Ambling through autumn
An atmospheric walk around the lovely Slad Valley in the footsteps of the poet Frances Horovitz
Frances Horovitz was a poet, broadcaster and performer of poetry who made her home in the Slad Valley immortalised by Laurie Lee in Cider with Rosie, and part of a significant literary presence that still continues there to this day. After growing up in post-war Walthamstow, Frances escaped to Bristol, where she studied English and Drama – meeting Henry Woolf and Harold Pinter. From there, she went to RADA – in the same year as the late great John Hurt – where she developed her beautiful reading voice. It is said that she ‘possess[ed] a rare ability to hear a poem and become its voice.’ While in studying in London she met her future husband, Michael Horovitz in 1960, and they married in 1964. She started to record poetry for BBC radio (working with producer George Macbeth) and began to write her own. Bristol was the hub of the Beeb’s poetry output (as it remains to this day), so the Horovitzs’ moved out of London to the area after being attracted by an enticing advert: ‘Cotswold cottage going for a song’. Here she made her home and it remains in the family to this day. She published four collections of poems, including Water Over Stone (Enitharmon Press, 1980) and Snow Light, Water Light (Bloodaxe Books, 1983). She died in 1983, aged 45, after a long illness. She is survived by her son Adam Horovitz, an accomplished poet in his own right. Much loved and missed, she is held in high regard by bards the ilk of Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke. The poet and critic Peter Levi described Frances’ poetry as having ‘perfect rhythm, great delicacy and a rather Chinese yet very locally British sense of landscape.’ This can be experienced by reading her poetry out loud, especially in situ – so if you can locate a copy of her Collected Poems (edited by her second husband, Roger Garffitt) bring one along to read out. The effect can be spine-tingling and one is reminded that the lovely Slad Valley is saturated in the words, art and memories of many creative souls.
Above: Frances Horovitz, by Kevan Manwaring
Below: Piedmont Bottom: The claggy lane from the Dillay
Laurie Lee post, and view across Slad
King Charles Lane, Slad Valley