Walk the Wall July 20

Stroud District Palestine Solidarity Campaign Walk the Wall
Saturday 20th July 2024 10am

5.2km walk from Wallbridge, over Rodborough Common ending at Brimscombe

Return is either by Bus 67 from Brimscombe Corner or return to Wallbridge along the canal.

Refreshments are available from The Long Table, The Ship Inn or The Felt Inn Insights about effects of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian

land shared along the way.

Moderately challenging: Walkers need to be fit for a climb onto the Common – dress appropriately Contact pscstroud@protonmail.com with any enquiries. https://tinyurl.com/2btzdkfr to book a place

Radical Randwick Ramble


A Ramble in Radical Randwick

Sunday, 23 June 2024 11:00 – 13:30

What makes the history of Randwick unique? How come this unassuming village in the hills of Stroud appears in a survey of British utopian experiments? What’s the background of Randwick Wap? Why was the village so notorious?

Answer these questions and perhaps more on an illuminating historical walk with Stuart Butler of Radical Stroud.

The route will be through rural areas with some uneven ground and some hills, so a basic level of fitness is required. Finish time is approximate. No dogs, please.

Log on to the Stroud Valleys Project link at the top to book a place. I think the suggested donation is £3 plus.

Slimbridge Diggers Walk July 2

The Diggers were a group of 17th century religious and political dissidents in England, seeking to establish agrarian socialism. The famous Digger settlement in 1649 at St George’s Hill,  Surrey is well known and celebrated, but our local area also saw a Digger experiment. Radical Stroud plan to go in search of the elusive Digger settlement at Slimbridge.  The exact location has been lost so may be an exploratory expedition. If you are interested then please join us  on Tuesday July 2, at St John the Evangelist, Slimbridge at 10.30. Not sure how long the walk will be. Join us for as long as you wish. There will be readings, context and a song or two too.
Bring some food and refreshments. The walk will take place mostly over meadows and fields. Some stiles to be climbed. Likely to be muddy in places.
Any queries please contact Stuart Butler stfc12@hotmail.com

Tudor and Stuart Gloucestershire

Tudor and Stuart Gloucestershire Riots

Tudor and Stuart Gloucestershire Riots


Written after reading

In Contempt of All Authority

Rural Artisans and Riot in the West of England,


Buchanan Sharp


When I walk the banks of the River Severn,

Those turbid waters seem a barrier:

Something liminal and divisive:

It all looks so different on the other side,

Whether you stand on the east or the west:

Dense forest one way, Cotswold hills the other.


But rethink the river, land and skyscape,

Forget the turnpike roads and railways,

Slip back half a millennium of time,

And the river becomes a corridor,

Not just down and upstream, but also across:

With a nascent rural proletariat,

In the mining, charcoaled Forest of Dean,

Linked with the broadcloth east bank weavers,

And the fields and farms of Gloucestershire.


The spring of 1586 was a season

Of high food prices and unemployment –

This led to attacks on ‘barks’ with their cargoes

Of malt at Framilode by around

Five hundred of ‘the commone sorte of people’.

This action was followed by congregations

On both sides of the river to stop vessels

Taking cargoes downstream towards Bristol:

so great was their necessitye as that dyvers of them justifye they were dryvers to feede their children with oattes dogges* and rootes of nettles …’ (* dog-grass).


Resistance remained firm and steadfast

Despite the readings of the Riot Act,

And when two ringleaders faced possible charges,

The summoned forces of law and order,

Were intimidated by some hundreds

Of the local Gloucestershire populace

Who ‘lay in awayte in the woodes and other secret places.’


This riverine and littoral action

Was repeated again in 1622;

Individual and familial begging,

Tramping, pilfering and petitioning

Eventually led to collective riot

As a response to high food prices,

And also unemployment in the cloth trade,

And so, the indigent workless,

through want doe already steale

and are like to starve or doe worse’;

Numbers were so vast that good hearted charity,

And politic efforts to assist

‘by raising of public stockes for their imployment in worke’

Were doomed to inevitable failure:

JPs could not compel clothiers

To give work when they had no markets –

And so, the judges of assize then thought

That they should write to the privy council:

‘Craveinge pardon for our bouldnes,

wee humbly leave this greate and weighty cause

to your grave and juditious consideration’.

Gloucestershire Justices of the Peace

Were of similarly bleak outlook

Later in the year of 1622:

‘the complaints of the weavers and other poore workefolkes depending upon the trade of clothinge …

doe daylie increase in that their worke

and meanes of reliefe doe more and more decay.’

