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The Watchers The Toothill Long Poem



THE WATCHERS The Toothill Long Poem

Written by

The Toothillians: Megan and Tamsin of Toothill Primary School, Kieran, Alisha, Tyler, Jake, Luke, Annabel of Lydiard Park Academy, Kiera and Morgan of Oliver Tomkins Primary School, Ella, Emma, and Alicia of Westlea Primary School in collaboration with the Toothill Lunch Club and Hilda Sheehan



Acknowledgments The Toothill Long Poem has been made possible by funding from Toothill Big Local Steering Committee; support from The Link Magazine and its publisher/editor Roger Ogle, who first proposed a poem by children living in the community; backed up from Swindon Artswords & Literature Development; and advice and assistance from Matt Holland and the Swindon Festival of Literature.

Thank you also to: Toothill Primary School and Helen Huby for hosting the workshops, Lower Shaw Farm for hosting our writing day, Cristina Bennett of Lydiard Park Academy, Scott James of Westlea Primary School, Julie Warburton of Oliver Tomkins Primary School, members of the Toothill Lunch Club, Michael Scott, Jason Byefield, Sean Wilson, and Jackie Parry of the Toothill Big Local Committee, Jonathan Mills, Toothill Community Centre, and David Hoare of Toothill Church. Front cover image Š Roger Ogle (The Link Magazine): The Watchers (Old View) sculpture made in 1982 by Carleton Attwood


About the Toothill Long Poem by Hilda Sheehan When I was asked to write a long poem with students for Toothill, I saw this as an opportunity for young people to look closely at their community and connect with the older people who had lived in Toothill for many years. I wanted the project to be more than a poem; an exciting process of discovery, enthusiasm, and unearthing of story and history for Toothill, by the young students who live there. I can say, along with the students, that I love Toothill! I have enjoyed all the people we have met, especially on the wonderful afternoon when the students visited the Toothill Lunch Club, all chatting easily together, enjoying each other’s company. It has been an amazing experience. We have discovered many points of interest in the village, The Watchers sculpture being the focus and our title for the poem. Also, Toothill Sunrise, the stained glass window in the Community Centre, the myriad of pathways that lead to so many wonderful spots and then, Toothill itself, a historic lookout location and former farmland. This poem expresses the vivid imaginations of the students, who have chosen to be known as The Toothillians. They write well, and should be proud of the lines in this poem. They are deep thinkers, imaginative and proud of where they live. 'Dreams / Poems' is written on the front of Kiera's note book, a good place to start, a good place to make poetry. We were inspired, dreamlike, by the hedgerows, the wildlife and that prime spot with a spectacular view that is Toothill. I’d like to thank the kind people at the Toothill Lunch Club, for being so 6

welcoming and generous in sharing their stories. These stories have added a unique magic that could only have been experienced in Toothill, now retold within the 500 lines. You can view the logbook and evaluation of this project on our blog:

A small version of The Watchers stands in the reception area of Toothill Primary School


Above, The Toothillions gather by The Watchers near Toothill Community Centre and below, at Lower Shaw Farm ŠRoger Ogle


THE WATCHERS Sett the Bord, behold in a Toothill Isaiah 21, Verse 5 i. The Lookout A teenage hangout, the mound, lookout, mud hills, place to kick a ball about and shout! when it’s dark and the sky looks dead the kids come out, but I’m in bed. I hear them, but I don’t know what they said, or what they see. This lookout sees: Penhill, Link Centre Ten Pin, De Vere top of eco Toothill School green and bright with a Sedum roof 9

where bugs and bees busy about as the children busily work inside. And this lookout hears: the birds, children, bugs. And this lookout feels the scratch of tree bark, the quiver of pathway, flies on the neck of night shine on a dark sky like you have never seen before: a rainbow of glowing shimmering colours. We are fantasy fire glowing, stars bold for the eternity of sleep. They say there are ghosts, headless and howling, on this Indian mound until morning and sunrise when this lookout tastes the walk of people


