Whitby Storyteller


Esk Valley

Esk Valley

I grew up on the banks of the River Esk in the valley outside Whitby. Deep cradle, an enchanted realm. An earthing lullaby, a wild childhood.

It was once home to a great oak forest and I often think about those giant trees, wild and free, and now the valley where they used to be.

Wilding forest. Ancient, ancient oak. Trees an owling den, a green lantern, shade on a glittering river, journey’s end for the mighty salmon, ocean traveller, one last push to the spawning grounds. A strange enchantment hangs them quivering in a curtain of water tumbling from the weir. The Salmon Leap they called it. A sudden thrust of silver and then the jump, a desperate leaping, tail thrashing frantically. A moment out of water, no oxygen, pure survival fury, a reaching into deeper waters. Then all is calm, deep sailing. Queen of the river is in her home again, gliding upstream.

Wilding forest. Giant oaks. Tree wisdom, presence. Something sacred. Ent like, they whisper and creak their own language. Home to the sing-song call of forest birds, welcome in their sweeping arms, All other creatures listen to the birds. They tell of how it goes with the land, with the wind, rain, moon and stars. They hear the voice of SHE. Her heartbeat, her older than old body. Infinitely generous. A garden spinning in space. Teacher, mother, doctor, church, cradle and grave.

Nobody really knows how birds flit between here and Otherworld, from enchantment, from there to here and back again. They are the doorkeepers and messengers. Lest we forget - we stopped watching and listening. And there is much forgetting now. We fall into shadow. Nobody knows how to hear what they say. But all the other  creatures, the more than human, they hear and they know. It is how they all work together and survive.

Wilding forest. Home to all. Creatures that crawl, run, fly, swim, hop and slither. All chit a chat, busy going here and there, a tapestry of one life, an extravagant abundance of good health. Swallows dipping on the river dodging raindrops, bright sun, dappled shadows. Kingfisher king of the river darting, bright green, purple, arrow swift. Heron mighty wingspan lifting like a skyliner drifting up and down the river. Otter dipping, chasing succulent sea trout. To name but a few. Water fit for the goblet of a queen, crystal clear.

Wilding forest tumbling down the soft flanks of endless valley. Deep and green, an emerald cathedral, holy place. Sacred groves, hallowed hills, faery rings. Boar, bear, wolf. Rustling, nestling, howling to the cool moon. Each to his own. Hawk, falcon, eagle. Sharp eyes of the vast sky, cry of the fighting bird. Tree top eerie dwellers. Down deep down below, velvet antlered stag in the greenwood, glorious leaper, immense, muscled, warm soft pelt, quiet keeper of his kingdom.
Moss on rock, scent of wet leaves, rich air, forest floor. Forest music all around. River, wind, leaves, birds, rustlings at twilight, secret stirrings in the moonlight.

Wilding forest, mighty oak, river, rock, rain, sun and sky, a million or more other beings merge and move with you.
Esk Valley, I wish I had seen you then. When you held the wilding forest. Before the oaks became ghosts I see in the halflight every night. Sentinels of shadow. Long gone, but not forgotten.