In consequence, it was impossible

‘to releeve the infinite number of poore people residing within the same drawne hither by meanes of clothing.’


What of over on the river’s other bank,

In the charcoal-burning free-mining

Forest of Dean?

Enclosure (‘privatisation of land’)

In the Forest of Dean was met in 1631

By some five hundred inhabitants who

‘did with two drummes, two coulers and one fife in a warlike and outrageous manner assemble themselves together armed with gunnes, pykes, halberds and other weapons.’

They tore down enclosures in the Snead,

And also, in Mailescott Woods, where they also

Fired muskets, threatened to destroy the house

Of an agent of Lady Villiers,

Threw cut timber of oak into the Wye,

And filled up three iron ore pits,

Together with an effigy of loathed

Sir Giles Mompesson, aka

‘The odious projector’.

Just a fortnight later, some 3,000

Gathered with the steady beating of drums

And the flying of pennants and banners,

To destroy enclosures and burn houses.


By the early summer, the Dean enclosures

Had been pretty well removed, although some

Residual rioting took place up at Cannop Chase,

Where enclosures held by the secretary

to the Lord Treasurer, no less,

Were once more destroyed in January 1632,

While further rejections of authority

Took place when enclosures were partially restored

By the rich, as at Mailescott Woods

In July 1633, due to

‘loose and disorderly persons in the night tyme.’


These were the revolts of the poor and those who are

‘Condemned to the enormous condescension of posterity’,


But who can, or might be, identified,

From these nocturnal depredations?


John Williams aka ‘Skimington’,

A labourer/miner from English Bicknor,

Was identified as a ringleader;

A target for arrest in 1631,

Over 120 men advanced,

Under the orders of the undersheriff,

‘before the breake of the day towards the house of one John Williams called by the name of Skymington thinking to have caught him in his bed’

Prior warning led to his escape,

And bribes for information from the poor

Proved to be as ineffective as the force

Of horse and sword and musket.

Star Chamber then became involved

With Williams in 1632,

For this Skymington had ‘threatened and used

some violence to the agents for the King,

that he would serve them as he did others

that intrenched upon his liberties

in the forest of Deane.’

Williams was, however, captured,

And then moved from Gloucester Castle to Newgate

(Where he spent five years).

The response in the Forest of Dean to this?

William Cowse, who arrested Williams,

Was attacked at Newland parish church

By ‘the under sort of people.’


No one was convicted but local JPs

Were ordered to provide armed guards for Cowse,

And his assistants when they were in the Forest

Pursuing the business of King Charles 1st.


The Skimmington tradition and its rough music

Reflected the tradition of a moral economy

And a moral society based upon justice

And a living commonality,

So, it is no surprise to see the Skimmington symbol

Reappear on the eastern bank of the Severn

Between Frampton and Slimbridge in 1631 –

Enclosures had been torn down twenty years before,

But after restoration, peace returned,

Until June 1631, when it was said that:

‘Skymingtones leiuetenaunts and some five more of his company were come to Frampton-upon-Seaverne in the County of Gloucester with an intent to throw in the inclosures of the new groundes.’

This was all hot air, but is an indication

Of the nervousness of the local ruling class

(With some good reason) –

While rumours further circulated that

‘money and victualls’ would be given

To any who would tear down the enclosures.


The Privy Council was more than irritated

With the impotent local authorities,

Especially in the Forest of Dean:

‘We hold this for an extreame neglect of your duties’;

‘Hereof yee must not faile as yee tender his Majesties

heavy displeasure.’

Annoyance continued with the inability

Of the county authorities to stop riots

and arrest rioters, ‘when we

consider what expresse and carefull directions have been from tyme to tyme given by this board as well for the suppressing and preventing of the outrageous assemblies within the Forest of Deane as for the discoverie and apprehending of the offenders and proceeding with them in an exemplarie way.’

But a poorly trained and weak local militia …

The potential size of a riotous assembly

(3,000 determined souls!) …

The way in which potential witnesses

Disappeared into the Welsh Marches …

The indicted hiding within the vast forests,

Valleys, hills and hidden hamlets

Of the Dean, Herefordshire,

Monmouthshire, the Marches …

The ‘base disorderly persons’

Who confronted official ‘search parties,

All accentuated the perception of official impotence;

Sir Ralph Dutton, the sheriff of Gloucester,

Blamed the topography:

‘in regard of the Seaverne on the one side and the River of Wye, the other two shires on the other side, and the woods, hills, myne pitts and colepitts where they dwell, the apprehending of them becomes very difficult and must be effected only by policy never by strength.’

