The East Coast Mainline: London to Edinburgh

An iconic journey from the heart of London through the Chilterns and home counties up through the flatlands of Peterborough and Grantham, into the North via Retford and Doncaster, across the levels of the Trent plain and then pretty York and the orderly farmsteads of the Vale, the North York Moors and Penines closing in. Then the north east though Darlington, Durham, skirting Gateshead and over the Tyne and up the crabbed land of Northumbria until it opens out into the marshy bottoms and vistas and the painted houses in the river mouth town of Alnmouth, the silhouette of Lindisfarne and the Holy Isle before rattling into Berwick-on-Tweed on the border. 

Then the train begins to climb. First up onto and along the red sandstone cliff tops with glimpses down into tight bays and the same old farm surrounded by mud and sea each time. And then up the valley into the hills and woods, playing hide and seek with A1 and its truck traffic climbing up tharough Penmanshiels Wood before starting the descent onto the braw, open, windswept coastal strip of red soils and too-open wavy hills past fields of sprout and cabbage and oxide-red roofed farmsteads and squat single-storey houses backed into slopes and trees from protection from frigid easterly winds. 


The strange lump of Berwick Law signals the run in to Waverley, Authur's Seat rising beyond Cockenzie power station and the sweep of Dunbar, Musselburgh, Portobello, Leith, the Bass Rock and Inchkeith in the Forth and the distant hills of the Kingdom of Fife. And then the train is wedged into the steep walls of Calton Hill and the towering hotels of North Bridge Street and the Old Town itself.

This poem is about the train from London King's Cross to Edinburgh Waverley. My photos taken from the train of the same journey are here on my site at London to Edinburgh Train.


Edinburgh, mainline,

East Coast, England,

Kings Cross, Chiltern,

Flood, river, freeze.


Fruitfarm, snow-bank,

Ouse, lamb, sugarbeet,

St. Andrews, Grantham,

Woodwalton, lees.


Thatcher, Wulfram,

Newark, Trent, fen, church,

Navigation, hedgerow,

Oak, ash, keys.


York, Drax, bricks, dale,

Woolly, Donny, dirty,

Moorland, combine,

Durham, hills, wheeze.


Barn, wood, sheep, boy,

Gateshead, weather-gauge

Falling, down, harvester,

Nose, tickle, sneeze.


Allotment, terraces,

Cathedral, silhouette,

Brick, red, bottomland,

Smelter, stone, frieze.


Alnmouth, airports,

Sodden, swans, Lammermuir,

Stream, spate, netloft,

Northumberland, Tees.


Swollen, ship, Sage, squall,

Lynmouth, Holy Isle,

Thaw, bridges, mouth, sky

Berwick, bleak, seas.


Lindisfarne, Grantshouse,

Peat, mole, border, top,

Tweed, marsh, salmon, salt,

Estuary, ease.


Burnmouth, Linton East,

Farmtoun, Penmansheil,

Pine, haven, headwater,

Gale, blow, breeze.


Dunbar, Reston,

Sandstone, stony, wall,

Dyke, Torness, Ayton,

Longniddry, name, tease.


Abbs, head, A1,

Winter, spring, wood, surf,

Gillespie, James, Graham, Scots, 

Pine, heather, trees.


Berwick Law, bell, sprouts,

Parish, field, saint, eye,

Castle, council, cabbage, stead,

Waverley squeeze.


Edinburgh, Edinburgh,

Next station stop is Edinburgh,

Bags, scarves, wallet, hats,

Mind the gap please.