Laurie Lee walking the land

Like walking challenges, writers keep popping up at the centre of a walking effort. I ‘did’ Laurie Lee as in Cider with Rosie at school, but he hasn’t troubled me since. What’s occurring?

Laurie left home at 19 years old to begin a journey on foot that would take him initially to London and a year later to Spain. His journey through Spain on the verge of civil war is poignantly illustrated in the second part of his autobiographical trilogy.

Lee’s ‘place’ is the Slad Valley in Gloucestershire. And it’s the centenary of his birth. Walking the Land (Facebook) has a programme of walks:

  • 1 May: Slad Brook from source to confluence: “Without the Slad Brook there would have been no cloth trade in the local valleys around Slad. Without the cloth trade there would have been no riots in Slad and Stroud in 1825…Help us recreate the past along the partially culverted brook with psycho-geographical musings, notes on flora and fauna, together with performance.”
  • 10-17 May: As we walk out: Slad to Southampton: “follows in Laurie Lee’s footsteps, taken in 1934, on the first leg of his visit to pre-Civil War Spain – chronicled in As I walked out one midsummer morning” – see Kel Portman’s Facebook posts
  • 17 May: Wooton under Edge: “takes in the memorial to Thomas Duncombe – a member, like Laurie Lee, of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War”
  • 7 June: Slad to Whiteway Colony: “Whiteway Colony was an active supporter of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War – as was Laurie Lee. The walk will culminate in a number of events at the Colony related to this historical event – from a performance of ‘No Pasaran’ by the Football Poets, to presentations and an exhibition by Colony residents of the role it played during and after the conflict.”
  • 29 June: Slad family walk: “The School, the Squire, the Woolpack, the cottages, the characters… all brought to life when walking on the level. Family-friendly stroll on pavements, through the lanes in and around Slad. Cider with Rosie for those who may or may not be ambulant”
  • 24-25 July: Crossing the border: Pyrenees walk: “a retracing of the walk made by Laurie Lee in 1937 – and vividly documented in both As I walked out one midsummer morning and A moment of war – when he crossed the Pyrenees from France to Spain to join the International Brigades fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War”
  • 6 September: The Art of Walking – exhibition at the Museum in the Park opens; see catalogue

Work produced on walks and journeys will be shown in Stroud’s Museum in the Park between 6 September and 5 October as a part of their exhibition Laurie Lee: poetry, art and landscape. In less bucolic mode, the Guardian reports Laurie Lee’s ‘tangled woods and sprawling fields’ at risk from Cotswold homes plan, with a follow-up on 22 June. More musings: Robert Macfarlane on Laurie in Spain, while Boyd Tonkin on the centenary in Slad, Neil Sentance in Caught by the River.

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