This policy included overt and covert bribery.

The result?

The grand total of just three arrests.


The solidarity between labourers, free miners,

And assorted artisans in the Dean,

In the face of enclosure and

Other intrusions such as ironworks

And privately owned blast furnaces,

Was, of course, as important as topography,

In the battle against authority.

Rights of common were vital to the health

And well-being of individuals,

Families and the whole community:


Such common rights included pasture

For sheep and cattle; pannage for pigs,

And rights of estover: For example:

Collecting deadwood for winter warmth,

Wood for fencing, housing and outbuildings;


This solidarity had stood the test of time:

When the Earl of Pembroke, in 1612,

Started an ironworks – ‘the King’s ironworks’

With blast furnaces, forges, and enclosure,

‘Robin Hoods’ promptly, consequentially,

Burned the wood all cut ready and waiting

For the ironworks – ‘the King’s ironworks’;

This tradition of direct action

Stretched way back, for example,

Back in 1594, 15 tons of wood

Earmarked for royal use was rendered useless

By the simple but lengthy expedient

Of being cut into uselessly tiny pieces;

In 1605, riots occurred

When timber cut for Sir Edward Winter’s

Supplies of charcoal and his iron works

Caused outrage that estover rights

Were being appropriated.


Court decisions reached compromises

Between the rights of property and estover,

But free born miners continued to defy

These court decisions in the Forest

In what was ‘royal demesne’,

By defying authority and selling iron ore

Wherever and to whomever they wished.

In effect, one could argue that

the said mynors whose educacion

had bene onely in labour of this kind’

and who desired that they

‘might be permitted to utter their overplus

or remayne of their said oare or myne

to the relief of their wives and children

to any others who will buye the same’

Had defied – successfully -the monarchy,

And all its attendant forces and structures

Of local and national law and order.


The staccato ‘guerrilla warfare’

Continued, as we have seen and read,

Beyond the reign of King James and into

The reign of King Charles 1,

Culminating, in 1641,

In the destruction of fully 12 miles

Of enclosures around ‘privatised’ forest areas.

The Civil War, starting in 1642,

And the Siege of Gloucester in the following year,

Brought new perspectives on ‘disafforestation’,

A sort of ‘cease-fire’, as it were,

In the battle between privatisation,

Enclosure and monopoly on the one side,

And rights of estover and free born miners,

On the subaltern other.

But ‘In 1645 the ironworks and the right to cordwood … were leased anew to Colonel Edward Massey by authority of a parliamentary ordinance. From this point until 1659, the …policy of the Stuarts – the exploitation of the forest as a source of timber, cordwood, and iron ore – was reintroduced. With this inheritance went all the problems that Stuart governments had to face … Complaints about the activities of the poor grew more frequent … Thus, forest officers lamented in 1647 that:

‘There is still a great spoyle done in the forrest in cutting downe very many of the best oake and beech trees by the Cabbiners and others poore and beggerly persons wee are not able to suppresse them; they resist us and have often beaten and abused most of us …if there be not some speedy course of action taken for the pulling down of these cabins and for the punishing of these beggerly persons that are common spoylers of the timber there wilbe every day more and more spoyles made and committed.’

Two years later, the year of Charles’ execution,

A commission observed that these ‘cabbiners’

‘Chiefly poor vagabonds and strangers who had crept into the forest’ sustained themselves and their families ‘by cutting, cording, burning’ any tree they fancied. Others who ‘spoyled the forest’ included those who made tools, barrels and cardboard.


How did Cromwell and the Commonwealth respond?

The republic responded with partial generosity;

Only one third of the Forest of Dean

Was allocated for enclosure in 1657,

With commons legal rights given to locals

For the other two thirds of the forest,

For sustenance, work, income, living and pleasure.

Even so, enclosures in the privatised third

Were torn down and destroyed in 1659.


How did the government of Charles the Second respond?

‘The post-Restoration of Dean is beyond the scope of this work, but we should note that it was one of the few forests in which disafforestation was permanently reversed … in 1688 Dean was reafforested by Act of Parliament … This meant returning the forest to an open commons to be exploited by the inhabitants … During the next 150 years, however, the inhabitants frequently rioted against attempts to erect enclosures or to impose regulations on their right to common.’

But that’s another story: Warren James.

