Walking and/or Cycling: Roads and Lanes not Fields
Sometimes, I like to walk paths, lanes and roads, rather than the fields: a route that can also be cycled on another occasion; or held in reserve for a wet winter spell, when the fields are waterlogged. The following is one of my favourites: from Stroud to Selsley and back to Stroud.
1. Start at the bottom of Rodborough Hill and walk along the cycle path –
See the rusting mighty iron capstans,
One, now toppled, but one still firm and strong,
Once used for winching trucks down the gas works siding,
To a coal tippler (concrete remains there still),
Where a hydraulic ram tipped the trucks' coal
Down a chute to a narrow gauge hopper,
And thence over two bridges and the Frome,
To its destination at Stroud Gasworks –
2. When you get to the bridge, climb up to the road to descend towards Sainsbury’s. Have a look at the waters at Dudbridge Flour Mill and the clothier’s marks and doorway set into the Sainsbury’s supermarket wall. You might want to turn right here, to have a look at the waters of the Frome channeled at Dudbridge Mills, and then try to follow its subterranean path to
3. The confluence of the stream from Nailsworth and the River Frome, by the pelican crossing at the bridge. Time for a ponder. Then walk up the hill to find the street sign, Meadow End – there is a tragic history here: http://radicalstroud.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/a-great-war-dudbridge-to-woolwich.html
4. Cross the road to pick up the railway track again. Dudbridge railway station was near the roundabout – lots of industrial blue brick to be seen near the tunnel. Time to climb the hill and pass on your right, the Old Lodge; then the cricket ground; then the Arts and Craftsy looking Old Vicarage on your left before turning right at the junction.
5. There’s an interesting triangle at the junction, but also glance over to your right into the fields below to spot the monument. Take a moment to reflect on how important – and beguiling – this junction could have been for conversation before the motor car.
How many people would have been thronged here, making their way to the 1839 Selsley Hill Chartist meeting …
Carry on past the house – Selsley Green – then on past the farm and Stanley Park to reach the church (All Saints); walk inside and read of its Pre-Raphaelite/William Morris stained glass windows (the Virgin Mary – was the model Lizzy Siddall or Christina Rossetti?); reflect on social class and the Church of England – ‘The Tory Party at prayer’, as it was called by some in the nineteenth century; return outside and take in the view, and The Cheltenham Examiner, 14th of August, 1839:
“A report is current that an anonymous letter has been received by Messrs Marling, of the Ham Mills, desiring them to close their mills on Monday the 12th inst. to give their people an opportunity of keeping the sacred month … unless the request is complied with they are marked men.”
(I remember as a very small boy, sitting at a pub’s outside skittle alley, Vimto (anagram of ?) and crisps, gazing down at the twinkling lights of Stroud, and falling in love with it all. I’m sure the pub was along this road somewhere.)
6. Look at the slightly Thomas Hardy farm on your right; enjoy looking at, and closing, the church gate; take a look at the war memorial and its commanding view – how often war memorials are placed at cross roads … return to the road for another Hardyesque limned farm …
7. And so past Poachers Pocket on your right …
Horsley gaol register GA Ref: Q/Gh/10/2 entry number 780 -
Name: John Flight, aged 30, labourer
Offence: Unlawfully entering certain inclosed land at King Stanley at night with a Gun for the purpose of destroying game.
Order of commitment: Three Calendar months hard labour and to find 2 sureties in the sum of £5 each or one in £10 and by recognisance himself of £10, or further imprisonment 6 cal months hard labour
Magistrate committing: Thos Kingscote Esq; A Shakespeare Esq
Commencement of term: 28 Sept 1835
When discharged: 4 Jan 1836
Remarks: 4 times before vide 641. Taken before Thos KINGSCOTE Esq and found sufficient sureties and was discharged 4 Jan 1836
Memoranda of convictions, general
GA Ref: Q/PC/2/49/A/74 -
Name: James Coleman of Kings Stanley, labourer, for the crime of keeping and using a bludgeon to kill game in Woodchester, dated 18 December 1829 [printed form]
H Burgh, JP, at Stroud.
James Kenyon, gamekeeper of Nympsfield, informer.
Thomas Prout, labourer of Kings Stanley, witness.
Offenders pleaded not guilty.
Fined £5 each
Crime committed 21 November 1829
8. But it was hollyhocks in season as I passed by, and so to Old Church Lane, and on past Old Church Farmhouse (Why Old Church?). Then past Weavers Cottage:
‘I’ll never forget last Tuesday, even if I live to seventy.
We all woke up so excited, never eaten porridge so fast.
We put on our best blouses, aprons and hats
(We mightn’t have looked as fine as Miss Austen’s ladies,
But it’s not as though they’ve got the vote either),
The men shaved their chins, put on their caps,
Moleskin trousers and fustian waistcoats,
And out we strode into the lane.
Such a sight you never did see!
Hundreds of working men, women and children,
All marching in an orderly line past our cottage,
And serpentine lines climbing up every valley side,
There must have been thousands!
All laughing and cheering, but sore determined,
Determined to get our rights and right our wrongs.’
9. Past another grand house on your right and the spring on your left:
Some Five Valley Spring Names
What toponymic messages are sent
When we tramp the lane
Rather than drive the road,
When we disconnect the sat-nav and navigate
By the tracks that connect our ancient springs?
