Ballads for
Bomere Heath

Conceived and written by Dave Reeves
with additional music by Tom Cook, production by Trilby Multimedia,
and with thanks to the people of the Parish of Bomere Heath.

While drawing its inspiration from the history of the Parish of Bomere Heath, this is a story, in the main, gathered from present day residents rather than from archives.  Some of those residents have lived in the parish all of their lives while others are newcomers: the story of Bomere Heath, and especially the story of its future, lies with all of the people who live there.  What follows is the result of time spent talking to people who live in the parish, and then writing about it, 20 days in all.  It is an investigation, a look into, and a response to memories; anecdotes; and discussions about the past, present, and possible futures for Bomere Heath.

Ballads for Bomere Heath was part of the Arts in Rural Consultation Project organised by the Community Council of Shropshire with funding from Arts Council England West Midlands, Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council, Bridgnorth District Council and Oswestry Borough Council.
 

Why I like it here.

A child’s voice:

I like living in the country because my school is quieter than in the town
I like being outside

The adult’s voice:           

I remember driving through on a hot, sunny day and seeing an empty house and thinking how nice it would be to live here

The children:

Where there’s the river – the fish and the ducks
Where there are trees, trees you can get inside and climb them
trees that swing all the time, and they wave, and they wave, and they wave
where you can see the cows from the climbing frame

The adult’s voice:

now we live in the house and can’t imagine living anywhere else.  We really enjoy the open space as previously we lived on a cramped housing estate

The children:

You can see tractors on the way to school
hear the wind blowing –I can hear birds – I can hear cows
You can hear guns shooting
the farmers and the cock-a-doodle-doo …

The adult’s voice:

One of the best things about living here is the fact that everybody is so friendly and helpful and there is a community feeling

The children:

I don’t want to see children fight
I don’t want to hear any noise
I want rabbits running across fields
A view of the mountains

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

These thoughts rock a buzzard’s glide,

contradict the siphon of green channelled lanes:
currents of GI camp
and almshouses,
building plots
            and battlefields,
a license to transport pigs,
manor house
and managed estates,
a serrated skyline from Merrington Green

Romans buried in ranks
                     upstanding
a grey squirrel scurry
           across power lines
from pie recipe to bushy-tailed cuddly toy
from nutty tasting pest to Rodents-R-Us
in the time Bomere’s been growing

It swoops and rides
sits camoflagued against the trees
watch it making its song in the air
hear the beat of its wings
against your expectations.

 

AN INCOMER PONDERS THE PRONUNCIATION …

The first thing you do as an incomer is try to fit in and you soon realise that to fit in you have to pronounce the name of the place that you have moved to in the same way as those already here

So the place you though of as Bomere Heath with the Bo as in the flourish with which you finish tying your laces, and the Mere as in cat

Is as often to be heard referred to as Bomer’ as in ‘one who bowms’

And you wonder when it became pronounced this way, and whether its origins lie in beau (beauteous) and mere (marsh).  And in your idler moments (of which there are many until you get to know folk) you muse on what ‘one who bowms’ is actually doing? 

Bowmer’ or Bowmere

Buzz or Buss?

If you tumble on your lawn

Do you fall on your grass or on your grarse?

Shroosbury or Shrowsbury?

Bowmer’ or Bowmere?

 

(Not a Gough) a middle-man, yes: a Myddle man, no

I am not
A Gough for this parish

This is of its people, not about them,
Informed by their tales and remembrances
A summing of their hopes and moans
Their dreams and aspirations 

This is not Bomere
Standing in the shadows of famous neighbours
But casting its own, long into the future

 

Same place different

And however many I talk to

However much I consult and
Converse, interview, amass anecdotes
Scour diaries and personal archives
Scan lent images and copy photographs
I’ll never get the full picture,
   And the minute I publish, there’ll be

Folk will disagree and say ‘that wasn’t how it was
I’ll tell you the proper story,’ and I won’t argue because
There are so many versions of the past and they are all
Correct in someone’s memory: everybody’s same place
Different.

So is the past that you remember, the past as written down
The past that’s in the papers, that’s archived in the town,
The past that’s in the minutes, the past that’s on the screen
Or does the past that you remember lie somewhere in between?

And how many futures might there be, will there be,
Can we ever influence what rises from the mash of possibility?

‘Nobody asked me’. Don’t say, ‘Nobody asked me’
Choose not to answer, then feel unease, embarrassed,
Left out: entrench, excluded - ‘Nobody asked me’
That isn’t how it is, we’re asking
And we’re taking it in

And to put this into context
For those who say ‘Why bother’
‘It’ll make no difference.’
‘Nothing’s ever acted on (and this is just another)’
It doesn’t have to be a con:
The text
   can always change

 

Bomere: crayoned with pride

Bomere Heath:
This horse grazing
This encampment at the edge of the battlefield
Beyond the daygrind thrust and parry
The fret, the worry, the strife, the harry 

The place where Hotspur died

This haven

This workplace
Field and forge and mill 

This chameleon
          Fitting in and lying low
This colouring book
          The outlines carefully filled to the edges
Or scrawled across with enthusiasm,
          Crayoned with pride

This clawed pause
This weighing, and waiting, and levelling

Where for all you can rush
You can’t rush things.

 

ROYALTY

The school was all excitement – the day the Queen passed through
The teachers washed behind our ears - the day the Queen passed through
Scrubbed our knees and combed our hair - the day the Queen passed through
Straightened ties and smoothed down pleats - the day the Queen passed through 

We were jostling on the pavement - the day the Queen passed through
Pushing, punching, picking nose - the day the Queen passed through
We were waiting on the corner ­- the day the Queen passed through
Waving Union flags around - the day the Queen passed through 

Every child from in the school with great big eyes
And hip-hoorays - the day the Queen passed through
‘The biggest event in our lives so far’ – or so the teachers said 

But back home
‘And what did you do in school today’
‘We played tick in the playground’
‘Anything else’
‘No, not really – oh we saw some lady.’ 

