From The Woolpack, Slad, head north up the High Street past the church. Continue up the lane until it comes to a fork. Take the right-hand fork down the slope and follow this as it bends to the right. Keep following it down and along the bottom of the Slad Valley, passing the charming Steanbridge Mill, Dillay Brook and orchard.
Proceed up the lane as it climbs the hill – keep on the lane as it passes a farm and a lovely manor house, until you reach a fork where there is a bench on the brow of the hill. Catch your breath here if you need to before taking the right-hand fork, which plunges steeply downwards in a south-south-easterly direction.
Keep following the path down the valley, across the field, until you come to the Dillay Brook. This can be muddy here, so watch your step. There’s a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust interpretation board and shelter just beyond the metal gate on your right if you wish to traverse the usual quagmire, but the route continues straight across the brook, heading east (follow the Wysis Way signs). Through the gate you
climb through a field, ensuring to take the left path that takes you south-east (not north-east).
Keep following this at it enters the wooded combe of Piedmont. You should see a few scattered cottages. Once a whole community of weavers lived here, and this was the former home of Frances Horovitz.
Walk past the old chapel and weavers cottages until you get to the lane.
From the lane, leave the Wysis Way and take turn a sharp right south-west down the steep footpath. Mind your step! Cross the brook at the bottom and climb up the other side. You are now walking in the footsteps of Frances Horovitz and her friend, the artist Diana Lodge, to whom the poem ‘Walking in Autumn’ is dedicated – inspired by these woods they loved to ramble.
Climb the often claggy lane – which can be virtually a stream-bed at times. You come to the brow, where it mercifully follows the contours right. Follow it as it heads south and west through the trees of Catswood. It is hard to believe that you are walking along what was the main thoroughfare between Bisley
and Slad back when the area was a thriving weaving community, the site of which can be glimpsed through the trees to your right.
You’ll reach a Laurie Lee poetry post (‘Three Winds poem’), a literary landmark and reminder of the intersection of artists and writers who lived and live in the Slad Valley. The view looks out across the valley over stables. Along this track Frances would often pause to write her notes in haiku form.
Keep following this track along until it comes to the metalled road of Catswood Lane. Just before the road is the precise point where ‘Walking in Autumn’ starts: ‘We have overshot the wood./the track has led us beyond the trees/to the tarmac edge.’ If you have a copy of Frances’ poems here, this is a good spot for an impromptu poetry reading.
Turn right at the signpost for Solomon’s Byre/fletcher’s Knapp. Halfway along this lane, turn left at the footpath sign and cut down the hill by the pond.
Head west, then south-west across the fields towards the picturesque hamlet of The Vatch, nestled in the fold of the valley.
Turn right at the metalled lane and walk passed the charming houses, taking the steep footpath right up to Slad Road.
Turn right on Slad Road, and walk back towards The Woolpack where refreshment awaits!
Weavers Cottages, former home of Frances Horovitz