Epsom Downs by Caroline Baldock

Epsom Downs uplands swell green swathes
Breaking the brick march of housing for miles from London’s’ grey.
The Downs, that is why they are called downs,
Look down on London with a superior air
That we horse riders like to breathe.

The Derby’s celebrated here
The greatest horserace England ever knew,
The Derby course with all its ups and downs and curves
And classic trainers too.
His back to the rising sun a man stands white haired
His blue eyes have an early morning twinkle.
His string pulls up, nostrils blowing, the prancing delicate
Fine-legged thoroughbreds, he sees everything this Handicap King.
Once he stood where now his son watches his string
As the sun licks the frost off the grass.

The horses drum the turf in eating leaps today as
They have for centuries. Nightingale, Wootton, Breasely, Lewis,
Akehurst all trained here and many more,
Dow, Ingram, Mitchell, Haynes, Saunders, Mills, John and Jim remain,
Knowers of equine talent, trainers of horses.
Maybe the last threads in a fine tapestry of Epsom’s turf

Morning is shaken awake by the cold touch of light
And the shuffle of plated hooves;
Impervious to rain or heat they ride out,
Impervious to a changing world,
They see only their fine horses and dream of winning.
They do not see the advancing, sprawling, suburban monster
Gnashing his teeth for more land.
They do not see the cars in this new world,
Should the strings of racehorses go,
Should the lads chatter no more,
Will the Downs change when the horses have gone?

Copyright © 2004 Caroline Baldock