Our first Radical Springs Walk today was a great success. Eighteen of us wandered through the Toadsmoor Valley, hoping to locate and name six springs in the tumbling landscape. In the end, we discovered seven. We gathered at the first spring and named it ‘Bella’; we sto read more
Rendezvous Prince Albert for our first springs walk and organise cars. It seems oddly contradictory to ask for a dry day when we track six springs in the Toadsmoor Valley, in our search for the genius loci of Stroud and the Five Valleys, but there we are. Please give us read more
Mapping of the Springs
Sunday 6th January, 11.30 am
On the basis that the Christian festival of Epiphany walked hand in hand with a winter festival involving the Lord of Misrule and a consequent turning of the world upside down, what better day to have for our first springs-walk? Despite the Shakespearian trope of gender-swopping and cross-dressing as in his play, Twelfth Night, first performed on this day, it is probably more practical to make sure you are sensibly shod and attired – just in case “the rain it raineth every day.’
We shall revisit the folk-lore of the bean and pea in the feast – or, rather, cake, for us – and whosoever has the legume shall become the Lord/Lady of Misrule. S/he shall lead our motley throng with the map as s/he attempts to locate and name the springs of the Toadsmoor Valley.
The hunt is on for the six springs within in the steep-sided Toadsmoor Valley, as depicted on pre-war maps. Will we be able to find them, or in the spirit of Epiphany, might we discover others? The walk will be between three and five miles in length – depending on what we discover. Bring along something to eat – and your curiosity.
Precise meeting point to be confirmed – watch this space or Facebook or www.radicalstroud.org.uk
There is a poem below called A Stroud Valleys Christmas, but first I would like to draw your early attention to our first collective walk, when we map, record and re-imagine the landscape. This will be on Twelfth Night, Sunday January 6th. By then, our website at www.radicalstroud.org.uk should be moving beyond work in progress: that is the place where we shall place our collaborative multi-media interpretations of our locality. Further details about the walk – meeting point, route, mileage and so on, will follow, both on the blog and the website; but for the moment, let us all enjoy Christmas-Tide, remembering that the poem below could become a half-forgotten memory if building takes place in the Slad Valley.
A Stroud Valleys Christmas
One damp, December Sunday afternoon,
I biked out through Stroud’s featureless streets,
And then along the Slad Valley to Bull’s Cross:
Past shooting, pollarded willow trees,
All lined along the lanes;
Past well wrapped figures stacking yuletide logs,
All shrouded in a coppice;
Past the chapels turned to guest houses,
Their graveyards full of cars;
Past families cutting mistletoe,
Their long handled secateurs silhouetted
Against the setting sun’s cloudscape;
Past rooks, gathering in the gathering dusk,
All calling in the copse –
Until, all was still and silent,
When all life seems to be suspended.
I listened to the silence,
Then turned my bike for home.
And when I returned to Stroud in darkness,
Nocturnal winter-spring had sprung:
Every window was now ablaze with lights,
And glittering trees and candles;
Doors were hung with stars and wreaths of holly,
Laced with ivy and mistletoe;
Christmas has come!
Cold season’s magic!
I think it was Leon Trotsky who once opined that “Common sense is the wisdom of the ruling class” but that old chestnut was cast rudely to the pavement recently by our country’s planning minister. In a classic case of nominative indeterminism, Nick Boles said he wants to see a 33% increase in land under new construction. He declared that “The built environment can be more beautiful than nature” and that “We shouldn’t obsess about the fact that the only landscapes that are beautiful are open.” He then added, “Sometimes buildings are better.” This is beyond parody. But it is frightening.
The piece below was written in the spring of 2009 as part of the Remembering Rodborough project, when we went out with Walking the Land, looking at old maps and pictures as we ambled along. The second line has a reference to an old pub and bakery that used to exist – the buildings still do. The second verse refers to the old field names that used to adorn Rodborough Fields. You just know that if the developers move in then someone will think it quaint to name the new streets after the old field names.That is beyond parody. But it is frightening.
Psycho-Geography: A Walk around Rodborough Fields
There we were, a baker’s dozen, at Butterow West,
Just by the Princess Royal and Gardiner’s Bakery,
(Opposite the Pavilion, don’t you know)
Sketching, chatting, filming and reminiscing,
Looking at old maps and photographs,
Listening to recorded voices, oral histories,
Telling us how it used to be –
Tales of the allotments and the parrot
Calling the men up the hill to the pub,
When Sunday noon meant time to down tools.
