The Countryside in Winter 

Gladys Mary ColesThe Echoing Green

The Echoing Green, Flambard2001, & The Poetry of Shropshire, Offa’s Press, 2013

From The Women of Whixall

Agnes Morris – Making Whixall Wreaths (Custom dating back to 1915)

‘The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown…’
Clipped from the bough each year
from the same trees in Shropshire’s russet crown,
the prickly harvest falls reluctantly
into our hands. Dark green shine
for Christmas wreaths, softened by sphagnum,
top moss dried, arranged on frames.
With fingers increasingly tender
we weave in kitchens in December.

Cherry Doyle – These Winters

September, Offa’s Press, 2019

These Winters

Those winters lazed along the streets, rigid and still as ’63,
still as the empty side of the bed, as the cold door handle.
Windows starred with snow, affixed like stamps
of night to bricks the colour of old bruises.
Those chimney-smoke winters, your boot prints
were too deep to climb out of – I felt in your fingertips
the frost that crept across your heart in shattered blooms.
I crept south on chevrons of geese
to winters brown and moist as compost, where
snowdrops are scattered like dropped pearls.
These winters are a plume of auburn wings;
someone else’s breath on the back of my neck.
These winters, snow is not expected, but looms
like the dread of skidding wheels; a sudden end.
The dread of a blank page – my father,
struggling to write my obituary, struggling
to fit the unexpected grief into three inches.

Selected haiku and tanka

Sue Richards

the art of frost
glazes beech twigs
a peacock’s cry

Roger Noons

winter morning…
skeletal branches
fleshed by rooks

Carol Howarth

late winter snow
covers the ground…
goldfinch on the teasel

Simon Fletcher

one kestrel
leans forward on the wire,
a monk at prayer,
hunched under a winter
bracken cloak

All of the above haiku/ tanka are from Ripening Cherries, Offa’s Press, 2019

Marion Cockin

The Wednesbury Mangle Theory, Offa’s Press, 2020

From The Magpie by Claude Monet

Little did I know,
I would live forever, claws
gripping a snow-covered gate.

That day a lemon sun
gave an echo of Spring.
The willow fence was
woven with snow;
the black trees
held cold blossom
and lines of grey clouds
tracked across the misty sky. [   ]

In this life
I would live forever, claws
gripping a snow-covered gate.

Neil Leadbeater – Winter-pruning the Pear Trees

The Poetry of Worcestershire, Offa’s Press, 2019

Winter-pruning the Pear Trees

Early March we did the winter pruning;
men knotted in bunch woollens
hard against the frost.
It was the week’s work
and our hands were rough with cold.

Stripping out dead wood was good for business.
We needed new blood,
something that would knock sense into the bark.

Orders from the top were strung down the line.

So we cut the side shoots to two or three buds;
let our industry lead the way
while England reeled like a patchwork drunk
on the quilted edge of oblivion.

David Bingham – The Chatter of Crows

The Chatter of Crows, Offa’s Press, 2014

The Chatter of Crows

In the evenings,
when it snows heavily,
local people leave their cars
at the top of the valley,
between the old workhouse
and the cemetery,
so they can reach the main road
in the morning.
At dawn we trudge
back up the slope,
through a white-muffled silence,
disturbed only
by the jingle of wind chimes
hanging from graveyard trees
and the chatter of crows
on the chimneys of what used to be
a last refuge for the less fortunate.
After the thaw we return
to the safety of our driveways
and our favourite parking spots
along the narrow
and twisting
roads of the gorge,
forgetful of where we might end up
when spinning out of control
on the icy inclines of life.

Kuli Kohli Equilibrium

Published on Offa’s ‘workshop poems’ page and (revised) in Stairs and Whispers, Nine Arches Press, 2017


Constantly staring down at my feet,
each tread, every foot step
anticipates anxiety
in my swaying journey.

I’ve faced the ground in cruel environments;
hostile temperatures, earth fractured to dust
in the erosive wind, rain, sleet and snow.

My eyes fixed on the ground,
the path lit by beaming
search lights – only predicting
the next stride or two.

Struggling through bleak slippery mud,
I avoid iced puddles, frozen solid, hoary,
glittering pavements hazardous to my being.

I survive crossing roads, bridges,
tree roots, rocks and uneven slabs;
collecting coppers, notes, a diamond ear-ring
on my travels; people’s lost possessions.

I barely look forward or above;
all I have to lose is my balance.

Winter Writing Suggestions


Gladys Mary Coles writes about the traditional wreath making at Wixall in north Shropshire. Are there any such traditional practices around the Christmas/ winter season in your neck of the woods?


In Cherry Doyle’s moving and complex poem she contrasts ‘those winters’ of old with more recent experiences. Do you remember startling winters of the past, like 1963, where the country was brought to a standstill for months? If you lived in the countryside, was it unalloyed happiness?


If you feel brave enough, have a go at capturing a moment of winter in a haiku or tanka. Perhaps you could keep a haiku journal over a week, writing at the same time each day, looking at the same scene.


Marion Cockin is inspired by Monet’s fabulous painting of ‘The Magpie’. Are you inspired by any famous winter landscape paintings? This kind of poem as a response to artworks is called ‘ekphrastic’ and is growing in popularity (see Simon Armitage’s ‘The Gleaners’ for example).


Neil Leadbeater points out that even at the end of winter jobs in the countryside carry on and the pear trees, in this case, need attending to. Can you think of any other agricultural activities that carry on regardless of the mercury?


David Bingham’s rumination on life, ice and time captures a moment we’ve all experienced if we are the owner of a vehicle. Have you had any hairy moments driving in the snow in the sticks? Can you capture them in a poem?


Kuli speaks about trying to get around in winter weather with cerebral palsy, a terrifying experience, clearly, if you don’t have good balance. Have you had any horrible experiences like this in the winter, especially in the countryside?


If none of these literary prompts inspires you, have a look at the ‘winter in the sticks’ photos, or just go for a good walk in the green space close to home.

Send us your poem!

When you think you’ve finished your poem you can send it to Simon and Cherry at Offa’s Press.

There will be an opportunity to discuss or re-draft poems. Later this year we hope to publish an anthology of countryside poetry, In the Sticks, that could well include your work.