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Archive: Contents of American Haibun & Haiga Volume 1

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Matt Morden

Almost an Omen

A forecast of heavy showers and strong winds means the mountain trip is abandoned. Decide on a lowland walk around the upper reaches of the Daugleddau estuary, in the southern part of the Pembrokeshire coast National Park. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the waterway thrived on the transport of coal and limestone. The coming of the railways finished all that. Now the estuary is used by pleasure boats in the summer, but in winter is home to large flocks of over-wintering wildfowl. It is known locally as the "Secret Waterway."

Park at Lawrenny Quay, the coal port now a yachting station. Strong gusts of wind blow down-river. At the hotel, walk onto the foreshore of rock and seaweed. Oaks line the banks, roots partly exposed. Find two bright yellow and red galls on a leaf. The sky darkens and the estuary turns monochrome. Cockle, mussel and oyster shells scatter the shore.

low tide
a wreck lies cradled
by the river

Can see great flocks of oystercatchers and lapwing on the mud beyond Black Mixen rock, at the confluence of two creeks. Start to get close, then something spooks the birds and they gather and cross the river. A wildfowler and spaniel appear on the mud banks. Utter a few curses. Pick out a peregrine falcon and follow it across the water, waiting for a kill.

A heavy shower blows down river. Retire to the shelter of the bank. On the mudbanks of the creek, the hunter and dog are caught out in the rain. They sit on a great piece of driftwood by Black Mixen rock, waiting for the shower to pass. I do the same on the shore, watching them watch the river. Maybe we are similar after all.

water's edge
a father and son
dig for bait

Further up Cresselly River, find a lichen-covered rock resembling a miniature dolmen. As I line up a photo a wren comes out from beneath the stone, then disappears again. Almost an omen from the bird that brought fire to mankind.

Walk up through Lawrenny village. Beneath a house with south-facing solar panels, a pheasant struts. Past the church with large Norman style tower. The Youth Hostel is shut up for the winter months, everything quiet. Climb the hill and drop down to the next creek, Garron Pill.

The far shore is marked by old limestone quarries. Wildfowlers' cars, with some dogs left behind line the foreshore.

showers and sunlight
the goldfinch wings
yellower still

Climb up from the red rocks of the shore into Lawrenny Wood. The mixture of sessile oak and wild service trees show this is an ancient woodland, dating back to at least 1600. The oak stems were specially bent to cut down on the need for complex joints when shipbuilding. The trees are hung with bearded lichens, showing the air is clean. Across the river, the thirteenth century Benton Castle is seen rising through the oak and larch. All white, it is striking against the winter trees.

Drop down from the wood into a caravan park and skirt a boatyard before heading toward the car. The yachts are all sheeted down for the winter, as if dreaming of summer days.

boatyard in winter
the wind whistles
through the rigging


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