Thursday, 26 June 2014

Laurie Lee and the wonders of Slad Valley


Today would have been Laurie Lee's 100th birthday. Laurie was born in Uplands, Stroud, Gloucestershire and synonymous with the beautiful Slad Valley. Laurie is most famous for his novel, Cider with Rossie, which has also been adapted into a screen play, and for his poetry. His work is very descriptive and conjures pictures in the mind's eye, as all good writers do. I love the Slad Valley and, like Laurie, have fond memories of growing up in the area. My parents still live in Uplands and my mum's family were also born there. Before Uplands' Primary school was built the children in the area, such as my mum, would go to school in Slad. The Old school house is still there today. I'm not sure many youngsters of primary school age would walk that far to go to school today.

As a child I spent much of my time wandering around the Slad Valley, playing in the woods and paddling in Slad brook, with my friend Dianne Close. She lived in a wooden house in the Slad that I would get to by hiking up Folly Lane and taking a right across the fields down toward the Vatch. It had no mains electricity, only a generator. I stayed there a few nights and it seemed like living out in the wild, well to me anyway. We also use to go carol singing, knocking the doors in the village and giggling when they were opened. I think we just about managed to hold a tune. Talking about carol singing, at Uplands County Primary we would perform various musicals and carol concerts. I can remember being very cold shivering in Holy Trinity Church, singing in a Carol concert. Cold because there was, and still is, no central heating, and I had forgotten to wear my vest. I haven't been in the church for years, until last Saturday which marked the Laurie's Centenary anniversary celebrations in the village. How could I resist!

The village was awash with visitors, the Woolpack Pub was packed - although given how small it is that's not difficult. Hmmm.. I wonder if they still do off-sales and sell sweets from the little hatch to the village children. Yep, that's where we spend the carol singing money. One of my old school friends Elaine Day was exhibiting her handcrafted silverware. Such a talented lady. (I use to sit next to Elaine in Maths.) The exhibition is on all week but the valley is there for ever for you to roam. Another childhood memory is cycling up Slad Road to Bulls Cross. It would take an hour or so to get there (being up hill) but only about five minutes to get down. Oh, the joy of the wind in your hair and the sun on your back. So, go for a cycle if you dare.

If you want to know more about Laurie Lee and Slad have a look at the article in the Independent by Boyd Tonkin (just click on the hyperlink). I would love to retire to Slad, that's if they don't build in Baxter's Field! I have also told my husband that when I die (I'm not planning on it just yet) I would like my ashes scattered, or maybe interment here. As a Baptist Minister perhaps you are wondering why I would choose a Church of England graveyard? To me denomination is more about defining my theology rather than saying someone else is wrong or their faith inadequate in some way. I have many friends who are Anglican, Pentecostal, etc. I am also blessed with many friends who would say they have no faith, or who are Pagan. They are still my friends and I still love them, and so does God. 

Getting back to the point, or maybe that was the point, my grand-parents are buried at Holy Trinity. So is Laurie Lee. Laurie's grave has pride of place near the path by the door to the church. To find where my my grandparents are buried you have to take the winding track to the top of the graveyard. Unfortunately, I couldn't find them. It appears the gravestone is missing and the plots are overgrown. I hope I can go back again soon to try again. Remembering loved ones is important, but perhaps, treasuring our family and friends is more important whilst we still have them here to tell them we love them and give them a hug. Perhaps we all need to remember this.

 Who is that in the middle?