Then on to Rodborough Fields’ long dead elm trees,
Recreating the patchwork quilt of fields of 1838:
Rack Hill, Thresher, Bacon Slad,
Spout Leaze, Lower Orchard, Upper Bacon Slad,
Calves Close, Sheep Furlong, Little Chapel Hill,
Freeze Land, The Park, The Island, Cobswell,
Side Long Piece, Fir Tree Ground, Wheatlands,
Cobbs Acre, Great Fromate, Spillman,
Well Croft, Birds Lagget, Home Ground, Broad Close,
The Mead, Old Well Close, Kitchen Close,
Barn Close,Dye House Mead,
Sweetmead, New Leaze.
We then ambled through Victoria’s reign,
To stand on the bank above Capel Mill,
We saw an Edwardian lady gaze at the waters,
Hands clutching the rustic fencing
That ran all along the bridge,
In a picture postcard pose and scene,
More seaside than Stroud,
Like the puff from 1902,
Selling land for building in Coronation Road,
“Near the GWR and Midland Railways”,
And the well known “health resort” of Rodborough Common.
We returned to the present and walked along Arundel Drive,
(Cherry trees all in dazzling bloom, front path exotic splendour,
A suburban trope reminding us of our Imperial heritage)
To track the water’s trickle of the culverted stream,
(32 feet deep behind Coronation Road,
With 6 springs at the end of Rodborough Avenue)
Moss and lichen growing on the hidden dry stone wall,
Where the water drops down on its way to the Frome,
The stream where our senior citizens used to play,
Swinging in the trees from willow bank to bank,
Their muffled shouts of joy bursting from the depths of time,
Traces of the past escaping from the confines of the present.
Rodborough Fields in Space and Time I like the way the hidden springs gather force, A wild winter rush down the meadow side, The wind singing in the saplings’ rigging On the water’s voyage to the treasured Frome, Thence on to the Severn and the ocean. One glance is enou read more
And thudding and cold fear possessed me all,
On the grey slopes there, where Winter in sullen brooding
Hung between height and depth of the ugly fall
Of Heaven to earth; and the thudding was illness own.
But still a hope I kept that were we there going over
I, in the line, I should not fail, but take recover
From others courage, and not as coward be known.
No flame we saw, the noise and the dread alone
Was battle to us; men were enduring there such
And such things, in wire tangled, to shatters blown.
Courage kept, but ready to vanish at first touch.
Fear, but just held. Poets were luckier once
In the hot fray swallowed and some magnificence.”
I came under the pines of the sheer steep
And saw the stars like steady candles gleam
Above and through; Brimscombe wrapped (past life) in sleep!
Such body weariness and ugliness
Had gone before, such tiredness to come on me —
This perfect moment had such pure clemency
That it my memory has all coloured since,
Forgetting the blackness and pain so driven hence.
And the naked uplands even from bramble free.
That ringed-in hour of pines, stars, and dark eminence.
(The thing we looked for in our fear of France).”
Upon a ledge that shows my kingdoms three,
The lovely visible earth and sky and sea
Where what the curlew needs not, the farmer tills:
Well-hedged, and honoured by a few ash trees
That linnets, greenfinches, and goldfinches
Shall often visit and make love in and flit:
Broken but neat, whose sunflowers every one
Are fit to be the sign of the Rising Sun:
A spring, a brook’s bend, or at least a pond:
Nor yet too early, for what men call content,
And also that something may be sent
To be contented with, I ask of Fate.
I sat down on the bench in front of the church, remembered giving mum a framed
copy of the poem for her birthday one year, ate my cheese and chutney sandwich,
then penned a few lines on the back of my walking guide. The excellent Friends
of the Dymock Poets’ website has these walking guides for free.
W.H. Davies, later to live at Nailsworth, and earlier befriended by Thomas, wrote an elegy for him. Here is the last stanza:
Haiku for Nympsfield War Memorial
As I write these lines,
The young men of the village
Arrive for the match.
High-up on the wolds.
And at the cross-roads,
Honouring the dead.
This cross, once shattered,
Lying in some forlorn hope,
Out in No Man’s Land.
