Opened to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of renowned Cotswolds poet, novelist, and screenwriter Laurie Lee, the ‘Laurie Lee Wildlife Way’ is a six-mile trail around the Slad Valley.
Created by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust the new six-mile trail traces a route around the Slad Valley – the setting for Laurie Lee’s evocative novel ‘Cider with Rosie’. The circular walk takes in four of the Trust’s nature reserves, including Laurie Lee Wood, and includes ten new ‘poetry posts’ featuring poems by Lee inspired by the Gloucestershire landscape. The poetry trail consists of 10 larch posts, each over five feet tall.
Best-known for his best-selling book ‘Cider with Rosie’ (which was published in America with the title ‘Edge of Day’), Lee first came to live in the tiny Cotswolds village of Slad, two miles north-east of Stroud, at the age of three.
One of eight children, he left home at the age of 19 to seek his fortune busking with his violin, and labouring on building sites in London. In 1935 he famously went to Spain, returning there during the Civil War to help the anti-Fascist cause with the Republican International Brigades. The story of those particular journeys are told in his books ‘As I Walked Out One Morning’, ‘A Rose for Winter’ and ‘A Moment of War’.
But it was the publication of ‘Cider with Rosie’ – recognised, to this day, as a classic – that won him everlasting acclaim, and which tells the story of his early life in Slad through a series of lyrical and vivid recollections. It captured images of village life from a bygone era of innocence and simplicity. The account of his Cotswolds boyhood remains one of the UK’s favourite books, and tells of village life before the invasion of motorcars and farm machines.
His village, and the countryside which surrounds it, has changed little in the intervening period, and is still recognisable to visitors from the way he describes it in his writings. It remains a special village, in an almost secret valley… with one of the most authentic pubs in The Cotswolds!
Lee himself admitted that it took him two years to complete Cider with Rosie, and that it was written three times. But the end result is a lyrical account of lazy, hazy days in The Cotswolds: “The day Rosie Burdock decided to take me in hand was a motionless day of summer, creamy, hazy and amber-coloured, with beech trees standing in heavy sunlight as though clogged with wild wet honey. It was the time of hay-making…”
This was to be his first taste of “never to be forgotten” cider: “That first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, or plump red apples, and Rosie’s burning cheeks….”
‘Cider with Rosie’ made Lee enough money to return to Slad, and he is buried in the churchyard overlooking his beloved Woolpack Inn. A specially commissioned stained glass window in the church stands as a permanent memorial to the author, and visitors can follow footpaths and well-marked trails around the Cotswolds countryside which inspired his writing.
A good starting point to learn more about Laurie Lee is the Museum in the Park, in Stroud, which houses a permanent dedicated display, including a recording of Lee reading from ‘Cider with Rosie’, along with images and objects which celebrate the landscapes that inspired the author.