We shall eventually research and put on a walk about Warren, after reading Ralph Anstis’ book, but for the moment, for those who are interested, it’s https://www.forestofdeanhistory.org.uk/learn-about-the-forest/green-plaque-warren-james-1792-1841/


Slimbridge Turned Upside Down


After the Civil War At Slimbridge Waste
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to settle with good haste,
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

We come in peace they said to dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common and to make the waste grounds grow
This Earth divided we will make whole so it will be a common treasury for all

The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell the Earth for private gain
By theft and murder they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command
They make the laws to chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven or they damn us into hell
We will no worship the God they serve
The God of greed who feed the rich while poor men starve

We work we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to the masters or pay rent to the lords
We are free men, though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory stand up now

But all has gone and disappeared
Even though the Diggers stood firm and upright without fear
Where were their cottages, where was their corn
They were dispersed but still the vision lingers on
You Poor take courage you rich take care
This Earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common, all people one
The Diggers’ heritage still lingers in this song.

So, when you walk by Severn’s grace

Make sure you visit what was Slimbridge Waste

And stand around and sing this song

All things in common and all the people one.

Ye Prologue to the above (from olde notes)


So, there was Charles with his HQ at Oxford

(Having been turfed out of London at Turnham Green),

And if he were to retake London,

Then the Royalist armies in the West

Would have to advance towards Oxford,

 And thence east to the capital:

Taking Parliamentary cities that stood in his way:

Exeter fell, then mighty Bristol,

And so, Gloucester was next on the Royalist list

In the year of our Lord,1643.

But there was much ado around these parts,

Even before the Siege of Gloucester.

Archbishop Laud’s High Church reforms of railing off of altars

Led to Puritan complaints in Stroud.

Then in February 1643,

Prince Rupert wrote to his uncle, the king,

About Stroud and Minchinhampton

(Together with other cloth towns),

“Great quantities of cloth, canvas and buckrams

were to be had” for uniforms.

This appropriation was meant to be peaceful but it was said that

“They took away cloth, wool and yarn, besides other goods from the clothiers about Stroudwater, to be their utter undoing, not only of them and theirs, but of thousands of poor people, whose livelihood depends on that trade.”

With Gloucester on the Royalist shopping list,

Parliament took preventative action,

Encircling Gloucester with garrisons

at Stroud, Frocester, Sapperton and Beverstone.

There were other garrisons at Painswick, Miserden, Cirencester, Tetbury, Wotton, Dursley, Berkeley, Thornbury, Hampton Rd., Eastington, Frampton, Slimbridge, Arlingham and Brookthorpe.

The next month saw bloodshed at Barber’s Bridge,

When the Welsh Royalists were trapped after action at Highnam

(There is a monument nearby to commemorate the fallen),

 Captured Royalists were imprisoned

in St. Mary de Lode, St. Mary’s Square.

Be that as it may, King Charles’ army advanced on Gloucester

From Bristol via Tetbury, thence to Painswick,

where he stayed and where he issued a royal proclamation

in August 1643

(You can follow part of his route at King Charles’ Way

Straddling the Laurie Lee Walk above Slad).

His soldiers camped out on Painswick Beacon,

Before advancing upon Gloucester.

Notable events (and sites to see) during the siege include:

30 Westgate Street, hit by incendiaries August 1643.

The spire of St Nicholas’ Church in Westgate Street was hit.

Over has the remains of earthworks involved in

Sir William Vavasour’s Royalist

Advance on the city from the west.

Lady Well at Robinswood Hill

Provided the first piped water for the city:

The Royalists cut this supply at the beginning of the siege.

The lie of the land in Brunswick Street

And Parliament Street offer evidence

Of how defences were constructed:

A house here is called Bastion House.

Gaudy Green was where the Royalists

Placed the artillery battery

Of apocryphal Humpty Dumpty fame.

Llanthony Priory was the site of

One of the most important Royalist camps

(Parliamentarians destroyed the former priory church tower before the Siege so it was disabled as a potential Royalist reconnaissance point).

While Greyfriars was badly damaged by Royalist cannon in the siege,

it became an important point for Colonel Massey

as he directed the Parliamentarian defence of the city.

Look for a sundial at St. Mary de Crypt –

This marks the spot, so it is said,

Where a cannon ball did its damage.

Where else to call?

Hempsted Church, to locate the tomb of John Freeman,

Royalist and Captain of Horse.

26 Westgate Street: the possible site

Of Colonel Massey’s Parliamentarian H.Q.