prowl of cats the earth under us, was crops, and cows, the ones that worked this land by hand, before our houses came. All under us layered beneath the pathways. And when the sun comes up time burns as you wait for dreams to come true. We hear whispers from the voices we can’t find, those that dug the ground, near this man- made mound: Totien? Long Barrow? Fairy Toot? What is that noise? Whistles from the railway, whistles from the railway: the train that whistled then, whistles now… And when the snow’s falling It’s so exciting to watch, the robins come out looking for berries, 11

there’s footprints, snow angels – excitement filling the air. What do you remember from this mound? I remember the distance. Where does the distance come from? Deep amazement! As the sun becomes itself we turn to the mystery of oranges, pinks and purples, birds nest high up in a tree, black cat yellow eyes, looks out blackberries, a garden fence and a little red door. Bare apple tree, leaves withering on a winter floor. Toothill Farmhouse, now used for scouts, 12

junior youth club but I knew who lived there before they moved! Lookout now my tootere, peep from our top and tell us how well we can see you. Natural or artificial we are here on top of this tuthill‌ prepare the table! watch in a watchtower! ii. Mistaken Pathways Under the concrete. I am something exciting: Cow Leaze The Folly Home Close. I was field names and boundaries, a home for cows, 13

under footsteps to school, footsteps to buses, Link Centre, the old railway track, a Roman way - Asda! Uphill and downhill, I am green-fields gone concrete. I am the pathway that meanders, around the houses, coming up for air on Flint Hill, from the very top of Swindon, the cycle route around the houses to places near and far – Freshbrook, over the bridge to Westlea, to Shaw and Lydiard Park or Old Town via the former railway line, 14

or Toothill park with its football pitch where epic games of football happen and children play all day. I see beyond the hedgerows, beyond the tops of houses with their rainbow doors. Daffodils, winter flowers, life of sparrows. I see crowds of people, then such quiet that runs all the way down to the bottom of the empty street. Hopping through the leaves a tiny bird wandered lonely, a stray trolley parked at the side of a road chatted to an empty bag of crisps, a ginger cat wandered effortlessly over a broken fence. Spring leaves 15

and memories the sunrise is brought to life mistaken pathway of happy wanderers leaving traces and trails no-one knows I am breathing I never end never stop taking you here and there I am the path – roses and wildflowers bring me alive. The moon comes out lights the sky with its friends the stars and I am dark, the way along has disappeared until morning; the people here, all following the path that leads to the beginning of their own day. 16

iii. A Toot and a Whistle from us all We remember Spring is Sprung in daffs along the highway, the railway brought its clatter, trains chattered past, fast! Daffs along the highway, We’d come home from the park our eyes full of Swindon! That whistle from the railway whistles now… Listen: I remember sledging down Mud hill, I shouted ‘ Joe!’ then crashed into the fence. 17

listen: I was in a concert with another Toot woman, Sang the songs of my wedding day… now at 92, I feel 102! The trails of our lives before, green fields and trees, a view hidden by silver birches. trails of pinks and purples, listen: I made tea for the men in the builder’s hut when our gardens were fields with no gate to shut. They’d sneak round the back to my husband’s bar, have a whiskey and a laugh, men that built this place. 18

If the windows are open you can hear the dual carriageway and the railway – we don’t notice it anymore. Listen: to the Ice-Cream truck down the road I hear people asking for loads When he comes down everyday He always likes to say, ‘I will always hang around here in Toothill.’ Noise of the dual carriageway in our beautiful gardens. We don’t notice it anymore. From our gardens we hear babies cry and parents moan all day, cars driving round on the road 19

with music full blast! Listen: That time I took on the biggest greaser in town. Up to no good behind Sainsbury’s, beating a young lad he was so I bashed him with my shopping bag – You can’t just turn your back. Listen: these were the good ole days. ‘Danny the Woodcutter’, shouting, “anything need sharpening?” And his wheel turning, spinning around, sparks flying. He shouts, “I can sharpen anything, or cut your wood on my angle grinder.” 20

