Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The working Cotswolds

With lots of work on my desk and the weather being so dreary, walks outside of the village are sparse. The last one was (spoilt as we are) rather unsatisfactory. It was a new one and we should have done it the other way around, because as Andy observed, most walks have natural directions and had we started where we finished, we'd have had a pub at the end and lovely views to look at, instead of which we had our backs to the landscape most of the time. However, here we were last week in pretty Temple Guiting, before we realised the error of our way (as it were). Even the Cotswolds struggle to look interesting when the clouds are sat on them, but there were points of interest; for instance, someone had been hedge laying, pollarding the nearby trees for material.

There are many different styles of hedge laying, but I could not quite pinpoint this pattern. My knowledge of this old country craft is limited, but for further information there is the National Hedge Laying Society. It seems to just about survive, thanks to renewed interest in the countryside, an acknowledgement that we need hedgerows (and so does wildlife) and invaluable volunteer work.

Where the branches are laid back and not broken, new growth will appear, turning this into a living barrier and if you look at many of our field hedgerows you can clearly discern the pattern of decades old patterns in thickened trunks.

After a rather hairy journey along a road, with car drivers oblivious and uncaring of pedestrians, we were back in fields, plodding up a hilly footpath. I turned round to see the view (which would have been even better had we been coming the other way...) and there is
Jackdaws Castle laid out in all its glory. We are near Cheltenham and this is racing country. Owned by renowned trainer Jonjo O'Neill, these gallops are spectacular - on the home page of the Castle site can be seen a video of jockeys training here. There on the right, the racing tracks, and there on the left, the jumps, (best seen if you click on the picture, which is much larger).

Further along the way, a more mundane Cotswolds activity - not as glamorous but even more vital. Quarrying the soft yellow stone for housing and renovation. It can never be a pretty sight, but it is necessary to keep our region alive and in the traditional manner. This quarry has supplied stone in renovations ranging from the Houses of Parliament to Blenheim Palace.

Hard to get a good look, as sensibly the footpath is well away from the quarry edge and hedged thickly with hawthorns.

And of course, always present no matter where you walk - the favourite of the Cotswolds, sheep. Everywhere.


  1. the Jackdaws Castle photo is wonderful...looks like a painting. Another lovely walk with you and Andy...we must get him to talk more ;-)

  2. forgot to mention that the hedgerows fascinate me...I thought they just grew willy nilly. Had no idea all the planning involved. I always learn something new on your walks!

  3. Really srummie pics, colour is quite superb.

  4. Really scrummy pics, colours superb.

  5. PG, even your backwards walks round your area are full of beauty for this viewer. Thank you again for taking your camera along.

    I'd not before heard the term hedge laying, and was wondering where I could find out more and ... presto. You'd given me an informative link and then given even more information yourself. I just love the photographs of the tangles of branches. Just what insprire me to draw or paint.

    I'll admit that even after my many visits to the countryside, I'd always sort of taken those hedgerows (and their landscape defining beauty and refuge for birds and other fauna) for granted. I just thought (stupidly) that they sort of took care of themselves. Never again. Thank you!

    Thank you also for your comment. I do know how much London has changed over the past decades. On my last visit, I really wondered if I would even want to linger there again for more than a few days. So much of the atmosphere seemed to pasteurized, homoginized, losing its unique flavor.

    So, that's yet another reason why I so appreciate all these walks that you do share. xo

  6. I do love a nicely layed hedge!

  7. Was round by Temple Guiting on the bike last week, have you done around Guiting Power, two lovely pubs there! Love the pics as usual, is this a new site then PG?


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