The Cross, where Colonel Massey stationed

His main guard, ready for quick deployment.

The Olde Crowne Inn – a cannon ball

weighing 20 lbs. flew through a bedroom window

on the 24th August and

considerately decided to land upon a pillow.

A fire was to be lit on Wainlode Hill to signal succour for Gloucester.

And it was lit:

The Earl of Essex made his painstaking way from London with relief for Gloucester and the Royalists withdrew from Gloucester on September 5th 1643.

‘A City assaulted by Man but saved by God”

After the Siege:

(Old draft notes of mine)

Colonel Edward Massey warned the Earl of Essex in an October 1643 letter that the Royalist strategy would be based on gaining control of local food supplies. He said the Royalists meant “to lie at” Stroud and Painswick as well as Cheltenham and market towns in the Forest of Dean.

Then in March 1644, St. Mary’s Church in Painswick became “both a prison and a redoubt.” Colonel Massey established a garrison there to further help protect Gloucester. Royalists used cannon and grenades in their attack on the church, setting fire to the doors whilst also damaging the tower (evidence visible today). Parliamentary prisoners were kept there, one of whom was a Richard Foot, who scratched an inscription (derived from Spenser’s “Faery Queen”) upon a pillar: “Be bolde, be bolde, but not too bolde.”

Two months later, in May,1644, Beverstone Castle fell to Parliamentary forces. It was said that this helped release “the clothiers of Stroudwater from the bondage of terror” of Beverstone’s Royalist army.

In 1645, Royalists burnt down the manor house at Lypiatt Park, when after the roundhead garrison. The cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral were treated less badly by the Scottish Army in 1645: the cavalry merely stabled their horses there.

After the War:

Let’s go to Painswick:

A walk down Beech Lane to Dell’s Farm will take you to a Friends’ Burial Ground, from 1658. The walled enclosure contains nine ledger slabs; the usual Quaker practice was a nameless internment – a stone’s throw away from the parish church. Quakers were not allowed burials within the Established Church while in 1655, the Grand Jury of Gloucestershire complained about such people as “Ranters, Levellers and atheists, under the name of Quakers” and there was obviously a sizeable Quaker community in the area.

Brian Manning in “The Far Left in the English Revolution” points out that although the Levellers “provided much of the philosophy and programme of radicalism”, the Quakers were important too, and were to the “left” of the Presbyterians, Independents and Republicans who “dominated the revolution.” Christopher Cheeseman, a nationally famous Leveller, was also a Quaker and so we can imagine locals agreeing with a Quaker who chastised the rich thus: “Because of your much earth, which by fraud, deceit, and oppression you have gotten together, you are exalted above your fellow creatures, and grind the faces of the poor, and they are as slaves under you…” Many Quakers at this stage, had much in common with the Diggers, Ranters and other millenarian sects that wanted to turn “the world upside down” …

Just as the Digger, Gerard Winstanley believed that “Everyone shall look upon each other as equal in the creation”, so Quakers believed in “equality in all things…” as humanity was “of one blood and mould, being the sons of Adam by nature, and all children of god by creation.”

It is, therefore, perhaps, quite logical to imagine a degree of local agreement with the Diggers’ equation of unfair government with the Antichrist: “government that gives liberty to the gentry to have all the earth, and shut out the poor commoners from enjoying any part, ruling by tyrannical law…this is the government of…Antichrist…” (Winstanley). This is an important reminder to us, gentle readers: when we recreate the outlook of our radical forebears, we must remember that their consciousness makes no division between the spiritual and the mundane, between the celestial and the political. We must also remember the gentleness of the Quakers in their daily discourse: then, etiquette demanded that one address a social superior with the word “you”; “thou” was seen as a term of familiarity; needless to say, Quakers used “thou” to all, as a sign of their recognition of the equality of individuals.

But we must still accept that, in general, the Quakers were not quite as radical as the communistic Diggers, with their famous agrarian commune at St. George’s Hill, in Buckinghamshire (although a1659 contemporary viewed a Quaker as “ a sower of sedition, or a subverter of the laws, a turner of the world upside down…”). This is the Digger community that is remembered but a further 10 or so Digger communities were born across England – and in 1650, a “rude multitude” destroyed landlords’ fences near Frampton and Slimbridge. (Slimbridge must have been quite a place then for direct action – similar stuff had happened in the Civil War and as long ago as 1631.) The cavalry had to be called out to quell the disturbances.

