Friday, 25 January 2013

The Heavens: Saturday January 19th 2013

Landscape Archaeologist, Neil Baker, led about a dozen assorted adults and dogs on a guided tour of The Heavens on Saturday, January 19th. We met outside – I said outside – the Crown and Sceptre at two of the clock, for a two and a half hour stroll and muse. Many thanks to Neil for giving up his time and enriching our eyes and minds; a couple of pints of Budding at the end meant only small beer as payment.
Neil runs a community archaeology group for The Heavens. You can find his number on a leaflet on the Crown and Sceptre notice board. We certainly intend to sign up for such a brilliant project: local history fusing fieldwork, documentation, imagination and literature is right up our street. We are looking forward to Neil's posting of 'Phenomenology, Archaeology and the Landscape' on the blog.
We made notes as we went along about both remains and springs; we intend to walk another part of The Heavens with Neil and then retrace our steps once more. This due diligence, as it were, will hold us in good stead, when we embark on our next Springs Walk on Sunday March 10th (Stroud and its Edgelands , meet outside the Prince Albert at 11.15).
Many thanks to Martin Hoffmann for contributing to the following record of the walk; this re-imagining of landscape, as we walk, is all to the good. As the Stroud Situationists say: “Below the pavements, The Beach! Above the tarmac, The Snow."
Neil took us Walking into the Past

Walking into the Past
On a winter’s day with friends;
The Heavens, where Bisley sat
In the cleavage of the hills.

Sunlight and clean bright water
Pooled together to concentrate life,
To bring man, sheep, grass and stone;
Final gifting, leats, to complete this idyllic painting.

But nostalgia has rubbed out the old noises,
The clatterings, natterings and smashings,
The belchings and smellings
Of smoke and dust from frost cracked stones.

From wheels grinding and spinning,
Weaving and teasing out life
From Blake’s little lambs
'Over the stream and o'er the mead.'

Time passes, erases and changes
Those borders and walls, that noise and smoke,
Leaving only brambles and twists of the stream
Where we clung to life on the sunny side of the hill.

The Heavens

The snow wandered into Stroud on a gusting wind,
Leaving a Lowry scene of red brick factories,
Serrated roofs, and mouldering mills,
All garlanded with icicles.

There was a silence that yearned for horse hooves,
Children tobogganed down car-free roads,
Matchstick women, men and tufted dogs
Tottered along the freezing canal towpath.

The fields at The Heavens were shrouded,
Though Thomas Bewick branches
Etched a tree-tapestry,
Across the muffled, white clad fields.

We walked down Daisy Bank and Spider Lane,
Past medieval window panes and casements,
Beyond the spring line below Field House,
To walk a footpath, once the main route to Lypiatt.

We marked hidden ruins by the first cottages,
The search for water and daylight,
Obvious in the silver afternoon sky
And spring line emerald fronds.

Sliding through the snow drifts,
We reached the site of Wayhouse Mill
And cottages, down by the man-made slopes,
Between the bridge and the telegraph pole.

The forgotten groan of the water wheel,
And the long dead splash of the sluice,
Mournful memories in the wind,
Led us on to Widow Petett’s.

Here, the apothecary gathered waters
For tinctures and medicines,
By Fairy Spring at Turnip End Bottom,
Down by the crossing of the stream.

The hollows and brambles on the other side,
Indicated a sheep-house and springs,
Where seventeenth century residents
Had rights to water and an apple orchard.

The scattered remnants of weavers’ cottages
Came next, up there at Dry Hill,
In the woodland, above the spring line,
There by the ruined walls and wells.

We wandered on through our time line,
Crossing the stream at the water fall,
To drop down into Kinner’s Grove,
And further hidden ruins.

The rivulet was once diverted here,
To long vanished buildings on the right,
Where we sat and stared at the westward sky,
And a red-shift Neolithic sunset.

We climbed back up to Horns Road,
Lowry figures in red brick streets,
Pints of Budding in the Crown and Sceptre,
Reflecting on the past, in the here and now.

Madeleine moments in The Heavens,
The past beneath your footsteps,
For those with eyes to see, ears to hear,
And an archaeologist like Neil Baker.

