Land of Chalk and Clay

East Yorkshire is a magical, but often overlooked, corner of England. Bounding the West and North of the county are the rolling chalk hills of the Wolds, home to some of Britain’s earliest settlements, strewn with the mystical remnants of ancient burial grounds and ritualistic monuments. A stream known as Gypsy Race is also found here, disappearing beneath the ground at certain points, then reappearing – seemingly out of nowhere – as a result of the local geology, and also receding or flooding suddenly and dramatically in response to rainfall. Little wonder it was so important to those ancient settlers; not only was it a vital source of fresh water in a landscape where most of the rain finds its way underground almost immediately, but its mysterious comings and goings were seen as portents of doom, and these apparently magical powers were duly revered. The mighty River Humber marks the southern edge, while to the east is the flat and fertile expanse of Holderness, a plain of boulder clay left behind by the glaciers of the last ice age, gradually being reclaimed by Mother Nature in the form of the ravaging waves of the North Sea.

Low and empty, the boulder plain of England’s Eastern face
Acres plenty, a land of chalk and clay
A lonely stranger, a thousand square miles lost in time and space
When in danger, the icy walls did lay
Slow moved the giants leaving kettle holes and drumlins and moraines
And carved a tableau there ten thousand years ago
These rolling valleys left unmoving but now polished by the rains
A silent landscape only for the few who know

On sweeping graces, your monoliths and barrows proudly stand
In ancient places, were pagan omens chased?
A time to wonder, a meeting of the heavens and the land
Over and under, a fleeting Gypsy raced
A ghostly stream that gives no warning to the rising of her floods
And takes a journey in a place where none should be
A shining odyssey through pasture and through dark and dusty woods
And onward now towards the sea

A rock of ages, but every storm reclaims another piece
The ocean’s rages, will bring you to your knees
All that lies here, nature’s own or made by human hand
And all we hold dear, is lost among the sand
Forgotten corner of this land, a happy refuge from the race
Alas, adieu, our best intentions cannot save
But who will see the end, watch the dying moments of this place
As the final yard is taken by the waves?