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Laurie Lee walk

November 17, 2014

Slad valley

The “young apologist” brought in to replace the true believing vicar in Cider with Rosie (p222) was my grandfather, Cyril Hodson. My mother Helen was too young to remember much of Laurie Lee, but his redoubtable mother, Mrs Lee, made an impression. So when a route was marked out in the Slad valley to celebrate the author’s centenary (click here) her three sons walked it.

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Ignore the marker at Bulls Cross car park, walk 50 yards north on the B470, and turn right down a wooded track to the dam in the valley.  A hard pull up the other side takes you into the isolated Dillay Brook valley. Some signs have been vandalised – someone dislikes tourists – but who cares.

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It’s a perfect walk.

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But the poems set into each marker post aren’t a patch on his two great “coming-of-age” books CWR and As I Walked out One Midsummer Morning. Here’s one.


Behold the apples’ rounded worlds:
juice-green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers, the rind
mapped with its crimson stain.

The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.

They lie as wanton as they fall,
and where they fall and break,
the stallion clamps his crunching jaws,
the starling stabs his beak.

In each plump gourd the cidery bite
of boys’ teeth tears the skin;
the waltzing wasp consumes his share,
the bent worm enters in.

I, with as easy hunger, take
entire my season’s dole;
welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour,
the hollow and the whole.

So much is wrong; the forced rhyme of “dole”, “the cidery bite/of boys’ teeth” – who bites into a fermenting apple? Was repetition of “fall” unavoidable? Does he really eat hollowed out and sour apples?

In 1936 the young apologist climbed the steeple at nearby Uplands church to place the weather vane on top (click here), and 78 years later we toasted him in The Woolpack’s excellent cider.


Jim Thornton



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