Before the marsh on the coastal plain was drained –
to turn the dark, rich glacial soil
into the broad fields of market gardens,
selling fresh produce south to the port city
burgeoning daily from mouth to mouth –
the mere was vast, eight square miles and more.
Family groups wandered the margins –
to fish, collect eggs, snare birds. Settlements
became hamlets, became villages:
cutting the reeds for thatching, cutting the peat
for cooking fires from the ice age bogland.
The long orangey-pink streaks of sun setting
over the Irish Sea turn the lake
from silver to pewter, and the birds
to cut-outs. A two carriage commuter train
crosses at the furthest edge, its windows
rectangles of bright yellow in the twilight –
as the watchers in the hides observe,
in a barely whispered wonderment,
thousands of pink-footed geese appear.
They are wintering here from the breeding grounds
in the mountains of Iceland and Greenland –
by day feeding on stubble fields, in the dusk
settling noisily on these dark waters
with their poignant, slightly throaty calls,
their myriad wings black in the fading light.
boglandGreenlandice ageIcelandIrish seaMartin Mere Wetlandpeatpink-footed geese