A stroll through the countryside around Slad, backcloth to Laurie Lee's most popular novel.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 425ft (130m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Tracks, fields and quiet lanes, 13 stiles
Landscape Hills, valleys and woodland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 179 Gloucester, Cheltenham & Stroud
Start/finish SO 878087
Dog friendliness Mostly off leads - livestock encountered occasionally
Parking Lay-by at Bull's Cross
Public toilets None on route
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 From Bull's Cross walk to the end of the lay-by (going south) and turn left on to a tarmac-covered drive. Follow it down and, immediately before some buildings, turn left over a stile into a field. Go half right, down the field and up the other side, to a gate at the top. Turn left along a track. Where it joins another track stay right and continue to a lane.
2 Turn right and walk to the bottom. Pass between a large pond and Steanbridge Mill. If you want to visit Slad, follow the lane into the village. To continue the walk turn left immediately after the pond and walk to a stile. Cross into a field, with a hedge on your right, and continue to a stile at the top.
3 Cross and follow a path to another stile. Cross the next field and another stile, then continue as the path curves right towards a farm. Pass through a gate on to a track, stay to the right of Furners Farm and curve left. About 30yds (27m) after the curve turn right over a stile on to a wooded path and then, after a few paces, go right again over a stile into a field. Walk ahead, with the farm above you to the right. Cross another stile and then keep to the right of a pond.
4 At the top of the pond cross a stile into a field. Go half left across it to a gate and stile. In the next field head straight across its lower part. At a point where a telegraph pole almost meets a hedge, turn right over a stile on to a track. Turn left to meet a lane.
5 Turn right and follow the lane to the valley bottom. Start to climb the other side and at a corner go over a stile on your right. Ascend steeply to another stile at the road. Turn right along the pavement. After 150yds (137m) cross to a footpath and climb steeply. At a junction of paths bear left and continue to a field. Follow the margin of the field up, then follow the path as it weaves in and out of woodland.
6 At the top turn right on to Folly Lane and continue to a junction. If you want to go into Slad, turn right, otherwise continue ahead on to a path that will soon take you into woodland. Walk through the woods, finally emerging at your starting point at Bull's Cross.
The Slad Valley is one of the least spoiled parts of the Cotswolds, notwithstanding its invariable association with the area's most important literary figure, the poet Laurie Lee (1914-97). And yet he is not instantly remembered for his poetry but for Cider With Rosie (1959). This autobiographical account of a Cotswold childhood has, for thousands of students, been part of their English Literature syllabus.
For anyone coming to the area, Cider With Rosie is well worth reading, but it is especially pertinent here as it is largely set in Slad, where Lee was brought up and lived for much of his life. The book charts, in poetic language, the experiences of a child living in a world that is within living memory and yet has quite disappeared. Some of the episodes recounted in the book are said to have been products of Lee's imagination but, as he said himself, it was the 'feeling' of his childhood that he was endeavouring to capture.
The story of his life is, anyway, an interesting one. He spent a considerable time in Spain and became involved in the Spanish Civil War and the struggle against Franco. Afterwards he established a reputation as a poet, mixing with the literati of the day. He was never very prolific - much of his energy appears to have been poured into love affairs. He did, however, write plays for radio and was involved in film-making during the Second World War. But it was with the publication of Cider With Rosie that he became a household name. Readers from all over the world identified with his magical evocation of rural English life and the book has not been out of print since. To some extent Lee became a prisoner of a Cider with Rosie industry. The picture of an avuncular figure living a bucolic idyll was not a strictly accurate one - much of his time was spent in London. He was susceptible to illness all his life. Nonetheless, in his later years he managed to complete his autobiographical trilogy. His second volume, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969) describes his journey from Gloucestershire to Spain as an itinerant fiddle player. The third, A Moment of War (1991), recounts his experiences there during the Civil War. Lee died in 1997 and is buried in Slad churchyard. Many of the places in and around the village mentioned in Cider With Rosie are readily identifiable today. Although it is no longer possible to frolic in the roads with impunity, the valley remains as beautiful as it ever was.
In its heyday Stroud was the centre of the 19th-century wool weaving industry. The small town centre offers a pleasant stroll featuring the Shambles, the Town Hall and the Subscription Rooms. There are a couple of museums to enjoy, including the Stroud Museum and the Industrial Museum.
There are a number of landmarks on or near the walk that are readily associated with Cider With Rosie, including Steanbridge Mill. From Folly Lane, a short distance south of where you join it, there are often excellent views across to the River Severn and its bridges.
The Woolpack in Slad features in Cider With Rosie. Laurie Lee was a regular there in his later years. It has since become well-known for its food. In the neighbouring village of Sheepscombe is the Butcher's Arms.