Brought here from the Somme,
Repaired and resurrected,
Life and Death conjoined.
Last gasp on a fag,
Then it’s out over the top,
Ref blows the whistle.
The laughter of youth,
Innocent carefree minutes –
Who would think of war?
Just as once before,
Those memorialised names
Played, too, in the sun.
THRUPP: 31 UPLANDS: 25 WHITESHILL: 36 WOODCHESTER: 25.
Chas writes: “In a town that is divided
by values and visions of war and peace;
where the wearing of a poppy (for
some red for some white) is seen by some
not as an act of Charity and Love
but as acts of personal controversy,
something needs to be done to build
bridges…Couldn’t we all at least unite at
Percy Dearmer’s Water Fountain to
remember those who laid down
their lives in our service?”
THESE OAKRIDGE MEN
ALSO GAVE THEIR LIVES
E. Blackwell M. Blackwell A. Curtis W.M. Curtis A. Fern W. Fern P. Gardiner S. Gardiner
P. Hill W. Hunt W.G. Hunt R.T. Gardiner A. Robbins A. Rowles A. Smith T. White H. White A. Young E. Young F. Young E. Weare
In GRATEFUL MEMORY OF
George Edward Ivor Fry PTE. RAMC
James Frederick Fry SGT. NAV. RAF
Albert Hunt PTE. RAOC
Stanley Henry Morgan GNR. R.A.
R.C.Baker Stallard-Penoyre LT. R.N. (A)
Arthur Phipps GNR. R.A.
James Edward Young PTE. R. NORF. REG.
WHO FELL IN THE WAR OF 1939-45
INTO THY HAND O LORD
A Remembrance Walk to Oakridge and back to Stroud October 17th 2012
I caught the number 54 Cotswold Green bus,
On a russet-warm, apple-autumn day,
To Frampton Mansell Church,
In the 1920s footsteps of my dad,
Who lived here in a Great War Nissan hut;
His de-mob dad, seeking work,
My dad, playing conkers on his way toschool,
Or watching the trains on the viaduct,
Justas I do today in his memory.
Iwalked on down past the giant retaining wall,
Underthe railway and across the canal,
To climb the hill past streams, brooks, rills and springs,
To reach Oakridge Lynch War Memorial:
Thereare so many corners of foreign fields,
That are for ever England,
In word, dust, deed, blood, ash and bone,
But here, on Oakridge village green,
Is a cruciform water- trough,
Fed by a spring that is for ever England,
That roams through wild flowers,
Breathing English air,
Bless’d by the sun on its way to the Severn,
A heart of peace, under an English heaven,
Giving back thoughts of England given.
I read the inscriptions and then sat back on the green,
Chatting to a woman gathering flowers,
Who told me that during the Tewkesbury floods,
When piped water became polluted,
Oakridge village used the springs once more;
Another woman told me of the war graves in the churchyard,
Recently and lovingly cleaned and pristine-restored;
She pointed out my footpath to Eastcombe:
“Go past the old toll house.”
I walked past more springs,
Then the site of a Roman villa,
Thenmore springs and some tumuli,
Beforerain made me dispense with map and specs,
Tofollow my nose and ask for directions instead:
“Aimfor the waterfall”,
“Contour Mackhouse woods and aim south for Stroud”.
I walked past black-spot sycamore leaves,
Blood-red rowan and spiked-steel hawthorn,
Thunder crackling above like guns across the Channel,
Hailstones ricocheting like shrapnel;
My path was blocked by fallen trees,
Prickled barbed wire stars of holly,
Puddles like forlorn foxholes,
And a succession of map-marked Spouts,
Until I left No-Man’s Land.
I ambled along spring-line Thrupp Lane,
Then down the canal to the Lock-Keeper’s,
Where on an opposite wall,
A new piece of graffiti has appeared,
A Banksy-like badger’s face,
With a bullet in its blood-red eye.
“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”
Well, we all need Wikipedia, sometimes, I suppose, when we move out of our comfort zones, as I do today when I begin to muse upon our spring-quest and its depiction by map. The font of all knowledge says that “A map is a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depic read more
If you are looking for the genius loci of Stroud, it has to involve water, and as water moves and flows in a constant reinvention of itself, it is a fitting initial symbol of Stroud and the Valleys. To understand the effect of water around us, locally, we have to have s read more