It is my dad’s 72nd birthday today!
We started the day with a drive to Rangeworthy in Glouchester. A town where my dad, about 7 or 8 years ago, found the only existing gravestone of a Green relative. All the other cemeteries where the Greens are buried (the 8 or so we’ve visited on this trip), the very old wooden grave markers have long since deteriorated. Francis Charles Green (my dad’s great-grandfather’s brother’s son! In other words, he is some kind of cousin! My dad’s fourth cousin. Got that?). Francis died in 1929 and is buried here in the beautiful and still active cemetery at Rangeworthy. The last time my dad visited the grave, there were fresh flowers placed on the grave! Who did this? A relative? For my father, who has been diligently researching our family history for the past 12 years or so, this was a very interesting thing! After this visit to the cemetery, he began looking for living relatives in the area. He even took an ad out in the local paper looking for living relatives of Francis and therefore, us. Unfortunately, there were no leads. Who left these flowers, remains a mystery.
After our drive to visit ol’ Francis, my dad decided to go somewhere he’s always been curious about. It is an area he has driven by for many years but never explored. As you are driving on the southern portion of the Cotswolds, there is an area that you can see below. It is called the Lower Woods near Hawkesbury. Here, surrounding the Lower Woods, is land that is owned collectively by a number of persons, or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it. It is called the Commons.
After some navigation ‘issues’, we finally found the parking lot for the Lower Wood trails. Our GPS named ‘Christine’ totally failed us. We couldn’t interpret the guide books directions and so we resorted to the old-fashioned roll-down-the-car-window-and-ask-the-locals technique. Bingo! Despite this little hiccup, I think my dad and I both enjoy the challenge of navigating new roads and the trails.
The Lower Woods is the largest ancient woodlands in the south-west of England. It comprises 23 separate woods whose boundaries have remained unchanged for several centuries. A stretch of the Little Avon river runs through this protected nature reserve. Also, there are the remains of a Romano-British villa and bathhouse situated in a clearing known as Stanley Meadow. Reminders of history are everywhere! Some of the trails we walked today were ancient roads that once lead to Bristol. I pictured horse and carriages ambling along these roads and I won’t lie, this turns my crank.
With so many pretty grazing and farming pastures here in England, I keep wondering what England would have been like before the majority of forests were cut down, for fuel and lumber. My dad was explaining to me how early days’ ship-building would wipe out old oak forests. This forest is a glimpse into what England would have been like at one point. The Lower Wood is comprised of forests full of deciduous trees with fresh spring foliage, a chorus of birds and an thick understory of fern, wild garlic, stinging nettle and some other plants I didn’t recognize. I must admit, I wish I had a plant guide book with me. I know most plants at home and love knowing how they were traditionally used. I asked the cook at the hotel we are staying at if she ever cooks with the stinging nettle here (because it is everywhere!). She rather adamantly said “no way!” but went on to say her Grandmother did a long time ago. She thought it was strange I was bonkers over it. But that’s not the first time, I’ve encountered this.
The fragrance of the Lower Wood was lovely! Very different than home. There were some species of trees I recognized, and there were other trees I had to come home and look up. There was a mix of giant beech trees (which remind me of elephants strangely), oak (2 species), Hawthorne in fragrant white blooms, ash, willow, hazel and likely a few more I’m missing. Throughout our gentle 7 km walk, we crossed the Little River Avon a few times, and met families and their children out for a Sunday walk.
We drove the long drive back to the Old Malt House. We had our ritual glass of single malt scotch then went for my dad’s birthday dinner. It has become a nice routine here. After dinner, we hang around in the lounge talking with the hotel owners Dave and Jen, and any guests that are there. Then it’s off to bed in the world’s comfiest coziest bed (I’m sleeping so well on this trip!). Tomorrow we pack up and drive to the Cotswolds for the the second half of my vacation.
Time flies when you’re walking about England.