Within our medieval wood
Scattered stately standards stood
Amid a host of coppiced boles
That fed our fund of stakes and poles,
Without infringing Nature’s good.
The lofty canopy’s leafy hood
Rejoiced with birdsong in the spring.
The roots protected foxes’ holes,
With lithely squirrels clambering
Above the flower- carpet ground.
This gentle wealth of sight, scent, sound
Survived through centuries of time -
A sylvan scene sublime.

Coppicing’s a rhythmic cull,
A pulse that throbs each fifteenth year,
When woody stems grow ripely tall,
With bluebell clouds beneath their shade,
It’s time to cut them clear
And open up a sun-bright glade
Where bluebells disappear.
Strong sunshine wakens dormant flowers
That differ every year
Until deep shade again is made
And bluebells reappear

Then the Crystal Palace came
To crown the overlooking hill
And beckoned by that magnet name
The city spread its overspill.
Busy builders came and carved
Grand house-settings from the scene.
Our woodland’s green expanse was halved -
A wraith of what it once had been,
Nature’s sounds were muted there
And children’s laughter filled the air.

London’s fringes grew and grew
And one sad night in World War ll
An overflying hostile plane
Targeted our harmless lane.
Besides its massive crater scar
The social tide outdated far
The size of homes that people need.
The larger ones could not survive.
So levelling bulldozers freed
Space for a modern 45,
Close jostling and designed to give
A friendly place in which to live.

Each historic feature’s changed,
Every aspect rearranged1
Our remnant wood’s built all about
Its coppice boles are overgrown
The blossom sequence shaded out
And birdsong just an undertone,
Squirrel’s red replaced by grey
And refuse sacks now foxes’ prey
The Crystal Palace is long past;
Our skyline is a TV mast.
But one thing still remains the same -
“Giles Coppice” is our name!

Alice Coleman
Professor Alice Coleman is a retired Geographer. She lives in Giles Coppice.

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