It is of importance to note here, that at this stage in the evolution of Quakerism, there was no, as it were, doctrinal commitment to pacifism: we can imagine the support there must have been for the local Diggers. There may also have been passive support for the Leveller Mutiny, whose ringleaders were executed at Burford. There was probably knowledge about, and passive support for the anti-enclosure disturbances in the Forest of Dean; troops had to be called out there too.

For those of us influenced by occult continuities and ley line coincidences, a la Peter Ackroyd and Alfred Watkins, a report by Ben Falconer in the Stroud Life, July 11th, 2012, might be of some interest at this point. Ben describes how the “Slimbridge Dowsers” located a lost village of 35 cottages, a long barrow, and a church that became a chantry in a triangular field called the Leys, at St. Augustine’s Farm, Arlingham. Farmer Rob Jewell said, “Having farmed that field all my life, I knew it was different but I never knew why.” The field is alongside Silver Street, “a pre-Roman track…which runs from Cirencester, through Arlingham to a ford across the Severn to Broadoak on the other side. The church was in alignment with May Hill…” Mr. Jewell went on to say that “It was fascinating. I did not expect anything like it. I could not take it all in. It makes sense…beside an ancient main access.” It would be great if the evidence of the Digger settlement on Slimbridge waste could one day be located; Nigel Costley in “West Country REBELS” says that, “Little is known of the community and it is likely that it was brutally suppressed.” For those two reasons alone, apart from anything else, a pilgrimage to Frampton and Slimbridge is necessary, perhaps with a local Clarion bicycling group.

Whatever: the monarchy returned in 1660 – look out for Charles the Second hiding in trees on inn signs on your future travels. But why not visit Milton Street in Painswick. Reflect on John Milton. The author of Comus, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Areopagitica, The Readie and Easie Way to establish a Free Commonwealth, Samson Agonistes: the poet who denounced censorship; argued for “ a just division of wastes and commons”; who believed that “all men naturally were born free”; the writer of whom Christopher Hill said: “It is Milton’s glory that in the time of utter defeat, when Diggers, Ranters and Levellers were silenced and Quakers had abandoned politics, he kept something of the radical intellectual achievement alive for Blake and many others to quarry.”



Give Thanks to the Book of Trespass

Give Thanks to the Book of Trespass

When you’re walking footloose and fancy-free

Along some seemingly ancient footpath,

Checking your progress on the OS map,

Senses working XTC overtime,

(Apophenia! You’re part of it all! Just look at the view!)

It’s hard to remember that this feeling

Is legal in only eight per cent

Of William Blake’s green and pleasant land.

We have been enclosed by enclosure.

That’s why our footpaths are so circumscribed:

These are not footpaths to high sky freedom,

But meanders into false consciousness

And beguiling illusions of liberty:

Pilgrims’ Progress to Herbert Marcuse’s

Conception of Repressive Tolerance,

And Robert Frost’s poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’.

We look ahead and become accustomed

To the hedges, fences, walls and barbed wire.

It all seems so normal and timeless.

We forget John Clare when near a hedgerow.

And we forget the western cowboy plains,

The industrialised warfare of the western front,

And the colonial subjugation

Symbolised by the silhouette

Of barbed wire stretching into the distance.

It was called No Man’s Land in the First World War.

That land between the lines of barbed wire.

For King and Country.

Well, eight per cent of it.

‘If you want the old battalion,

I know where they are, I know where they are, I know where they are,

If you want to find the old battalion, I know where they are,

They’re hanging on the old barbed wire,

I’ve seen ’em, I’ve seen ’em, hanging on the old barbed wire.

I’ve seen ’em, I’ve seen ’em, hanging on the old barbed wire.’


Written after reading The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes – inspiring! Totally recommended.


Walking the Wall

Walking the Wall from Walbridge to Brimscombe

In the early years of the twentieth century,

A jingoistic electoral cry appeared:

‘We want eight and we won’t wait!’

(The eight being dreadnoughts or battleships),

Well, we waited at Walbridge for a bit

And almost numbered eight before setting forth,

Not as battleships but as messengers of peace,

In an act of global solidarity:

‘Walking the Wall for Palestine’,

With a cold-wind call for Palestinian rights

And a snow-swept local contribution

To the demand for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza.

