I’ve been retired for well over two years now. New daily routines have shifted as I have settled into retirement and as the seasons have cycled around. However, when I am not away from home, one of the daily constants has been that I walk into the local town of Nailsworth to pick up the newspaper and buy the day’s groceries. It’s been one of my great and most consistent retirement pleasures.
These walks have been particularly splendid recently as the Autumn colours have intensified across the hills and valleys through which I walk. Also, in recent weeks the streams in the valleys have gushed with copious amounts of rainwater and have provided a noisier soundtrack to the burgeoning Autumn colour.
There are multiple routes and detours that I take to create daily variety. However, the most rewarding walk is through the bottom of the valley between our home and Nailsworth centre. I thought I would share a few pictures of this frequent and favourite walk.
The start point is, of course, my home in the hamlet of Downend near Horsley. Our field has a small stream running through it. This joins the Downend stream nearby and I head north-east down through its valley in which our hamlet nestles. When this reaches another, larger valley I continue north to where it opens out to a confluence of rivers around which Nailsworth has thrived, first as a mill town and now as a small (monthly) market town.
As I leave Downend, I pass some old cottages and houses and cross the Old Horsley Road. I then dip downwards into the larger, wider valley flanked by dense woods to the east. Following the ever enlarging stream, I pass some small fields and a couple of pretty lakes. The larger of these is often the haunt of a swan, herons, kingfishers and several varieties of duck.
Much of the land in the valley, and up the slopes to the east, is owned and managed by Ruskin Mill Trust. The college here caters for challenged teenagers. The grounds include two historic wool mills, several acres of woodland, a biodynamic livestock and fish farm, a shop where some of the produce is sold, a forge, a popular café, and an arts centre and music venue. Locals like me are privileged to have access to these grounds which are always evolving in interesting ways under the management of the Trust and which often teem with fish and birds.
Beyond the college grounds I cross the road and the stream (now a small river) once more. As I approach the outskirts of Nailsworth, I look out for dippers in the stream. I had never heard of these birds before seeing them here and also in Downend itself. They are shy but fascinating to watch as they live up to their name by dipping their heads up and down and dive into the water to catch their prey.
Nailsworth sits at the junction of two valleys and is overlooked by typical Cotswold woodland and hillsides (‘Cotswold Tops’). The best time to visit is early morning when wood smoke and mist often sits above the town but below the hill tops. The floral displays in the town this year have been award winning and many of the narrow streets and Cotswold stone buildings are always attractive.
Like many such towns in this age of the internet and same day delivery, it is a struggle to establish a thriving retail business in Nailsworth. There is a persistent turnover of small independent shops and probably more shops selling small gifts and vaping equipment than is necessary. However, some good clothes, homeware and hardware shops have prospered. There are also a few decent pubs and café/restaurants, plus – critically for me – a newsagent, a small supermarket and health food store.
I’m an urban man at heart – the country was always a place to visit rather than live in through the first 60 years of my life. I still hanker after London having left it upon retirement. But this Cotswold landscape I now find myself living in is very attractive. While I still can, my daily walks into the local town will continue to help me experience and appreciate it.
Postscript: I mentioned that Ruskin Mill College have a small music venue and Long-Suffering Wife and I thoroughly enjoyed a gig there last night. The main act was Trio Dhoore who are three young, charming Flemish brothers who play diatronic accordion, guitar and, a first for me, the hurdy gurdy. The music was wonderfully deep, rich and warm and the banter between tunes matched this warmth perfectly. The trio of brothers seemed to enjoy the evening as much as we did; it was a lovely couple of hours.