Or Snowdrops, Blissful Ignorance and the Wrong Side of the Valley…
It rains in the night and we lie in the dark listening to the raindrops beating on the roof.
We wake to a grey, cold morning and decide breakfast in bed is the only answer.
We head through Stroud and then uphill to Slad where we park outside the church and visit Laurie Lee’s grave overlooking his beloved valley.
He described it as “narrow, steep and almost entirely cut off; [and as] a funnel for winds, a channel for floods and a jungly, bird- crammed, insect hopping sun-trap whenever there happened to be sun. Our horizon of woods was the limit of our world”.
Today it is leafless, sunless and totally devoid of any colour except for the stark white of the banks of snowdrops that glow on the verges.
We pass Rosebank Cottage, Laurie’s first home in Slad and then Steanbridge House, the Big House where Squire Jones threw village parties.
We pass the duck pond and head uphill through ankle deep mud before following a track through trees.
Catswood is the home of the legendary two-headed sheep which lived among the larches and is only visible during lightening flashes. It is said to sing in a double voice and can tell you the date and manner of your death. Luckily there is no sign of any living thing, two headed or otherwise and we can remain in blissful ignorance.
It is about here that we later decide we must have taken a wrong turn as the geography starts to make no sense. Hills and woods are not where they should be. We turn the map upside down but it doesn’t help. This walk is not from our usual books and Darrell suggests chucking it in the hedge.
I don’t give up hope that suddenly all will be well until Stroud appears through the mist and it we realise we should actually be on the other side of the valley!
It begins to snow so we cut our losses and with the aid of the GPS work out a route back.
We cross fields and follow paths better suited to the Somme, before walking through a farm housing a circus in its Winter quarters. More fields and swamp like paths follow, before we enter Slad by the very, very muddy back door.
We meet a group sporting clean, expensive looking and totally impractical footwear. I suggest they don’t attempt going any further. They look down at our caked boots and gaiters, shake their heads and decide as one to immediately return to the pub.
A very wise decision as it turns out, for just as we arrive back at Monty the hills disappear behind a curtain of rain that comes up the valley towards us.