So this time it was my turn to go in search of Laurie Lee, on foot, in the company of our local U3A walking group, who welcomed me warmly on my first outing with them and provided excellent company along the way. Of course not all of these seasoned ramblers were interested in the literary connections of the Slad Valley, so three cheers for our leader Lynne who decided that poetry would be part of the day and invited us all to take a turn reading the poems on the trail.
I was first up and found myself reading Equinox , an autumnal reflection (in keeping with the weather!) which made for a sobering start:
Time when the gourd upon the ground
Cracks open kernel or decay
Indifferent to man or worm
The poems are cunningly etched onto perspex windows on the wayside posts so that you seem to read them through the the backdrop of forest, meadow and sky. I think we were all surprised at how many of the poems had an elegiac quality but all of them – including my favourite Home from Abroad – were a wonderful celebration of the landscape around us. For those who were interested – and there were some Lee fans amongst us – I also provided an enthusiastic review of Paul Murphy’s book!
If you decide to do this walk, allow four hours unless unlike me you are a seasoned yomper or can do without pit stops, and make sure you have the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust map. There’s also a nice description of the whole route with some great photos on the Cotswold Life website.
Of course we should have finished up at the Woolpack, Laurie Lee’s local pub, but that wasn’t part of the plan and I was already overdue for a meeting with John Holland, writer and organiser of Stroud Short Stories, which turned into a whistlestop conversational tour of writing, performing and previous lives. All highly enjoyable! But the principal outcome was bringing home a copy of the new Stroud Short Stories anthology, a chance to read many writers for the first time and to ‘listen again’ to the brilliant contributions from Alice Jolly, Nimue Brown, Andrew Stevenson, Joe Eurell and the others who read with me last November.
What better proof is there,if we needed it, that literature in all its forms is is still very much part of the Gloucestershire landscape?