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 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)