Bealdric & the Dungsworths

Moors above Holmfirtg Allan Kirk

Bealdric’s summer dreams fade with a last bite of Greenup’s Pippins xanthic-white flesh and a swallow of sweet, apple acid.  Ice crystals gather like unwanted visitors upon his flanks.  The Black Shire horse investigates the creatures.  Avice recoils as he leans down, inhaling folk scent and ruffling her matted, ashen curls with his muzzle.

‘He’s getting to know you is all.’ assures her big sister.

‘Oh right.  Good day Sir.  We are the Dungsworths.’

Idonea grasps coarse, wet Yorkstone whose ore-less field magma and hexagonal sheets of glitter crumbs sparkle between webbed fingers.  The girl finds footing on Dry Stone wall and stands next to the equine giant, tall.

‘Where have you come from?’  She whispers into the Shire’s ear.

Bealdric does not answer.  He moves closer.  Idonea runs her hand along dewy hair from crest to croup.   She surveys the mist-hidden horizon.  With a deep breath and eyes closed, she grabs his withers and hoists herself with a spring.  Her sister simmers and shakes her head before following the elder with trepidation into mounted heights.

‘Ground looks a long way off.’ worries the small girl.

‘Aye Avi, twenty two hands or more I reckon.’

‘Won’t we get into trouble? Someone’ll miss a beast this size.  He’d be able to turn father’s field in a moment or pull a quarry of millstone.’

‘He don’t belong to no one.  Didn’t you see?’

‘See what.’

‘I know you saw Avi.’

The Black Shire feels the little one’s fear pulsing through each nerve-ending in his twitching hide.  He treads thoughtfully around peat bogs, walks between heathery hills and climbs bracken banks through fuliginous fog.  Avice is calmed by his steady gait.  As she studies her sisters back and follows the jerky, uncertain journey of a water droplet that arrives at the end of a dank, auburn tendril of Idonea’s hair, she is moved by her child’s trust in the safety of her sibling.  She tightens her forearms around Idonea’s waist and rests her cheek against her sodden woollen cloak.  

Lagopus lagopus scotica startles and a flurry of terracotta feathers takes flight at Bealdric’s side, gliding and whirring from wing to wing.  Bright orange lids lace glassy, chestnut eyes and the moorfowl’s lucid gobble echoes loudly against elemental walls that reach six thousand feet high.

‘Go-back, go-back, go-back.’ calls Red Grouse.



Image 1, Moors above Holmfirth, Allan Kirk, source:

Image 2, Grouse, Archibald Thorburn, source:


Bealdric the Shire

horse in fog annette hegel

Stratus stomps and snorts and treads slowly towards them, breathing getting louder and closer.  A silhouette emerges through grey cloud canvas.  Bealdric Black Shire strides over the moor.  He wears a faint star on his angular face.  He draws Avice down into bottomless wells of blackest eyes where secrets of the other world hide.

Idonea and Avice look long and hard at their last food.  In silent agreement sisters hold numb, flattened, tentative fingers in front of their narrow chests and out into icy fog, an offering.  Yellow dominoes pierce and sink into hard fruit, making easy pieces of it.  Chewing and chomping with ravenous enjoyment of sweet crunchy pleasures, Bealdric recalls green and russet memories of long gone summer treasures.



Image by Annette Hegel, ‘Horse in Fog in Winter’ sourced here: