claim
Long before John Rennie came.
Sweet Elizabeth was lost along with her bairn
Tending her milking-herd as they grazed by the drain.

Over many lactations they'd come to her call,
But the water it rose over sea-bank and wall.
Too late Whitefoot and Lightfoot heeded that lass
The high ground of Keal beyond reach of this mass.
The tide claimed its victims, a terrible reaper
To the foot of Keal Hill the flooding grew deeper.

These brides of the herd from their milking byre
Would never return to their Enderby sire.
Over Marden they never would amble again
To graze the lush pastures of the treacherous fen.
Three centuries later we stand on the hill
Is the call of Elizabeth haunting us still?

When high tides are due do we think of that hell?
Poor mites lost with their mother as they heard Botolph's bell.
But Marden is stately - Marden is grand
Though its seen many struggles from its stony land.
The bricks that were moulded from its yellow clay
Seen steam threshers and drovers all in their day
The gleaners in autumn, the stone pickers too
The violets that grew - a carpet of blue.
There were scabious and poppies until there was spray
But Marden means home when I've been away.

Revised: 31/10/2014