The Road to Gloucester (Day 134) August 9th
By Steph Bradley 12th August 2010
The morning starts with a wonderful breakfast of muesli, seeds, nuts, and freshly picked raspberries, with local apple juice from Michael and Chrissie’s farm, Bentley’s.
Ken and Anni are off singing in Gloucester and leave me to catch up on my writing; today’s; walk is also short; 10 miles to the outskirts of Gloucester. Ken leaves me with the local paper, the Forester; for in it is the fortnightly article written by Transition Newent member Chris Wooldridge. In this week’s slot he talks of tasty local apricots and an invitation to eat sweet local fruit rather than teh tasteless packaged supermarket variety. Chris’ style is great; accessible yet authoritative, you can read July’s offering here
As I catch up with my writing Ken forwards me an e mail fresh in from the Kempley group about their local produce market. It sounds great, it includes a bring and swop or simply leave your surplus and take what you need table, a recipe swop, lots of local produce including chestnut mushrooms, local free range eggs , ice cream, fruit and veg, and homemade jams and chutneys, as well as a market café to network at and meet friends old and new. If you’re local or happen to be in the area it’s this Saturday at the village hall from 9.30am.
After a delicious lunch predominantly picked from the garden Anni walks me along the local paths to the lane I will follow until almost in Highnam, on the outskirts of Gloucester, my next transition place. As we walk we talk about our lives a little and Anni tells me about her love for willow weaving and its flexibility. She has already woven her coffin and attracted a lot of attention for doing so, including from the BBC, for she was only 50 at the time, but what most struck her was how afraid of death most people are, and how reluctant they are to talk about it, and we wonder why. It was, however, lovely for some people to be able to talk to her about deaths they had experienced, and she felt that was a relief for them. It is interesting why this very natural part of the life cycle has become a taboo subject in our culture.
On our walk Anni is able to point out May Hill to me; this local focal point of traditional festivities is visible for miles around. We can also see the distant misty black hills of Wales from whence I came, and the approaching Cotswolds to where I am soon to be headed.
At the start of the lane Anni tales her leave of me and wend my way to Gloucester. From here on in the walk is not so nice, many of the home owners keep fierce guard dogs that appear to believe it is their duty to guard the public road as well as their owners precious property, and once off back roads and nearing Highnam I hit the dreaded B road my host for tonight Sara Keene has warned me about. The highlight of the walk are the tiny Mirabelle plums that are strewn across the pavement at Tibberton, quite delicious, and I discover that plums are much nicer and sweeter if eaten raw and not stewed, which I have never enjoyed.
The B4216 between Tibberton and Gloucester is not to be recommended, for walkers, cyclists, or indeed donkeys. Sara, and 4 year old daughter Rosa, passed by here just a few days before, accompanying a troupe of 4 donkeys, a cart, and a group of young people, children, and a resident artist, on a 6 week walk around Gloucestershire called “As I walked out” (www.asiwalkedout.com ) performing at the six different parishes of the county. They christened this the nightmare road, and I understand why. The car users here are for the most part not considerate, they just want to reach the city, and although, thankfully there is a verge along nearly all of it, it is rough and full of holes hidden beneath the tufts of grass, and a hazard to be negotiated with as much care as the road itself. I can only hope the experiences of its recent visitors will prompt Gloucester’s council to think about putting in a pavement. The proximity of the public footpath is no real help, it starts out promisingly enough, running as it does along the path of a disused railway, and full of rabbits playing, but it comes to an abrupt end half a mile later, the track full of shoulder high undergrowth, and the path resumes continues through farmland, but there is no clear path visible through the fields so that only a local would know the way across, and this way would be of no help to horse riders or cyclists.
Sara, on her way to pick up her daughter from her granny’s, stops when she recognises me and takes my pack for me the last mile or so and the road seems slightly wider now and eventually a pavement begins which I can follow all the way to her house, one of two original farm workers’ houses that once lay on a farm lane by a back road and that now are skirted by the dread B that the lane has become, and the dual carriageway into Gloucester that that the back road had become! This has had the effect of cutting of the two houses with their lovely big gardens from not only the farm across the way but also from the rest of the village of Highnam. I recall Forest Row down in Sussex, and the busy main road that cuts the village in two, and wonder, not for the first time, how we have allowed a situation to arise where folk who only think with half their brain, the left side, to make important decisions like where roads should lie.
Rosa shows me to my bedroom, and then we all have dinner and afterwards sing songs. I teach them Bella Mama, and Rosa sings us a song from her Steiner kindergarten about asking folk where they have come from, across land or sea, and where do they belong. It is a beautiful song about honouring all the different peoples and the places they come from, and I wish I could remember the lyrics to reproduce them for you here. If you are reading this Sara, maybe you could help?
Sara works on biodynamic farm in the Forest of Dean, close to where Rosa goes to Kindergarten. She tells me about her brother’s farm just across the way that is not organic but still follows the modern traditional “tractor and chemical” it’s all about growing money approach. She is slightly heartened though to know that he has recently employed Mo, an organic grower, who has been doing the food miles project with the mother and toddler group Ken and Anni were telling me about. The farm, left to Sara’s brother, whilst she was only given a farm worker’s house, being just the girl, do organise school trips around the site and have educational workshops running now so maybe things are beginning to change.
We all go off to bed early, tired after our different days, although Rosa is reluctant to go to bed, it is exciting to have a visitor in the house!