The Shadow of Black Combe Find!
Black Combe is the fell that sits in splendid isolation at the mouth of the Duddon estuary and towers over the town of Millom where Norman Nicholson lived all his life. It played a large part in the poet's life and in fact one of his poetry collections is called "The Shadow of Black Combe". It is described on the Lake District Outdoors website as: 'Situated between sea and mountains, the modest peak of Black Combe has some of the best long distance views in the country. Its detached position and moderate height give it a full 360° panorama which, on a clear day, includes part of Scotland and Wales, the Isle of Man, north Lancashire, the western Pennines and of course most of the Lakeland Peaks. Once height is gained the walking is wonderfully easy over rolling grassy fells allowing you to take in the views and to soak up the exposure of the steep crag-ringed eastern corries'.
And in his book "The Outlying Fells of Lakeland" Alfred Wainwright describes Black Combe as appearing 'aloof, rising on the southern seaboard and overtopping all else like a huge whale stranded on a beach, a landmark visible over far distances and always unmistakable...... Black Combe was made to be climbed, and climbed it should be. It is considerate to the old and infirm: the grass bridleway to its summit from Whicham is amongst the most delectable of Lakeland fell paths. Which other can be ascended in carpet slippers?'
So this is a homage to a single mountain which was not only a favourite of Norman Nicholson and Alfred Wainwright but also one of mine! And there is no one better than the great Millom poet to describe the various moods of this splendid hill which stands between sea and mountain so here are two of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets.
Cloud on Black Combe
The air clarifies. Rain
Has clocked off for the day.
The wind scolds in from Sligo,
Ripping the calico-grey from a pale sky.
Black Combe holds tight
To its tuft of cloud, but over the three-legged island
All the west is shining.
An hour goes by,
And now the starched collars of the eastern pikes
Streak up into a rinse of blue. Every
Inland fell is glinting;
Black Combe alone still hides
Its bald, bleak forehead, balaclava'd out of sight.
Slick fingers of wind
Tease and fidget at wool-end and wisp,
Picking the mist to bits.
Strings and whiskers
Fray off from the cleft hill's
Bilberried brow, disintegrate, dissolve
Into blue liquidity -
Only a matter of time
Before the white is wholely worried away
And Black Combe starts to earn its name again.
But where, in the west, a tide
Of moist and clear-as-a-vacuum air is piling
High on the corried slopes, a light
Fret and haar of hazy whiteness
Sweats off the cold rock: in a cloudless sky
A cloud emulsifies,
Junkets on sill and dyke.
Wool-end and wisp materialise
Like ectoplasm, are twined
And crocheted to an off-white,
And Black Combe's ram's-head, butting at the bright
Turfed and brackenny brine,
Gathers its own wool, plucks shadow out of shine.
What the wind blows away
The wind blows back again.
Black Combe White
Sixty mile drive to a reading - arriving by dark,
The audience sparse, the room unsuitable,
And bed in a cold hotel. At 8 a.m.
I draw the curtains, and there, beyond the roof-tops,
Bulging from the flat ledge of the horizon
Like a blister on the white paint of a window-sill,
Black Combe - its unmistakable cleft forehead,
No bigger than a thimble now, outlined in chalk
On the blue distemper of the sky. I turn from the cold
To a room now grown more welcoming than before:
'It's been snowing at home.' I say.
Sixty mile back
Edging the ooze of the estuary mosses - sheep
One side on fire from the level sun; hedges
Clinkering ginger; every dyke and mole-hill
Casting an acre of shadow. And soon
From each rise in the road, each break in the hills' barrier,
Comes glimpse after glimpse of the nearing Combe, first white,
Then patchy, and then streaked white on black,
Darkening and sharpening every minute and every mile.
Home at last to the known tight streets,
The hunched chapels, the long canals of smoke -
And now, from my own doorway, between gable and chimney,
That harsh, scarred brow, entirely stripped of snow,
Impending over yard and attic sky-light,
A dark, parental prescence. And when the neighbours tell me:
'The Combe was white last night!' - I don't believe them.
It's always black from here.
Pictures of Black Combe which I took last week - now that it has finally stopped raining!
19 September 2009 from Mary Rossall
- On Lindale Hill
- Grange-over-Sands: The Story of a Gentle Township
- The Silent Traveller: A Chinese Artist in Lakeland
- Red Ike
- Cumbrian Privies
- Ethel Fisher's West Cumbrian Dialect titles
- The Embalmer's Book of Recipes by Ann Lingard
- Nella Last's Peace
- Riding the Stang by Dawn Robertson
- Life on the Fell - a pictorial chronicle of a Lakeland community
- About Scout Scar
- William Wilberforce - A Summer Diary 1779
- Beatrix Potter - the unknown years
- Smoke over Shap by Margaret Potter
- Songs of a Cragsman by George Basterfield
- The Grasmere Dialect Plays
- The Grizedale Experience: Sculpture, Art & Theatre in a Lakeland Forest
- An Atlas of The English Lakes
- How Hall. Poetry and Memories. A Passion for Ennerdale by Tom Rawling
- Stumpy, Hero of the Lakes
- The High Places by A. Harry Griffin
- The Highest House in Wathendale
- Kendal by Roger Bingham
- Secrets and Legends of Old Westmorland
- Reminiscences of Wordsworth Among the Peasantry of Westmorland by Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley
- Little Gods by Jacob Polley
- A Lakeland Summer
- Hunter of Harter Fell by Joseph E Chipperfield
- And Nobody Woke Up Dead
- An accessible paradise
- The Fleming Family novels and Graham Sutton
- Excursion to Loweswater. A Lakeland Visit 1865
- Writing on the Wall
- Beyond Scafell by Alan Robinson
- Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole
- Kendal In The Nineteenth Century by A Wainwright
- In There Somewhere
- The Bondwomen by W G Collingwood
- "Ah'd Gaa Back Tomorra!"
- A Cumbrian Copper by Ray Huddart
- The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards
- Old Will Stories by Dudley Hoys
- The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff
- T'Bacca Queen by Theodora Wilson Wilson
- Furness and the Industrial Revolution
- The Shadow of Black Combe
- The Painted Letters of Percy Kelly
- Ivver Sen
- Lakeland in the 1830s
- Wasdale Climbing Book By Michael Cocker
- Riding High by Barbara Sneyd
- Deborah in Langdale
- Early Recollections of Grange
- Hazard's Way by Roger Hubank
- Yan, Tan, Tethera
- Talk of the Town
- Capturing the Mountains
- Hope On, Hope Ever
- Mildred Edwards: Our City Our People 1889 - 1978 Memories
- Lakeland Limericks
- Surrounding loveliness
- Haweswater by Sarah Hall
- Coast to Coast by Jan Minshull
- Sunshine To The Sunless
- Geese, cattle wallopers and secret Irish paths
- Anarchists, Angels and wet Bank Holiday Mondays
- A more unconventional kind of find...?
- Skiddaw Summit by Kathleen Jones
- Thorstein of the Mere: A Saga of the Northmen in Lakeland
- Wednesday Early Closing
- Smoke Across The Fell
- The Sand Pilot of Morecambe Bay
- The Chronicles of Boggerthwaite
- Carrock Fell
- Feet in the Clouds
- Hercules and the Farmer's Wife
- Shepherd's Warning
- The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices
- I've been so busy reading I haven't had time to blog!
- Reading Detectives film
- Thank you!
- Coffee and books at the Bluebell Bookshop
- Mary learns to blog!
- Lucky 13!
- Grange over Sands get reading
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