Cotswold Ways: A walk around Wotton -under-edge
Stunning views, fascinating heritage, great pubs – what’s not to like?
In serious Cotswold uplands, where Limestone confines the verges like yellow teeth, And trees look sideways. ‘Earthed’, UA Fanthorpe
There is something utterly charming and civilised about Wotton-under-edge. Is it the picturesque main street, gently sloping down against the backdrop of high blue hills of the Cotswolds? The colourful local businesses? The Victorian Jubilee clock or Electric Picture House independent cinema? The photogenic row of Alms Houses or the inviting hostelries with their fine fare? Maybe it is all of those things, and more, hidden to the casual visitor but deeply familiar to residents who have made the quintessential Cotswoldian town their home, or, having being born in such a delightful place, deciding that the most sensible thing would be to stay.
One of the town’s famous citizens certainly thought so, the poet UA Fanthorpe (CBE). She made Wotton her home with her partner, Dr Rose Bailey, after a long and winding road that took her from a Kentish childhood, to the dreaming spires of Oxford, to become the Head of English at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Building a career upon her love of the English Language, it was not until she forsook academe to become a receptionist at a psychiatric hospital in Bristol, that she ironically found her own voice. Inspired by the ‘strange specialness’ of the patients she wrote her first collection, Side Effects. So Kevan Manwaring is a Stroud-based writer and storyteller. He is the author of Oxfordshire Folk Tales and Northamptonshire Folk Tales, a contributor to English Folk Tales and editor of Ballad Tales, all from The History Press. He teaches creative writing for the Open University and in the Stroud area. Twitter: @bardicacademic www.kevanmanwaring.co.uk began her literary career, resulting in nine full-length collections, prizes and honorary degrees, and ultimately, the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2003. Her poetry (wry but warmly humane, like Larkin on a sunny day) often reflected down-toearth subjects and notions of Englishness, flavoured with a witty take on things, that has made her work loved by many. Fanthorpe died in 2009. How appropriate that not far from this wordsmith’s demesne is the magnificent Tyndale Monument, erected in 1866 in honour of the translator of the English Bible, who was born nearby, at Melksham Court, Stinchcombe. Tyndale suffered a martyr’s death in Flanders in 1536, all for wanting to make the New Testament accessible to his countrymen. His Tower of Words (aka ‘Nibley Knob’) is a fitting memorial, and offers spectacular views for those brave enough to negotiate its dark, winding staircase. After 121 steps you emerge, breathless and relieved, 111ft up and the glittering Severn, mysterious fastness of the Forest of Dean, and the wild hills of Wales are yours to behold. It might make you want to declaim poetry, or scripture – or quickly descend for a picnic or pint.
The copse on Wotton Hill