Kielder Starcamp October 2017



Who would have thought the sky

Could hold so much water?


Day after day of it, night after night;

Hawaiian waves of rain slashing across

The campsite, leaving star-starved stargazers

Cowering in their caravans and camper vans,

Or huddled inside soaked and sagging tents set

A’trembling with each lusty gust of wind…


( There was even a hurricane – an honest-to-god hurricane

That thundered through like a thousand runaway trains.

Everyone who listened to that, shivering inside their sleeping bags,

Should get a special medal, I think. )


We saw stars one night last week…” someone said

As we sheltered beneath Steve’s cabin’s dripping roof,

The glowing screens of Samsungs and iPhones

Bathing our sleep-deprived faces in icy blue light

As we tried, in vain, to get online,

Straining to make First Contact with the outside world.

We even saw the Milky Way…!”

We all turned away, heads shaking. Really?

Easier to believe in unicorns and leprechauns

Than a starry Kielder sky this week; easier to seek

The Holy Grail, or catch a dragon by the tail

Than catch a glimpse of a globular cluster or comet.

I swear, astronomers in Mordor would have had more

Chance of seeing anything “up there” than us this week,

As Northumbria’s bored weather gods waged

A Shock and Awe war above our drizzle-drenched heads,

Sending us early to our beds each night to dream

Of the dark and starry skies that should have been;

Reminding ourselves that things are much better than they used to be;

Remembering how, in ye Olden Days,

Before the digging of The Great Drains,

Ducks would swim smugly on lakes lapping between inundated tents,

The fields transformed into a refugee camp,

An astronomers’ shanty town of half-drowned EQ mounts

And tripod-trapping mud…


But here we are again, And every night, no matter what it throws at us

We’ll laugh and shrug it off, scoffing crisps and chocolate

In our camper as the rain begins to fall… again…

And if we want more company we’ll splosh down to

The Warm Room where the half-drunk Scots, with whisky glasses

Sloshing, will be having yet another “heated debate”

About – well, anything. Everything.

And if the stars do come out we’ll head back to our scopes

And cameras, haul off their covers and fall in love

With the sky all over again,

Remembering why we do this;

Why we come to this celestial Somme

And wait… and wait.,. and wait…




Because when the clouds eventually clear

The stars here feel near enough to touch.

Jewel bright, they burn in Kielder’s sky

Like the finest diamonds ever cut; so beautiful

To look at it hurts to look away.

We’ll say “I’d forgotten it could be like this…”

As the midnight wind hisses through the trees

And shooting stars skip breezily across the sky

Like stones skimmed across a pond, again and again

Through a long, dark night of countless deep sky delights;

Of peering into friends’ and strangers’ eyepieces

At pinch-of-salt star clusters and misty

Catherine Wheel galaxies…


Hours later, after a dozen once-in-a-lifetime views

Of Messier’s most famous celebrities, far more real than any Hubble

Or iTelescope’s photograph could ever be,

We’ll turn our backs on the dawn and fall into our beds,

The pitter-patter of the rain singing us a lullaby

As we finally fall asleep, dreaming of the next clear night…


© Stuart Atkinson October 2017

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