Sparks flying as it spins around good ole days. Listen: My wife and I happily fell in love here: I’ve one wife, one car, one house... it's all I need. Listen: It’s easy said Iris, on the wireless, the buildings I see from the top of Toothill are the Link and its pipes and Renault in yellow which everyone likes. The number 8 bus gets us around and we can walk to Asda! Do you know Victoria Court? Ah yes, a well-known street in Toothill, a big horseshoe 21

shape crescent, full of houses. Do you know Salzgitter Court? Yes, our twin town link, our elder’s community. Do you know Idover, Belsay, Beverley? Toothill Church? yes, the first structure, started in a hut There’s support and friendship, on a Christian path. Then the Hut was a shop mid-winter had a horrible muddy floor the ‘Taste of India.’ was a butchers. ‘RS Mc Coll’. ‘MV’, ‘One Stop’ are now a Tesco. 22

You can’t hardly see Spring is Sprung anymore. iv. The Watchers The Watchers sculpture stands all alone, man, woman, child, dog made of stone. Now the watchers lift goes up through time sees pathways which never end. No one can see inside the three figures but they see out, ask us if we are going up to the top of Toothill time to mud hill our Toothill today on the top floor Dog Sphinx protects watchers, lookers the future with a brave face. 23

Olive King typed letters into shape, our problems and pains, troubles with drains, the potholes and window frames – things not quite right on a typewriter in the back of her car. Out of Toothill Farm came our homes, the people and ‘Toothill Link’: Join in, if you want, tell us your stories! We’ll cut and paste an A4 spread, with news… first baby was born in Markenfield and ‘Toothill Link’ became ‘The Link’ between Freshbrook Shaw, Westlea. We asked, do we need cable? 24

a community school? what will happen to The Hut? So here is a beautiful place, good connections we make, with people from the good ole days, Toothill! A world of imagination: Toothill is cool have fun in Toothill! v.Toothill Sunrise Stained glass story going round in circles a lead train track hill out of clear blue going round in circles a home for me and you a stained glass story. And Toothill is cool We love Toothill! We’re only saying: Toothill has values better 25

than you thought, and it’s cooler than you get taught. Toothill! School full of kids. Toothill! Some men in suits. Toothill, pigeons and magpies coo and caw. You can come and have lunch or a drink in our pub and do walk your dog but please pick up the pooh! Toothill has a name tooting for time Toot Toot goes the train as it drives down the track. We’re all part of Toothill’s history, now on display for all to see. Family, friends, young and old, a story of Toothill has been told. 26

Toothill Lunch Club Visit: February 2012



The second ‘word walk’ to the Community Centre, The Watchers Statue, and Toothill Church.


The Toothill Sunrise inside Toothill Community Centre made by Keith Gale in 1984

A lead train track, going round in circles


Inside Toothill Church

Deep amazement!


At Lower Shaw Farm for a writing day.


Olive King typed letters into shape


Gaining inspiration from past Link Magazine material


Getting Ready to Perform our Toothill Long Poem





Postcards from Toothill competition winning poem By Kiera Grisley of Oliver Tomkins Primary School The derelict farmhouse in Toothill, boarded up but standing still. The fire tore through the house with rage, the cottage had lived to fine old age. A train passes by on its route the name comes from the train's TOOT TOOT! The Watchers sculpture stands all alone, man, woman, child, dog made of stone. It's part of Toothill's history It's on display for all to see. Family, friends, young and old, the story of Toothill has been told.


Photo collage Roger Ogle, Link Magazine



The Watchers: the Toothill Long Poem  

a 500 line poem written by young people of Toohill Primary School, Lydiard Park Academy, Oliver Tomkins Primary School and Westlea Primary S...

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