Our walk conjoined our local landscapes

With echoes of those of Palestine:

We stood beneath the railway viaduct,

Imagining the Separation Wall,

Eight metres high in places,

750 kilometres in length,

Cutting its way deep into the West Bank,

Preventing access to land,

Preventing freedom of movement:

The dystopia of concrete panels,

Electric fences, razor wire, watch towers …

The Apartheid Wall …

The Separation Barrier …

The Security Fence …

We then climbed up through a ghost orchard,

And through the palimpsests of allotments,

Hearing how the right to cultivate

In Palestine is oft times stolen

Through sleight of legal hand,

Legerdemain or worse

(Dissonance in the landscape);

Thence to Rodborough Fort,

Contrasting the memories of camping

For spacious recreation in the field over the wall,

With the imagining of overcrowding

In the refugee camps near Bethlehem …

Dissonance in the landscape …

We then stopped at the so-called Lonely Tree:

Conjoining the status of Rodborough Common

As a Site of Scientific Interest,

With the Israeli practice

Of defining some landscapes as nature reserves,

With consequent eviction of inhabitants

(Dissonance in the landscape) …

And as we stood high in the biting wind,

We caught Theresa’s words in the gusts:

‘Imagine every hilltop with a military or fenced community that starts off as one or two caravans … illegal settlement under international law … Israel provides military protection, settler-only roads, water and electricity …Flags fly from these houses. Palestinians nearby have lost the use of land, face harassment and interference in their daily lives. For example, theft of sheep and goats, worrying with dogs, destruction of wells, chopping down of olive groves etc.’

But we walked on to Winstone’s Ice Cream Factory:

No checkpoints for us or checking of papers,

As we reflected on the difficulties

Palestinians often face

When trying to run cafes and restaurants,

When trying to maintain family ownership

Through the generations and such length of time,

Unlike the ice cream parlour here at Winstone’s,

With its easy and lauded continuity …

Once more, a dissonance in the landscape.

We then made an aqueous descent

To the River Frome and the canal,

Running water everywhere around us,

While we listened to a discourse

Analysing and describing

The punitive inequality

Evidenced in the supply of water and

Its storage, distribution and usage …

I stood on the canal bridge and pondered …

So much of our discussion and peregrination

Had revolved around those fundamental

Half-mythologised four elements:

Fire air, earth and water …

And how on our walk we had enjoyed

The elemental magic of Rodborough Common’s skyscape:

As opposed to elemental appropriation

In far-off but now-conjoined Palestine.

It was a walk with echoes and dissonance:

A topography of limned discordance.

Saddened but wiser, I walked to the Long Table

For a communal bite to eat

And a sharing of thoughts and emotions.

I walked back to Stroud along the towpath,

Flag sodden, but still flying a message of hope.


This is by necessity a linear account. This account misses out so much as it pursues the linear path of our progress– the conversation about the hearts etched outside the subscription rooms … the woman who met us in the fields with such delight … the sharing of hearts and minds … the warmth of commonality and solidarity … the sense of purpose … I could go on and on … a memorable morning.

March 2nd 2024: Walbridge to the Long Table, Brimscombe.


Walking with Charles Dickens

Stickin’ with Dickens by Katie McCue: No Deviations

Stickin’ with Dickens-

In happy anticipation I stepped on to the platform at Paddington station with my two companions.
I was ready and more than willing to put myself in the very capable hands of Stuart Butler to be led on a Dickensian adventure for the day.

What a day! Stuart led us down streets and lanes I didn’t know existed or had paid very little attention to in the past. Fact and fiction blurred beautifully  as we gazed up at the windows of a house Dickens lived in before the Thames was tamed, when its banks were but a stones throw from the house. The river where Gaffer Hexham and his daughter Lizzie rowed in their boat searching out floating corpses to rob in Our Mutual Friend.  That same river where Martha in David Copperfield thought to drown herself.

As we talked and walked on, in my own mind’s eye, I was transforming people into Dickensian folk. It wasn’t hard to do. London’s noise and bustle; workers and walkers, dandies and down-and-outs were everywhere. As my companion said he was always telling people how relevant Dickens is for today. Right on cue, just as Stuart was telling us how Dickens would take the plunge at the Roman Baths we stood before, there huddled in front if its very gate were three homeless people. A Dickensian and sadly 21st century scene before us. One of the men called out to Stuart “Thank you Boss,” as we exchanged greetings. The young woman called out as we headed off “I was only at school for 5 minutes and now I’ve had an education. …….Dickens….I heard all  that” .

As we took to The Strand the pleasing sight of St.Mary’s was ahead of us. I could positively feel Dickens senior newly wed leaving the church when Charles was yet a twinkle in their eye.

