Friday, 18 September 2009

Hailes Abbey walk Sep 15



We have been having a holiday from home and indulging in some serious exploring and walking. Tuesday found us across the border to an area near Cheltenham called
Hailes Abbey. Though the abbey itself lies in ruins, what remains is preserved by English Heritage, and has a rich history. Our interests lay rather more prosaically in the five mile round walk we had planned. The weather was grey and grim, a blustery wind ripping the warmth from our cheeks, but there were still swallows bravely swooping low over the ploughed fields. We plodded along field footpaths, past a sleepy village, past two dead sheep and through a cluster of cottages which led us to the bottom of our goal.


The hill. It is a big hill. It is also part of the
Cotswold Way, a popular walking route which takes in many historic sites. Once we had left the path, seen below to the left, it was steep clambering up the grassy slope, stopping every so often to turn round and admire the views.
Even on a dull day, the Malvern Hills - the pale strips in the distance - can be clearly seen.

Nearer the top and along the route, a gorgeous old pile of a farmhouse, settled into the rolling fields with sheep grazing nearby.

Someone has cleverly sunk a little swimming pool into the side of the hill, and one can only imagine what it must be like to float about on a hot day, with the abundant views.
It was a trek and a half. At last I looked up to see Andy comfortably perched on the bench at the top and I blessed the person who had placed it there; it was dedicated to 'Pinky Dickins, who lived here for 26 happy years with her family and her horses'.
We gulped down watery hot chocolate from a thermos and cold sausage rolls, nosying at the doll's house sized country pile below, with it's black Labrador guarding the drive.


We enjoyed more views. I sighed for a wide angle lens.



Now we were back on the flat, walking along the top of our hill. Down a mercifully easy track...



...past a jumble of farm buildings, this hut traditionally held up by stone 'mushrooms' more properly known as
staddle stones, keeping water and rats out.



The lane leads to a wide series of fields, across which the wind whips fiercely; here are earthworks and a surprise - a newly planted avenue of trees. They march all the way from a lake at
Stanway House, just visible, a tiny grey block mid-distance...


...and they continued their parade up to the very field we were stood in, disappearing over the horizon. I was torn between admiration for such an ambitious project, and regretful that the bleak, bare beauty of Beckbury Camp had been interrupted and would one day be divided.



Past the earthworks, jutting up from the ground like the backbone of a long dead prehistoric
creature...


...and on to the copse of steely grey beech trees, locally known as 'Cromwell's Clump'. from where
Thomas Cromwell (not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell) is rumoured to have watched the dismantling - or destruction - of Hailes Abbey. In a nutshell, Cromwell had compiled a report for Henry the Eighth, observing that the monastries, of which there were many in England at the time, were doing very well for themselves; maybe some of them could be closed, their lands and wealth seized and liberated to the benefit of the crown. Hence the Dissolution of the Monastries. Or state theft, as it might be regarded today.



Gusting winds have torn one of these old giants to the ground and whipped the trunks into contorted, outsized candy canes.



Overlooking Hailes Abbey and Malvern - wait for me, Andy!


The fields led to a little wooded track running along the side of a fruit farm, which would eventually lead us back to our starting point in Hailes.


Growing along the hedgerow we found, to our foraging joy, many plum trees laden with fruit. A few brisk shakes brought down showers of ripe plums, now simmering away to make pots of sweet, fruity chutney in time for Christmas.

7 comments:

  1. Gretel, did you happen upon Elinor or Marianne Dashwood while strolling along those lovely paths? Your photos and narration made me smile from ear to ear. Like stepping back in time. I can almost see the owners of those pretty little cottages stoking the morning fire to take away the chill in the air. You are so very lucky to have such antique beauty all around you...savor it and pray it will still be there for many more generations.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your walk with us Gretel. What truly beautiful countryside and gorgeous narrative too :-)

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  3. My goodness, what beauty surrounds you. Thank you for taking your trusty camera along on that trek.

    I am thinking that you must be getting very fit with all this exercise! Well done.

    I had never before heard of staddle stones. Thank you, Professor!

    Seeing that long parade formation of newly planted trees did seem a bit odd as it crossed the existing green landscape markers. Must be a story behind those trees.

    And lucky you and Andy to find those plums.

    It amazes me that you all could have such a long walk and be pretty much on your own throughout the entire route. Bliss!

    xo

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  4. Such beautiful pictures and what a great "walk".

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  5. Wow. I love your writing and photos .......

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  6. these appear to be the perfect plums for a great plum loaf...I'm busy making as many as I can with what I can buy at this time of the year. The Italian prune plums as they are called... I have a recipe on my blog if you get a chance to look..


    Prune Nut Loaf

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