Voices in the Reeds

The Blythburgh Estuary, such a wonderfully calm landscape, or is it?

reeds   estuary-walk-2



The Blyth snakes down to the brine

soothing our senses as it idly curls

grazing  past  tall murmuring reeds,

stirred to voice by a gentle breeze.


We mishear that chafing whisper,

since Sixteen forty it has moaned

the cursed name of Sir Robert Brooke

                   –  for this is  Bloody Marsh.


The miller, William Turrould, petitioned

 the King for years of the villager’s plight;

Squire Brooke had revoked their ancient rights

 and brutalised lives to claim Common ground.


But Walberswick villagers just wouldn’t yield.

The sea had left their harbour, and only labour

on the hungry heathland and difficult marshland

could feed bony stock and malnourished families.


To discourage village cattle from Paul’s Fen

Brooke barracked his men in a boarded-up  house

from where they emerged with several large dogs

to wound grazing cows and put them to flight.


For fighting and killing his paid ‘stout fellow’,

who had  harassed villagers and savaged their beasts,

three Walberswick men were hung at Brooke’s clamour.

He then yoked nature to ‘modern’ agriculture.


Heathland enclosure formed ‘the sheep walks’

an idyllic term that belied a brutal starkness

of invasive earth-banks, several feet tall,

 with which the  gentry stole the Commons.


Today Conservation has enclosed the Common

and chain-link fencing criss-crosses heathland

dissecting the sheep-walks for Natural England –

partitioning vast tracts, with hardly a comment,


except from the reeds – that ceaselessly murmur.




Main information source Bloody Marsh by Peter Warner, Windgather Press, published 2000.


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