Wolds World: A reflection on November

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:

A wintry scene at The Ramblers Church, Walesby

“Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.

“At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

“We will remember them.”

So wrote the poet Laurence Binyon in the poem ‘For the Fallen.’

The lines were written while he sat on a Cornish cliff top near Polzeath, not long after the start of World War I.

A plaque marks the spot.

He was reflecting on the loss of so many young men in the Battle of Mons.

However, his response to the horror of the battlefield was not just in poetry!

Binyon was too old to enlist in the armed forces, so he volunteered at a British Hospital for French soldiers, working as an orderly before he returned to Britain where he took care of soldiers injured at Verdun.

Not long before he died, in 1943, he wrote a poem about the London Blitz called ‘The Burning of the Leaves,’ regarded by many as his masterpiece, though less well known than ‘For the Fallen.’

There are five verses to ‘For the Fallen,’ another verse includes the words ‘England mourns for her dead across the sea.’

We remember the fallen from across the years in early November each year; my wife and I taught three young men who were later to be killed in Afghanistan.

November 2020 has seen another battle fought and 50.000 lives lost, but against an invisible enemy - that of Covid-19.

We gathered at the war memorial in Caistor Market Place for this year’s ‘Act of Remembrance.’

We kept socially distanced while the names of the fallen were read.

In Caistor, as in similar remembrance services across the land, names were read of those who had fought the fight in the front line of the NHS and who, in their own way, had paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Florence Nightingale would have been proud of the nurses of today and how appropriate it is that her name is given to the emergency hospitals.

The first wave of Covid spared the Wolds and we reflected on how lucky we were, as numbers on the various registers were relatively small.

But as I write this, North East and North Lincolnshire are among some of the worst hit areas in the country this time.

West Lindsey is also much more affected.

The news of a possible vaccine must have seemed like that famous announcement following the 1944 D Day landings in Normandy.

Expectation then was that the war could soon be over, but it was to be almost a year before there was peace in Europe, while the distant battle against Japan had even further to run before its horrific ending and the dawn of nuclear warfare.

We hope the sun begins to shine again before 2021 has got very far.

November is known as the dark, dank mournful month of the year. But the other day I took my ‘Boris’ exercise by walking from Walesby to Otby and then back via the Ramblers Church.

It was late afternoon, I saw no-one but the sky beyond the church where the sun was setting gave a wonderful light.

In November, our Wolds are, in a strange way, at their best for walking.

Plenty of space, with the leaves gone from the trees provides an openness to the countryside not seen in summer.

A few years ago my Australian cousin came to stay for a few days and we walked in the late afternoon at Nettleton top.

He marvelled as the late afternoon light cast its shadow on the landscape in a way not seen in Australia, a landscape at peace in the ending of the year.

Beyond the darkness of this month, there may have come a glimmer of light.

Let us hope and pray that it is real and that, as in next month’s big story, the efforts of the wise men will be rewarded