Secret Slad: Laurie Lee and the Cotswolds
While many visitors head to Bourton-on-the-Water or Castle Combe, there are dozens more Cotswolds villages waiting to be discovered. Here, we explore Slad
Words by Carolyn Boyd
Slad is perhaps the worst-kept secret among the Cotswolds’ hidden villages. Set in the picturesque Slad Valley, literature lovers will know it thanks to renowned writer Laurie Lee, who lived here with his family in the early 20th century. His best-known book, Cider with Rosie, captures an innocent time before cars, streetlights, radio and television, and although the world has moved on, it’s easy to imagine the place as Lee saw it, such is the unspoiled nature of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that surrounds Slad.
Take a walk in the Laurie Lee Wood, three acres of woodland close to the village, or follow the five-mile walking trail The Laurie Lee Wildlife Way, where 10 poetry posts punctuate the route, each featuring Lee’s poems which bring the landscape to life.
Lee died in 1997, but he is well remembered in the 200-year-old Woolpack Inn, the village’s rustic pub where he would hold court in the back room. With creaking floorboards and an open fire, the Woolpack maintains a charm so often lost in other Cotswolds gastropubs after frequent refurbishments.
Across the road from the Woolpack, the small school house was where Lee and his siblings studied during a childhood so evocatively told in Cider With Rosie. Just a few steps away, up the sloping path to the Holy Trinity Church’s front door, is the churchyard where Lee is buried beneath a gravestone decorated with roses.
Lesley Southgate, author of Cotswolds blog Amble Pie: “I like to sit by the fire in The Bell at Sapperton after a walk through the nearby valley, where you’ll find the abandoned canals of the Severn and Thames. Foston’s Ash Inn, beside the National Trust’s Ebworth estate, also has a homely feel and hearty food.
“Walkers should pack sturdy shoes and explore part of the Winchcombe Way trail. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, tuck into a delicious three-course meal at Wesley House in Winchcombe, where you can also taste the local Cotswolds gin.”