Fact and fiction continued to blur gloriously as we stood in front of the lodgings where Pip and the pale young gentleman Herbert Pocket seem to look down at us.
The Old Curiosity shop stood empty…..but was that Little Dorrit hurrying around the corner?

Stuart led us on to Lincoln’s Inn and we spent time remembering Bleak House in which the hearings about the inheritance were held. We remembered too the reality of the undercroft at the chapel next door where babies were left in the hope of being looked after. Stuart told my companion and me how those lucky babies who survived their abandonment were all given the surname Lincoln.

…..but I’m ahead of myself. What fun it was to enter the darkness of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street. The dark wood of the interior enfolded us as we stepped into the bar. I sat where I decided Charles Dickens would have chosen. A settle in the corner almost behind the door facing the roaring fire with heaps of old ash spilling out of the grate. A seat from which to watch those who entered whilst being unobserved myself. A place to consider the potential of each customer as a possible character….yes…surely Dickens would have done this as he drank ale or wine or porter in this very seat.

My account is in no way complete but these are my own “Sketches” of the day. It was wonderful and I can’t resist by ending with a favourite saying of Joe Gargery in Great Expectations: “ Pip old chap…….you and me was ever friends and when you’re well enough to go out for a ride what larks!”

I encourage you all to enjoy a day in Dickens’ London with Stuart Butler for larks of your own.


James has just messaged to say that his son, who is in San Francisco, has just messaged him, describing the homelessness there as Dickensian.

A Ghost Pub Pilgrimage

A Ghost Pub Pilgrimage through Stroud and the Five Valleys
Raising funds for the Trussell Trust in September

Walk and/or bicycle your way through this list of pubs.
Tick them off.
Keep a diary or a record if you wish.
Take photos for the archive.

Let these pub names and addresses
Come alive again
(‘Have another?’
‘I don’t mind if I do.’)
And help us all out in these hard times;
Let’s find them and toast them with imaginary pints
On a series of Ghost Pub Pilgrimages on foot or on bicycle,
And if you know of any other ghost pubs or inns,
Please send them in …

Do the list in any order.
On your own and/or in a group.
And raise funds in any way you wish for the Trussell Trust.

Perhaps you have personal or family memories
Of old times spent in some of these inns:
Got stories to tell? Please send them in.
Perhaps draw pub sign for these lost gathering places,
Or perhaps write a poem about the pub name,
Or have a group rendition of The Listeners by Walter de la Mere.

With thanks to Geoff Sandles
and his invaluable and necessary
Stroud Valley Pubs Through Time
And his wonderful website
And Pubs of the Old Stroud Brewery,
By Wilfred Merrett

Adam & Eve, Paradise, (formerly The Plough Inn), A46
The Bell, (bombed 1941) Bell Street
Bunch of Grapes, Cheltenham Road
Cross Hands, Stammages Lane
Fleece Inn, Bisley Street
Golden Heart, Tibbiwell Street
New Inn, St Mary’s Street
Red Lion
Star Inn, Gloucester Street
White Horse, Vicarage Street

A Ghost Pub Pilgrimage through Stroud and the Five Valleys
Raising funds for the Trussell Trust in September

Walk and/or bicycle your way through this list of pubs.
Tick them off.
Keep a diary or a record if you wish.
Take photos for the archive.

Let these pub names and addresses
Come alive again
(‘Have another?’
‘I don’t mind if I do.’)
And help us all out in these hard times;
Let’s find them and toast them with imaginary pints
On a series of Ghost Pub Pilgrimages on foot or on bicycle,
And if you know of any other ghost pubs or inns,
Please send them in …

Do the list in any order.
On your own and/or in a group.
And raise funds in any way you wish for the Trussell Trust.

Perhaps you have personal or family memories
Of old times spent in some of these inns:
Got stories to tell? Please send them in.
Perhaps draw pub sign for these lost gathering places,
Or perhaps write a poem about the pub name,
Or have a group rendition of The Listeners by Walter de la Mere.

With thanks to Geoff Sandles
and his invaluable and necessary
Stroud Valley Pubs Through Time
And his wonderful website
And Pubs of the Old Stroud Brewery,
By Wilfred Merrett

Adam & Eve, Paradise, (formerly The Plough Inn), A46
The Bell, (bombed 1941) Bell Street
Bunch of Grapes, Cheltenham Road
Cross Hands, Stammages Lane
Fleece Inn, Bisley Street
Golden Heart, Tibbiwell Street
New Inn, St Mary’s Street
Red Lion
Star Inn, Gloucester Street
White Horse, Vicarage Street

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