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Laurie Lee country – walking in the Slad Valley

July 13, 2011

A year ago, I was still on a high from walking part of the Lebanon Mountain Trail with Gulf for Good.  My new levels of fitness made me run up steep slopes and desperate to rack up the kilometres across the English countryside – which I did in Gloucestershire, including the Haresfield Beacon, on the Isle of Islay and in Devon and Cornwall.   This July, my first whole day back in England after a year, I was sluggish from the effects of sitting at my desk for hours on end, confined by 40 c and high humidity that summer in Dubai brings (when my dogs refuse to walk and I descend in a downward spiral of lethargy), exacerbated by a seven hour flight on inactivity.  The results from my first 10km run in January were a distant memory.

I hauled my boots out of the cupboard, my sister dusted off our favourite walking book (which we are nerdishly ticking off) and we were driving off into glorious sunshine and the glorious Gloucestershire countryside.  The trees through Cranham cast beautiful dappled shadows on the road, the Cotswold stone of Painswick houses was golden, the views across the fields shimmering. Taking a left as we entered Stroud we climbed the narrow road to Slad – famed for being the birthplace and former home of author Laurie Lee.

I went to his home once as a hanger-on at a teenage party given by his daughter Jessie.  My alcohol fuelled memories are very hazy but I seem to remember he was wearing a white suit that Peter Wingate would have been proud of and was just as inebriated as we were.  The superficial youth that I was failed to grasp the privilege of meeting a living legend and I sloped off.  This lounge lizard image is at odds with the innocent youth of Cider With Rosie where motorised vehicles had yet to arrive in the area and a visitor from Gloucester was a rare occasion.

Slad Valley

Parking at the top of Steanbridge lane (which is anonymous as the sign has gone) and walking down to the start of the footpath took us away from civilisation pretty quickly.  Past a pond, over a stile and we were soon walking through shady trees while enjoying views of sunlit fields.  It wasn’t too hard to imagine this unchanged for nearly 100 years.

Slad ValleyThis four hour walk of 7 miles has some steepish slopes to climb at points as it takes you round the entire Slad Valley, barely seeing a house, road or another person throughout the walk.  There were stiles, meadows, a pond, a lake,  a slippery near-stream of a path, lanes deep in leaves, clay pigeon shooting stands, a junk yard and lots of stone walls.

Slad Valley

Going through one bit of woodland, heard some violent and indignant squeaking coming from the undergrowth.  I stayed still and hope to catch a glimpse of the squabbling rodents but they sensed my presence and were quiet.  In the next field a bird of prey circled way above the trees on the thermals.

Slad Valley

This landscape inspired some of Laurie Lee’s writing:

“But the mole sleeps, and the hedgehog lies curled in a womb of leaves, the bean and the wheat-seed hug their germs in the earth and the stream moves under the ice.”

Slad ValleyThis is not a walk with lots of peering into cottage windows (although there are a few jewels).  It’s a path through a valley frozen in time with view after view – whether the silhouette of a tree or a splendid line of washing.

Slad Valley

The love-hate feeling of climbing another steep incline, calves stretching, heart pounding, lungs gasping, was the best way to catapult me into the feel-good zone.  I like Dubai, but I love England.

The Woolpack

My favourite walks are reasonably challenging, circular and end at a pub. This walk delivered all including The Woolpack in Slad  which had local ales and views out over the valley.

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  1. ian permalink
    May 22, 2013 5:18 pm

    Well done – I live in this valley and run a lot and can see from the pictures that you really explored the hidden parts!

    • May 28, 2013 9:04 am

      Lucky you to live in such a beautiful place. I intend to revisit this summer – one of our favourite walks. Thanks for the comment.


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