Cherington Springs, Seven Springs, Toadsmoor Brook,
Blanche’s Bank, Baker’s Pool, Frogmarsh Lane,
Snakeshole, Puckshole, Derryhay,
Tankard’s Spring, Dimmel’s Dale, Hell Corner,
Be-Thankful Fountain, The Combs, Severn Waters,
Well Hill Spring, Bubblewell, Troublewell,
The Bubbler, the Blackgutter, Spriggs Well,
Springfield, Springhill, Bulls Bank Common,
Sweetwater Spring, Stanfields Spring, Millbottom,
St. Tabatha’s Well, Cud Well, Gainey’s Well,
Then Verney Spring and Ram Pitch Spring,
Farmhill Well, Double Spout and Turner’s Spring.
Every name a history, every spring a name:
Reclaim the names and etch them on your maps,
Keep the traces of the past as lapidary reminders,
Of otherwise forgotten traces of sense.
Underneath the Pavements, the Beach!
(Does the spring at Selsley West have a name?
Why not give it one, if it doesn’t?)
10. The descent into Middleyard and Kings Stanley seems to take us into a different historical and social ecology: a 17th century chapel; a lane referencing the name PENN (did they meet with the Quakers of Painswick and the Diggers at Slimbridge?); another chapel, red brick; a house down a side street with ‘The People’s Hall’ still legible beneath a coat of paint …
Henry Burgh, May 5th, 1839, in a letter to Lord John Russell: “ I had heard that they were making hand grenades at Wotton-under-Edge where the greatest number of Chartists reside. I employed a person that I could rely on…and find that report not true, but they are making Pikes there and also at Stroud, Cainscross and King’s Stanley.”
Peter Leversage, JP, later in the year: 'It is right to inform your Lordship that a meeting of Chartists was held in the village of King’s Stanley…on Wednesday last at one o’clock in the day … Vincent of notoriety addressed the meeting for about two hours…the only available civil power at our command was two police and a few village Constables, the latter not being a very efficient body, we thought it advisable to request the officer commanding the 12th Lancers now in Stroud to have an Officer and 20 men in readiness should a riot or disturbance take place. We also sent a person whom we could depend upon, to attend and report what took place there. He states that Vincent spoke for two hours “but gave utterance to no sentiment that could be characterised as dangerous, or calculated to lead to a breach of the peace”, also “that the meeting consisted from 300 to 500 persons, the greater part being women and children and they all quietly dispersed at the conclusion of Vincent’s address after singing what was called a Hymn”… Although the addresses do not lead to actual breaches of the peace, I am bound to state my opinion that they leave the minds of the class of persons who attend in a very unsettled and excited state.’
11. I then picked up a road, then track, that led on up to the woods beneath Nympsfield, and then took the right hand path that leads to Leonard Stanley. It leads into what I used to know as Marsh Lane, if it is still called that, and so to the cottages where my gran and gramp (2 Woodland View, Marsh Lane) lived, and Mr. and Mrs. Lusty used to live, half a century ago and more.
11. I plucked up courage to ask the people in the garden about Mr. Lusty and was told he lived to be well over a hundred; both cottages now had solar panels on the roof, and I walked through the gate and along the grassy path to gran and gramp’s old cottage. Onions were laid out in the sun; the apple trees were burgeoning, and I was made very welcome after I introduced myself.
The apple tree that gramp planted when he removed the outside lavatory is still there, and it was probably gramp who filled in the well, over a half a century ago – my sister can’t remember it – but it has been reopened and now used again.
It was a delight to meet Mr. and Mrs. Gibberd, exchange email addresses and learn of Vernon (Gibberd) at http://www.themicrofarm.com/
I talked of train-spotting, bingo and seeing the mosaic at Woodchester Roman villa in the 1960s; Vernon was then in Africa ...
It is, and isn’t, a small world …
12. What next? A walk around medieval and Saxon Leonard Stanley is a must – there is an informative notice board at the church; have a look at the Lusty name on the war memorial; you might have a stop in the White Hart and think of our treat of being allowed INSIDE a pub when we were children, to play table skittles there; or of Stanley Spencer staying there. Or wander down to Gypsy Lane and re-imagine John Clare here:
The Gipsy Camp
“The snow falls deep; the Forest lies alone:
The boy goes hasty for his load of brakes,
Then thinks upon the fire and hurries back;
The Gipsy knocks his hands and tucks them up,
And seeks his squalid camp, half hid in snow,
Beneath the oak, which breaks away the wind,
And bushes close, with snow like hovel warm …”
13. And so back to Stroud – which route? Frocester and the tithe barn and Frocester Court? (1834: John Altham Graham Clarke Frocester Estate: 482 slaves in Jamaica and £8, 934 8s 8d compensation.) Then the canal towpath back for some industrial history?
Or back to Selsley, to follow the Roman and prehistoric track of Water Lane back to Woodchester, and the site of the old church and the Roman Villa? Water Lane connected Bath with the Roman river crossing point of the Severn at Arlingham - in an earlier carnation, it is easy to imagine it as an important track linking tumuli, barrows and sacred spots at Sesley, Minchinhampton, Avening and so on.
Then back to Stroud along the railway line for industrial and textile history.
We’re spoilt for choice – time to get the bike or your boots ready.