Saturday, 25 June 2011

A Literary Pilgrimage across the Cotswolds

Last week I had a chance meeting with the Earl of Wemyss at Stanway. Stanway is my favourite Cotswold house and has been host to JM Barrie of Peter Pan fame, who instigated the build of the thatched cricket pavilion. HG Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle were keen players of the game. Wells, of course, was noted for bowling a maiden over...  The Earl was kind and enthusiastic about my recent book, The Cotswold Collection, and we shared a great fondness for Patrick (Paddy) Leigh Fermor who had died a fortnight before. We discovered that he had been buried on the 16th and that a Memorial Service is planned for November in St James' Piccadilly.  I, then moved on towards a meeting at Snowhill where I soon passed Broadway Tower home to William Morris. Not that I have ever read any of his books. I have admired his artworks and legion for hard work. 

Stanway, as illustrated in "The Cotswold Collection"
My route was soon  Cheltenham bound. I noticed a sign for Dumbleton, (Paddy's home when in England)....and turned East.  On entering the church gate his grave mound was clearly visible, covered in flowers with many notes of appreciation and love, from far and wide:  Byronic, Hellenic and Greek Societies, and Cretan friends.  A moment to savour his influence on my life.  In 1977, at the age of 26 I  bought a First Edition of his "A Time of Gifts" and was captivated by his trek across Holland and mittel-Europe to Constantinopel in the 1930s....Two years later, in 1979, I had resigned my job with a London publishing house and had set out too, to walk across Europe to Greece.  My route was to take me through France, over the Alps into Italy, and eventually to Greece....My other influence was to be Laurie Lee. His "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning" had romanticised my idea of a long walk, and homeward that same evening I stopped off at the Woolpack in Slad for a pint of Gloucester Old Spot.
I had got to know Laurie a little on his infrequent visits to Sheepscombe's cricket field. His sight was poor and his hearing no better but Cathy (with thighs like hams - see "A Rose For Winter") was his mouthpiece. The Woolpack was a disappointment. No papers or friends of yesteryear about. Just the usual pub boors outside guffawing, and in the bar, the ghost of Laurie, and an empty space awaiting to be filled by the local celebs, Keith Allen and Damien Hirst.  I  moved on, not keen to meet these two, and sort out Laurie's grave, opposite.  Still the mound stood tall with a few flowers over his remains. The stoney soil had not settled these past 12-years. It was as if he had been buried yesterday.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Cycling in Norfolk

I am delighted to inform you all that my Norfolk Cycling Country Lanes map is now back in stock.
It has a new photographic cover to replace the illustrated one (of many years).....

To get you in the cycling mood, herewith some Norfolk images for you to dream, the cycling dream...

Sample of the Mapping
Thurne Windmill
Cycling around The Broads
Holkham Beach 
Grey Seal from Bishop's Boats

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor - An Inspiration

All lovers of travel writing will be mourning the death last Friday of Paddy, "The Greatest Living Englishman", and considered the finest travel writer in the English Language. He was, indeed, an inspiration to a host of writers, adventurers and Hellenists, and especially to me. His "A Time Of Gifts" published in 1977 described his journey on foot from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, by way of the Rhine and Danube, and mittel-Europe during the mid 30s, struck such a chord with me that I gave up my job with a London publishing house in 1979 to pursue my own dream, to walk across France-The Alps into Italy, to Greece...

The experience sparked my interest in maps and travel guides....and the idea of Goldeneye was born.

I have often been asked to write about my walk, but such has been my respect, nay awe, of Paddy's travel writing that "Just to try would be foolish....I could  not hope to match such erudition and brilliance," for I have always considered great travel writing to be the most difficult of prose styles to achieve....Laurie Lee managed it, but he was a poet, as did Lawrence Durrell, another inspiration, and friend to Paddy.

Paddy lived in the Southern Pelepponese, but whilst in England at Dumbleton, Worcestershire. I know it well having played cricket there many times...I never knew this was his home, and I wonder if I would have made a fool of myself if I had dropped by?

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Most Romantic Street in Britain

Lower Slaughter's Copse Hill Road has been nominated this fine accolade.  For you to judge, I have illustrated some images captured during the past few years. I, of course, am a little biased due to my long association with this Cotswold village, and many others.

You must visit Gerald Harris's splendid museum, The Old Mill, where you will receive a sincere welcome and be invited to take a cup of coffee and refreshment, and to purchase one or two of my books and maps, etc.

If you seek luxurious accommodation then try the Lower Slaughter Manor, or for a few less pence, the Washbourne Court, opposite. Lower Slaughter can be the Start of an interesting circular walk...

The Upper Reaches of Copse Hill Road
The Old Mill Museum
A Quiet Moment on Copse Hill Road
Upper Slaughter, a short walk from Lower Slaughter...
I would be keen to learn of your favourite British village...

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Heddon Valley - The Most Beautiful Valley in England?

At this time of year there are few places more beautiful. As you descend from Trentishoe Down, below you is a a carpet of lush greenery. An abundance of trees and a swift-flowing stream with richly patterned moss and delicate leaves left awash in the currents. Trout dart about in the shadows.

In the midst of this valley is the Hunter's Inn. This could surely be one of the top destinations in England. Originally designed as a hunting lodge of Swiss/Bavarian proportions. Sadly, all the original features are long gone; the Stag's Head, the cane fishing rods in their cases, the old maps, the old leather chairs, the comforts of an ancient hostelry...have all been ripped out years ago by idiots with no understanding of the Good Things in Life.  I have long thought that you would need millions to get this place back on the map...

The new owners have started the process, and good luck to them. The exterior has been painted and a massive window overlooks the beautiful (often forgotten) rear gardens. But, please burn the bar's carpet and lay bare the floor boards, and let us have some stunning paintings on view. Perhaps, the minimalist approach is the best way forward?

It often amazes me that hotels are bought and run by people with no sense of style or taste...Comments, please.

Click on Image to increase the size
Visit this stunning valley, and walk the walk, so clearly illustrated in Goldeneye's latest publication:

Great Value at only £5.99
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