From the corner summerhouse set in the wall,
the towering lime trees between the canals –
at the eastern end of the formal garden –
are still leafless, like jet lace work, like nets
disentangling, against the light blue skies
and the white, driven, cumulus clouds of March.
This was a medium-sized business. They made
their money the usual gentry way from rents
plus coal, were typically self-sufficient,
using and selling their managed timber,
were unusually innovative in
hydraulic projects, exploiting Afon Ddu,
the stream that flows through the estate, named black
for the coal dust gathering in its bed.
The pit they owned was a couple of miles
away, its slagheap, now greening, still
clearly visible from the west front.
Factories took the small tenant farmers, wars
the gardeners and nationalisation
literally undermined the house. The last squire –
Oxbridge, of course, then priest manqué, thespian,
war service, holiday tour courier
before inheriting – bequeathed house, gardens,
park, his redundant patrimony,
to the National Trust’s service industry
of conservation, crafts and carrot cake.
In October when the apples and the pears,
in all their traditional varieties,
have been harvested and the grounds are full
of diverse families and music plays,
there is a sense of something shared – not a
common culture but a moment of ease
and tranquillity, an event of order
and fruition before the sweet dusk enfolds.