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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Internationally acclaimed poet Katherine Gallagher spent a period as "poet in residence" at Railway Fields. During that time she wrote Summer Odyssey which I reproduce below with Katherine's kind permission.

If you'd like to read more of Katharine's poems, her latest collection, Circus-Apprentice, has just been published

Katherine's website is here.

Summer Odyssey (Railway Fields, for D.B.)

Between Green Lanes and the New River’s
four hundred-year-old waterway,
between ghost Victorian railway cottages
and terraces fronting Umfreville Road,
between the past and present’s waiting shell,
lies a rectangular patch of woodland
and hedgerow – Railway Fields, broken by grassland
where young foxes frisk in the evenings:

an eco-tone oasis, where city tar
meets woodland, meadow, scrub –
splendid with chalet, pond, lavender
and briar, bees on bramble, cinnabar on tansy,
till you feel blown away to views on the river.


Journey in the Fields . . .Enter from Green Lanes, past the rowan,
up the cobbled path, old railway tracks. A few minutes in –
nettles, brambles and hawthorn on every side – the birds take over:
songthrush, bluetit and robin amongst the convolvulus, blackberries,
painted ladies, large whites: a whole population of butterflies;
trees and grasses seeding. We’ve waited all year for this: August
sun, the speckled wood on buddleia, brimstone on yellow-wort.


Beside the pond, in foaming clusters,
creamy flowers of meadowsweet;
and there’s goatsbeard (‘Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon’),
bird’s-foot trefoil, majoram and reeds.

Frogs sidle out of the water
head for their thicket, find a log
until it’s time to scurry back
to lay their spawn, restart the cycle.


We crane our necks, wait for the swans –
a cob and his mate who’ve claimed
the New River, nested here.

Presently they arrive,
leading three fluffy, smudge-grey cygnets,
edging past the overhanging willows, reflections
chocolate-boxed on the sun-splashed flow.
An omen: elegant, mythic,
they celebrate the river, water-lilies, willow-herb,
the ash and cherry growing into the wild.


This year, Railway Fields
is running away with itself.
Daily, the buddleias’ mauve lasers
draw the speckled wood, peacock,
large white, hedge brown, small white,
red admiral and common blue.

At the back of the pond, yellow flag irises,
shading the newts, claim the sun
as do butterflies racing into the maze
of bumblebees, ladybirds and damselflies.

Along the hedge-boundary,
the field maple, oldest tree here,
loops back a century and more.

DB is David Bevan, former Haringey Conservation Officer and at that time, in charge of Railway Fields

Tags for Forum Posts: history of harringay, new river, poem, poetry

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I was first in touch with Katherine about a year ago. A Wood Green resident, she retains an interest in Harringay and recently got in touch again with some suggestions for the Harringay Festival.
This is lovely and conjures up so well being in Railway Fields.
Hugh, this is lovely. Thanks for posting it. There should be a version of it printed up and put on the Railway Fields gate to tempt people inside!
Wonderful! I can hear the birds tweeting as I read this. What a talented lady Katherine is...
l'll get my pastels



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