Wednesday, 25 April 2012


It was time to do some more serious walking, in preparation for my early May fortnight on the GR65 - only a week to go: help! Caroline was driving that way, so I cadged a lift to the Frogmill Inn. Hoisting a full rucksack onto my back - the first time in two years - I set off up the Gloucestershire Way. The rain began just as I was leaving Foxcote, and - with little let-up - continued till I reached home: eight miles in all. So, it's off to the shops today to buy a waterproof jacket: though my cycling trousers did a great job down below, my mac is useless I discovered. When I bought it, it needed marking for some reason: as the only name tapes we had were Leo's. Caroline duly sewed one on, in the certainty that the mac would never be thought of as his: after all, he was barely more than half my height. That shows how old it is.

More nostalgia: my photograph was taken on the now largely tarmaced drive up from Hilcot to Needlehole. This place, when I was a teenager, I knew, having rattled up there in the back of the Usbornes' Land Rover, not from Hilcot but along a mile of rough track from Seven Springs. It was the most romantic situation you could imagine - high, remote, silent, without electricity. The lease was with Caspar John and family: "When they come down from London, for weekends or holidays, it is as though the Genie of Soho or Fulham Road had suddenly popped the cork." So wrote Annette Macarthur-Onslow, in her charming memoir of the early 'Sixties, "Round House". It ends sadly: "I would, if I could, have stopped time then in that climatic autumn of the third year... The desire to view the landscape from every crest... Now came a new pattern... And over all there strode the pylons, whose grasping shadows cast by steel fretwork, encased smaller checks within the chequerboard of fields. The pylons... erect but not proud, were strange in the habit of strangers who are conquerors rather than friends." Now, Needlehole and Little Needlehole are all tarted up of course, security lights bristling, and completely overshadowed by those power lines.

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