Haldon Hill

Developments encroaching to the Haldon tree-line

Developments encroaching to the Haldon tree-line

Marianne Prowse described the idyllic Haldon she saw almost two hundred years ago. There is still moorland and forest but as you look down in almost all directions you see the signs of development, the theme of this poem. The city mentioned is probably Exeter but the encroaching building is evident in Teignmouth.

In 1830 the ‘Teignmouth, Dawlish and Torquay Guide’ commented: “A little further on, the lovely vale of Broad-meadow opens to the right, and takes the eye along its thickly-wooded inclosures, until it rest on the barren hill of Little Haldon.” Now there is an industrial estate, a large supermarket, a leisure centre and plans for housing development up that vale.

Here is John Libby’s almost apocalyptic view.

Haldon Hill
(John R Libby)

So stand on the heights
And think ‘What a pity’
Where once lay ploughed fields
Is now part of the city
Empty offices stand
Designed to be pretty
On the land that once wore
Spring’s green gown.

Oh those views of the summer
Those meadows that lay
Spread out before you
Golden with hay
Now bear precious street names
And gardens so gay
Dead hills of red brick
Running down.

And there’s areas now
Where the grass will not grow
Broken glass and cold concrete
And the river below
Has become Just a drain
Where the wild birds don’t go
Bikes and fridges are left there
To drown.

In this bowl of soft hills
That reach to the sky
Cry the ghosts of the creatures
Evicted to die
And what’s left for the children?
It’s no good just to sigh
When all they will see
Will be town.

The poem has been taken from ‘Poetry Now Regional Anthologies – The South West’, 1993, edited by Pat Wilson


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