            Archaeopoetry:  it's the future, present and past ;O)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Map 163

Re-imagining the landscape’s mapping,
Envisioning an old-new cartography:
Erasing the blue of the motorways,
The red and yellow of roads and thoroughfares,
The lines of footpaths, byways, bridleways,
All that pale blue signification
That denotes tourist amenities,
Ignoring those black lines of railway tracks,
Cuttings, embankments, viaducts, tunnels,
The red squares and circles of railway stations,
Along the so-called permanent way,
Bus stations, power lines and pylons,
Then radio masts, television masts,
Churches, chimneys, towns, boundary lines,
An alphabet of abbreviation,
And even symbols of antiquity
Are all immaterial to our search
For thin blue lines issuing from nowhere,
Where William Blake sees the universe,
In tumbling drops of iridescent water.

I wrote the above piece down by the garden pond and distinctly recall that when I got to the lines about William Blake, a busy wind came out of the still nowhere of a still afternoon, and scattered my notes all over the garden. As soon as the wind had done this, it stopped. I wrote these few contextual lines in Sicily,  just after walking up to the medieval battlements above Cephalou, after visiting the Temple of Diana, by way of a Megalithic 3,000 year old shrine to water. I wonder what shrines we once had on what is now map 163.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Toadsmoor Valley Haiku

The following haiku are based around our 12th Night walk and the traditions of turning the world upside down on that day. Commoners became aristocrats, lords and ladies, for one short, if lengthening, day. We maintained that continuity by locating bedraggled, forgotten, unnamed springs in the Toadsmoor Valley and ennobling them with democratically chosen appellations. Pictures, other writings, video and audio recordings will eventually be posted on the website that accompanies this blog at
Next walk is on Sunday March 10th when we meet outside the Albert at 11.15 to recce, record and re-imagine the springs of urban Stroud and its Edgelands.

Gurgling springs and spouts,
Ragged mists and shrouded trees:
The Toadsmoor Valley.

Listen in the woods,
A concerto of water:
Music of the spheres.

Mythopoeic worlds,
Soft, elemental, magic:
Heaven kisses Earth.

Earth returns the kiss,
With a muddied, moist, embrace:
Oozing, trickling, springs.

Anonymous springs,
Ignored genius loci:
Ennobled with names.

‘Bella’,’ Noah’, ‘Bob’,
‘Holly’, ‘Ash’, ‘Forget-Me-Not’,
‘Voles’ Spout ‘ forever.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

12th Night Walk

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 stood in the mud as we talked about how on 12th Night, we would turn the world upside down by discovering the subterranean sources of our civilization, and naming these, up to now, anonymous springs.
Our second spring was named ‘Holly’, where a tincture was bottled and where Shiraz swigged the lot; another tincture was taken. Young people were given the chance to name the third spring and in the interests of gender-balance, we asked for male names: Noah’s Spring and Bob’s Spring duly followed. Another tincture was taken at Noah’s Spring, in a broken bottle, stopped with a mouldering ash twig.
The fifth spring was named Voles’ Spout; the sixth spring was designated Ash Spring; an artificial water-course was called ‘Shiraz’s Fall’. This appellation was made in honour of Shiraz, the only one to seriously slip with theatrical pirouette, in an otherwise safe peregrination.
The seventh spring provided a moral instruction to all those who rush through life, seeking a destination. The majority of the group walked on in that absence of mind that so often accompanies the end of a walk, when thoughts turn to food and drink; the more mindful members of the troupe, pyschogeographically focused on the here and now, noticing the next spring, which was aptly named ‘Forget-Me-Not’. Travellers dropped down into the water to record and video this aquatic issue.
Our eventual intention is to have a springs exhibition in the Brunel Goods Shed, with a cabinet of curiosities of labelled spring water, video installations, audio recordings, oral history reminiscences, creative and historical writings, re-imaginings and a pop-up restaurant.
After that, we leave the search for the natural genius loci of Stroud and the Five Valleys and move on to more conventional radical history. But for the nonce, our next springs walk will be on Sunday March 10th, meeting at 11.15 outside the Prince Albert, when we will map the Urban Springs of Stroud and its Edgelands.