‘That would have been Princess Margaret, dear.
Now wash your hands for tea.

 

The Trailer Library

It’s been 28 years, but
Once a week the Trailer came to town
Loaded with stories and poems
Paging the village
(wagging with new tales)

And they came from all corners
The housewives in the daytime
And their menfolk after work
And pupils after school: pupils, pupils, pupils; - great rushes of pupils
Pupils poring
Pupils, pupils – whole gazes, gapes and gawps of pupils
Pupils, pupils – stares of pupils: reading, absorbing, learning
Books on wheels: meals for the minds

 

Carnival

Through the village rode Agincourt on a flatbed truck
A wagon train, a tableau of mermaids,
A Viking battle formation with cardboard axes and horned biscuit tins on their heads
A circus with trapeze and clowns and an animal tamer whose eyes are transfixed by the Red Lion they are trying so hard to tame,
The same Red Lion that you can see on the shield of the knights who fight the battle of Shrewsbury and clatter their cans for offerings
Working up a thirst in the heat of battle 

And as for village spirit, well there’s some with more of it in them than others
And while some try harder and harder to tame that big cat
Others settle in with the wild knights

 

And you say … the music scored           

And you say
‘What is it you want to know?’
and it’s so difficult to explain that
I don’t know what I want to know 

That I just want to hear the song in your heart
For the place that you live 

Be it a ditty or a dirge
Be it a parody sung to a well-known popular tune
An improv hip hop to the one stop shop
Or some vaudevillean pastoral monologue
A waltz to the pulse of a parish, pump
A short sharp Shrop
                                    Shire strain
A tango, a polka, a Salop gavotte
Rhythms which border on marches
Verse chorus verse with a middle 8
Or some sublimely sculpted symphony 

I want to hear how you are in tune with your surroundings

***

And I’m listening
I’m listening to the wind
To the car tide
And the trains bore in their narrow estuary
To all of the music scored into the fabric of a parish

 

The Saturday Dance

Beyond the walls ring Shrewsbury town
At Preston Gubbals manor’s reach
On the Lord’s Waste the poor folk
Squatted, founding Bomere Heath

Beyond the formal crinoline
The crenellated castle balls
The people came from miles to join
The Saturday dance in the Village Hall

And the money raised was raised for us
The profit ploughed back in:

“On September 14th 1946
a dance for the purchase of an analgesic
outfit for the district nurse
made a profit of £4/7/-“

Beyond the formal crinoline
The crenellated castle balls
The people came from miles to join
The Saturday dance in the Village Hall

No taxi ride to get you home
No text to the say ‘come pick me up’
It was book your fare on The marrowbone stage
Take Shanks’ nag or Walkers ‘bus

Or come by bike
The chain that liberated us

 

A BENCH CALLED YOUTH CLUB

Where’s there to go?  Where can you meet?
No ball games here, don’t hang round the street
Corners; all this open space, this countryside
And there’s no place to get away from adults
No place to gather and grow ….

The kid skid racetrack of country lanes
The nowhere to go the nights it rains
And the slats of the bench are cold and damp
so ‘youth club’s off

Always in the way, up to no good, mischief
In somebody’s eyes – misunderstood

There never was a place kids could call their own
Except that they own it all, every secret nook

… used to meet up the side of where the garage is
That’s where the gossip was exchanged and created,
The rumours debated
A right of way rite of passage to adulthood

But now it’s overgrown impassable,
Not because the courtships don’t pass the night,
Overgrown because water now comes piped into your home
This path a reminder of when it was a jaunt to the pump
If you needed a brew or fancied a swill

Dammed with nettle, brambles, dock, holly,
Himalayan Balsam,
And how convenient it would be for the folk from Edelweiss, the Pines and Jasmine Cottage if it were cleared, a cut through to the shops

‘But what would happen if it was open – you’d get all sorts of things happen then’

Wouldn’t you?
Would you?

 

The Damson Pickers

Wartime.  The damson pickers in question
Were a father and son picking damsons
At the back of the Wale room in Bomere Heath

And they heard in the distance
A buzzing like a far off swarm
And it grew louder and louder
And a plane shot over their heads
Embedding itself in the ground
Sinking, so they say, never to be recovered

And sometimes if you listen hard
You might think you can still
Hear a distant humming
Like powerlines after a storm
Like a collective tinnitus
Like the wind, rush between the feathers of a buzzards wing
You listen hard and you can hear
The sound of you inside

You can hear what they heard, still
The silence that the hurtle of the intercity breaks

But what will they hear tomorrow?
What do you want to hear tomorrow?

What will you leave behind, your legacy; your tale?

 

Beyond the Ballads

Beyond the Ballads is a collection of anecdotes, writings, comments and references that served as background to the ballads yet were not or could not be worked into the texts, mainly due to lack of time. It includes extracts from questionnaires and broadsheets published during the project.

Access Beyond the Ballads through the notepad on the right.

 

Ballads for Bomere Heath was conceived and written by Dave Reeves. Melodeon music by Dave Reeves (www.textician.co.uk); all other music, arrangements and recording by Tom Cook (www.mannimusic.co.uk); layout and production by Trilby Multimedia (www.trilby.co.uk). All other material is credited in the document and copyright remains with the contributors. Copyright © 2006.