Walking with Gilbert White by Barbara Cumbers



Barbara Cumbers is a retired information officer and part-time lecturer in geology. She has had poems published widely in magazines and anthologies. Her first collection, A gap in the rain, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016. She is currently working on a collection of poems about the Shetland Isles where she had a month’s residency in 2018.






















Walking with Gilbert White









Of course one walk can’t be enough – it must

be many walks along the same route, slow


over seasons and years, and many times of day.

I love the leisure of it, the unhurried thoroughness,


the way he calls me to pause at a dunnock’s song

noting the date it rose high in the hawthorn


from skulking in undergrowth, how long

it sings there. He urges me to check


when the first swallow comes, how it might pass

unnoticed among pipits and larks, how low


or high it flies, and at what time. He asks

if it came before or after the martins


this year, or last. He is so perceptive

it shames me. I make my scanty notes.


He nods and smiles, points out gently

how much more there is – the seven types of bee


that pollinate the brambles, how cold and rain

hold back the willowherb, the variety of flies


that bother horses, their metallic sheen. Look,

he says in my garden, a few of the ladybirds


are black with two red spots. Make a note

how many — we’ll check for more next year.



Barbara Cumbers



Gilbert White Poems

Gilbert White Poetry Event