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Top poet's moment with nature

Last modified: 20 April 2009

Adult male osprey in flight, Scotland

Image: Chris Gomersall

In his last month as Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion has put a wildlife memory down on paper as part of our 'Moments' campaign to encourage the nation to share the magic of nature, and appreciate the world around them.

Andrew says: “My poem is set during a recent visit to the Lake District, and recalls a day I spent with my father when I was a child - a day I thought was going to be ordinary but turned out to be astonishing.

“In the same way that I've used my time as Poet Laureate to try and open people's minds to poetry, the RSPB aims to open people's eyes to nature through its Moments campaign.

I'm happy to have written this poem to support their good cause, and I hope others will be encouraged to do the same, and to share their moments on the RSPB website. They might be surprised to discover how many others have had experiences similar to their own.”

As the Osprey to the Fish


Driving the length of England

we keep each other going with stories

of how it all began – in my own case

with my father abandoning the Spey

after a wet week of no salmon taking

to say: Tomorrow, Loch Garten; there

we’ll see the only ospreys in Britain.


It was 1959 and I was seven – old enough

to know what bad luck meant: a boring

zig-zag across country towards the loch;

a panicky, slow sweep with binoculars;

and the nest like an upside-down wigwam

wedged in the balding pine, with not one

bird in sight, osprey or any other kind.


Back here in today, the evening light

survives as we enter the Lake District

and so, in the warmth of its last gasp,

we climb Loughrigg Fell for nothing more

than a bird’s eye view of what survives:

smoke from the chimney of Dove Cottage

thinning over small roads and grey fields,


the marbled green lake thickening to black

as the breeze makes its cautious advances

and died. Next minute the osprey slides in,

high and silent above our own high heads,

and neither of us find a word to say:

the sleek breast, the impassive golden eye,

the devastating cold beak are enough.


My own silence holds even when the wings,

with their mud fringe and chalky central panel,

labour hard enough for the downdraft to brush

the heart inside my body. Then I am lifted up

in the metal talons and ferried back to make

that sighting I missed with my father, although

no daylight remains as we leave the bare fell.

How you can help

Have you had a magical moment with nature? It could be a sunset that just takes your breath away, or a robin strutting along your clothesline.