You get home from Southwold after a 5 hour drive and you’re slightly tired, even though you don’t drive. The fields resemble a Kansas harvest breadbasket, Keats whispers in the wind: ‘Where are the songs of Spring?’ and Seamus Heaney is dead, school’s back on Monday, war clouds are gathering. The holidays are well and truly over.
But a walk up the Albert on Stroud Fringe Saturday night restores your faith in humanity and the infinite possibilities of friendship. Not just old friends from ‘No Pasaran!’ like Becky and Dell, but also a new welcome from Folk in a Box. Out the back of the pub was a a group of bohos and hipsters even more boho and hipster than the usual for even the Albert. Behind them was a box.
I entered the sepulchral gloom within the portmanteau and sat opposite an invisible minstrel. What might happen? What could happen? Friend or foe? Confusion is the usual handmaiden of darkness – what if humiliation is the consequence? Robbery?
Instead, the troubadour strummed a guitar and sang me a song straight from the heart. Two strangers lost in darkness, yet establishing a union through the medium of music, a harmony where none existed before. ‘Folk in a Box’: singing inside a box, yet making waves through seven handshakes wherever they go.
When Giffords Circus pitches up on your green, Conventional wisdom is mesmerised: Enter the Big Top’s strange circumference And Euclid’s straight-line space-time dissembles Before your very eyes, Ladies and Gentlemen! All is magick, spectral, alchemical, Performers and read more
It was just another sultry Tuesday At the Clothiers Arms on the Bath Road, Beer and fags and crisps and mobile ‘phones, When a flash contingent of walkers popped up, All arrayed in Stroud Scarlet uniform: T-shirts, frocks, dresses, jackets, tunics, leggings, Seventy -fi read more
Meet at 11 o’clock outside the Prince Albert, Rodborough Hill. Up through Bisley Road to reach Stancombe and then on to Climperwell. Lunch at Brimpsfield in the churchyard by the medieval motte. Then on to Caudle Green. Back through Slad. Possibility of a stop at read more
Before I give details about the next walk, I do recommend a visit to ‘Water – The Miniature Museum of Memories’ at Stroud Museum (throughout May) and also ‘Walking the Land: River’, discussion 10-noon at Stroud Brewery, Thrupp, Saturday 18th May. RADICAL STROUD WA read more
Who Needs Google Earth?
I know that debate rages, dear readers, within you and without you, as to the respective merits of Flann O’Brien’s “The Third Policeman” and his wonderful “At Swim Two Birds”. Personally, I probably enjoy re-reading the latter even more than the former; be that as it may, it is the Policeman that we need to guide us on our next walk: Mothering Sunday, March 10th. Meet outside the Prince Albert at 11.15 or outside the Crown and Sceptre at 12.30 for a walk around the Heavens and the Edgelands of Stroud – three hours at the most, then into Number 23 in Nelson Street for a chinwag in the bistro.
But here is your preparatory reading:
Chapter 3 in Flann O’Brien’s “The Third Policeman” has a diverting section on walking, emanating from the pen of the imaginary mad-savant, de Selby. O’Brien’s eccentric, but, alas, fictional genius, saw roads as “the most ancient of human monuments, surpassing by many tens of centuries” the most ancient of stone edifices created by humanity. De Selby talked of “the tread of time” and how “a good road will have character and a certain air of destiny, an indefinable intimation that it is going somewhere, be it east or west, and not coming back from there.” The unconstrained thoughts of de Selby led him to the conclusion that “If you go with such a road…it will give you pleasant travelling, fine sights at every corner and a gentle ease of peregrination that will persuade you that you are walking forever on falling ground.” I am sure you can see the converse: “…if you go east on a road that is on its way west, you will marvel at the unfailing bleakness of every prospect and the great number of sore-footed inclines…”
De Selby also wrote of urban walking, of “a complicated city with nets of crooked streets and five hundred other roads leaving it for unknown destinations.” Needless to say, “a friendly road” “will always be discernible for its own self and will lead you safely out of the tangled town.” Thus, I think we can say that we do not need Google Earth or even an OS map to guide us both into Stroud and out towards the Heavens or Rodborough Fields or the Slad Valley. Instead, we might carry a copy of Colin Ward’s “Talking Green”, stopping to look at paragraph two on age 44: “Cherished corners of the landscape can be changed beyond recognition in a few hours. Trees, streams, footpaths, buildings, symbols of permanence which transcend ownership, may suddenly disappear.”
Just as the price of liberty might be eternal vigilance, so might be the price of the right road.
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