50 Walks in Gloucestershire

The Slad Valley and Cider with Rosie

Try this sample walk from the latest edition of 50 Walks in Gloucestershire.

About 50 Walks in Gloucestershire

Walking is one of Britain's favourite leisure activities, and this guide to Gloucestershire features 50 mapped walks from 2 to 10 miles, to suit all abilities.

The book features all the practical detail you need, including:

  • fascinating background reading on the history and wildlife of the area,
  • clear OS-based mapping for ease of use,
  • every route has been colour coded according to difficulty,
  • annotations for local points of interest and places to stop for refreshments,
  • summary of distance, time, gradient, level of difficulty, type of surface and access, landscape, dog friendliness, parking and public toilets.

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Sample walk: The Slad Valley and Cider with Rosie

  • Distance: 3.75 miles (6km)
  • Minimum Time: 2hrs
  • Ascent: 700 feet (213m)
  • Gradient: 2
  • Difficulty: 1
  • Paths: Track, fields and quiet lanes, many stiles
  • Landscape: Hills, valleys and woodland
  • Suggested Map: OS Explorer 179 Gloucester, Cheltenham & Stroud
  • Start Grid Reference: SO877087
  • Dog Friendliness: Lead required around livestock
  • Parking: Lay-by at Bulls Cross
  • Public Toilet: None on route
Background reading

The Slad Valley is one of the least spoiled parts of the Cotswolds, notwithstanding its 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 his enchanting book, Cider With Rosie. This autobiographical account of a Cotswold childhood has, for thousands of students, been part of their English Literature syllabus. A childhood gone forever For anyone visiting 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. A Spanish odyssey The story of his life is, anyway, an interesting one. Lee 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 – but he wrote plays for radio and was involved in film-making during World War II. It was with the publication of Cider With Rosie in 1959 that Laurie Lee 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 the author's time was spent in London. He was susceptible to illness all his life, but in his later years he managed to complete his autobiographical trilogy. The second volume, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, published in 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.

  1. From Bulls Cross walk to the south end of the lay-by and turn left onto a tarmac-covered footpath, the Wysis Way. Follow it down and, immediately before Trillgate Farm, turn left over a stile into a field. Go half right down the field to a stile and gate, then continue up the field to a gate at the top and 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 Steanbridge Mill, ignoring a restricted byway soon after on the left. If you want to visit Slad, follow the lane into the village, otherwise turn left along a second restricted byway immediately after a large 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 along the right-hand woodland edge to another stile. Follow the left side of the next field and go over another stile, then continue along the path to a stile and gate. Keep ahead through a gate onto a track, staying to the right of Fletcher's Knapp and curving left. About 30yds (27m) after the curve, turn right onto a wooded path and after 130yds (118m) go right again over a stile into a field. Walk ahead, with the farm above you and to the right. Cross another stile and then keep to the right of a small pond.
  4. At the top of the pond cross a stile into a field. Go straight across it to a gate and stile. In the next field head straight across its lower part. Where the field narrows, go down to cross a stile on the right by a gate and on to a surfaced 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 by The Vatch Cottage. Ascend steeply, skirting the garden, to another stile at the road. Turn right along the pavement. After 150yds (137m), bear left onto a public footpath and climb steeply. At a junction with a track, bear left and continue to a field. Follow the right margin of the field up to a stile, then follow the path as it weaves between a fence and dry-stone wall along the edge of woodland.
  6. At the top go over a stile, turn right onto 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 through the Frith Wood Nature Reserve. Walk through the woods, finally emerging at your starting point at Bulls Cross.
While you're there

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. The Museum in the Park has some excellent displays of local history.

Where to eat and drink

The Woolpack Inn in Slad features in Cider With Rosie. Laurie Lee was a regular there in his later years, and they have a small collection of his books. In the neighbouring village of Sheepscombe, good food can be found at the Butchers Arms.

What to look out for

There are a number of landmarks on or near the walk that are readily associated with Cider With Rosie, including Steanbridge Mill. The church at Slad contains an evocative display about the life of Laurie Lee. Also worth a visit is the Laurie Lee Wood, a beautiful 7-acre (3ha) ancient woodland set up by Laurie Lee's widow and daughter, which is full of native flora and fauna, including rare species such as white helleborine, with bluebells in spring. It is beside Swift's Hill nature reserve.

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