Slow Cotswolds

  • Still time to catch Cider With Rosie

    Did you miss last month's BBC adaptation of Laurie Lee's Cider With Rosie? If so, you have until Tuesday (27th) to watch it on BBC iPlayer. Despite big name actors like Samantha Morton, June Whitfield and Annette Crosbie, the star of the production is the Cotswolds.

    Cider With Rosie is the first in a trilogy of autobiographical works by Laurie Lee, evocatively reminiscing about his childhood and youth in the Slad Valley (pages 187-193), close to Stroud, where he was brought up among his brothers and sisters. His words are sheer poetry and much of these hauntingly beautiful lines come across in the dialogue of the adaptation.

    Better than watching the production on screen, though, is to visit the very places where it was filmed, or indeed visit the places where Laurie Lee describes so effectively in his autobiography. Places like Bulls Cross, a meeting of roads between the Slad and Painswick Valleys. In his childhood days, he talks of it as a disturbing, frightening place where no youngster dared to go, least of all in the dead of night. Today it's a place where you can park the car and take wonderful walks along the Slad Valley, just as Laurie Lee did regularly. For, while he grew up in the Slad Valley, he also returned there as a man. A regular in The Woolpack, Slad's village pub, he is buried in the neighbouring churchyard, overlooking both his favourite pub and valley.

    The BBC adaptation, while filmed partly in the Slad Valley used the nearby village of Miserden (pages 183-4)to represent Slad. Miserden is an estate village, a quiet backwater that is immensely picturesque - more so indeed than Slad that, over time, has succumbed to more recent housing development, something that Laurie Lee was desperate to contain. Wander through Miserden and you'll find the buildings used in the adaptation - the pub (actually named The Carpenter's Arms and which became The Woolpack during filming), the village hall that became the Laurie Lee's school and the charming village lanes.

    As for the Slad Valley, there are numerous circular walks you can take to explore the beauty of this 'bean pod' valley, including the Laurie Lee Wildlife Way, a walking trail, created to celebrate the centenary of the author's birth in 2014, which takes you to many places poignant to Lee's life. Along the way you'll come across 11 wooden 'poetry posts', each one offering a poem by Lee.

    Just last week I walked north from Slad along Steansbridge Lane towards Down Hill. There was a pristine blue sky with autumnal colours hugging the hedgerows and blackberries to sweeten the tongue when the uphill climb became a little tougher. The lower slopes of the valley refused to give up its misty comfort blanket to reveal its inner beauty, while the northerly upper slopes, padded with beech trees almost to the valley floor, kept their secrets hidden among the branches.

    If you don't get to watch the BBC adaptation in time, never fear. For visiting the real thing provides the best panoramic screen.

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