The Footpath to Otterton Mill

i

We set out expectant

At quarter of nine

The clouds scudded eastwards

The day promised fine

Soft-booted, sure footed

A skip in our strides

Eyes shading, sacks laden

With picnic besides

So gamely we trod

On the firm rutted track

With hope in our hearts

And the sun on our back

Expecting tranquillity

Fields calm and still

As we wended our way

Down to Otterton Mill

ii

Our early encounters

Brought shy-smiled ‘Good morning’s

Eyes lowered, looks elsewhere

But strangely heart-warming

The next fellow-wanderer

A lady alone

Unsure of her pathway

And clutching her phone

She asked for directions

Her fears were abated

When we proffered maps

With the route indicated

There followed a multitude

Ones, two’s and three’s

All thronging that pathway

Dense-covered with trees

iii

The bony-kneed ramblers

All pockets and flaps

And florid-faced amblers

Their pates needing caps

The lycra-clad lovelies

Fast-walking and jogging

And genteel old ladies

Genteelly a-plodding

Professional hikers

All rucksacks and poles

Strode forward unmindful

Of otters or voles

And we, for our part

Persevered with our quest

Down to Otterton Mill

Where the kingfishers nest

Iv

We paused by a bank

As Humanity passed

And prayed for some peace

As we munched our repast

But barrelling past

Came a pair of retrievers

Our picnic a magnet

For these seasoned thievers

Swift followed a bulldog

So hot on their scent

Though muzzled, he managed

To growl with intent

Their owners came swiftly

Much flapping ensued

Each party determined

To show they weren’t rude

v

Our next stopping point

Had an air of potential

With overhung trees

And grey fish residential

A dead tree like Khali

With limbs wide displayed

Was surely the perch

Where a kingfisher played?

We crouched down, our lenses

Sharp-trained and firm-grounded

Awaiting the moment

Our faith proved well-founded

A whirr and a flash

First one sighting, then two

Impression of emerald

Jewel-coated with blue

vi

These fleeting encounters

Our eyes tantalised

Our lenses unequal

To such wondrous prize

But then from a bough

Perched sharp-eyed and alert

Dove our dazzling quarry

With his target a cert

He rose in a flash

A fine lunch in his beak

Our cameras hung useless

We struggled to speak

vii

Though brief and uncaptured

The moment was ours

A marvel long wished-for

The goal of our hours

Delighted, elated

We went on our way

Down to Otterton Mill

On that glorious day

And thronging, still thronging

The multitudes passed

Still blind to the wonders

So close to their path

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