Saturday 28 April 2012

Landscape in particular 3: Cold Ashton

Looking N towards Cold Ashton; 27th April 2012
This is the third in a regular-occasional series of posts on specific landscapes that mean a lot to me, or are new discoveries; after all, interest in the topographical is nothing without a feeling for sense of place: genius loci.

Cold Ashton is a hamlet of church and manor house, south facing and sheltered (the 'Cold' an elusive prefix); and sharing its locale with many small valley's busily incising the long finger of the Cotswold scarp slope and narrow plateau that extends down to Bath, 3 miles to the south.

Less than half a mile but hidden away from the prosaic noise of the A48, leaching the masses from the London-West whale-road into Bath, its the best sort of place: an easily accessible backwater that most people have no idea is there. From the single quiet lane, a footpath descends steeply as you enter the bowl-like head of a small valley; a 'combe' in this part of the world, vernacular descriptor hitting the spot nicely: 'The Combe was ever dark, ancient and dark' (Edward Thomas, 'The Combe'). Halfway down the slope spring's bubble from the limestone and spill out gentle, cress-bound streamlets that flash in the sunshine and chatter their course downward. This is Cotswolds scenery at its simplest and purest, before the gentle but incipient gentrification by Range Rover, impeccably imagined cottage restoration and horse pasture further down the valley.

Your playground awaits
And down here can be found an everyday paradise for larking around, exploring or just lying in the sun; a wild play landscape. Which is a bit of a recurrent theme of mine as my two daughters are on the threshold of those glorious childhood years when your local area and visits to the countryside alike provide a playscape with bottomless potential to thrill, test all the senses to the limit, use up boundless energy and allow still keen imaginations to run riot. And to any parent who says their kids would get bored, its too dangerous, they need supervision or any other lazy excuse for sleep-walking into that hackneyed parental wrong-turn - not letting them do what you did - get yourself down to a place like this near you now and let them loose!

Leave me alone Dad!

Contrary to the National Trust's predictably paternalistic but misguided advice in its  '50 things to do before you are 12', ' long as you always have an adult with you', this quietly mysterious valley is exactly the sort of place where children need no more than an adult steer in the right direction; an opportunity for a glorious compromise where parents have a leisurely picnic, beer and sleep in the sun whilst the kids range through the woods, streams and fields. Enlightened self-interest is a wonderful thing.   

Monster of wood
During our most recent visit pictured here, my youngest and I dodged the rain showers, happily muddied ourselves up (although carrying a little one on your shoulders with cow-shit encrusted wellies dangling is an acquired taste) and bonded over whatever stimulation was around the next corner. Its not to say that I/ they don't have a good time at the more stage-managed activities - birthday parties, soft play centres, playgrounds etc - but I don't think these things lodge in the memory bank for long; its safe play that lacks the sense of innocent edginess and tired serenity that child or adult alike get from the simple pleasure of playing out in a special place that feels like its your own creation.

Previous 'Landscape in particular' posts:
Kenilworth Castle
Bolton Abbey


  1. I happened upon your blog today via the SOW's site. I'm glad I did, you've got some great stuff on here. Keep it coming.

  2. Thanks Neil
    Glad you like it; I've got plenty to say and there's plenty of inspiration out there.

  3. I appreciate a beautiful, meaningful landscape, as well. I'm heading to England for the first time this June, and I hope to find lovely scenes like this (even inside London).

    You've got an interesting blog here. I think I'll look around. :)

  4. Thanks Emily

    Plenty of pastoral bliss in or around London - Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park, the North Downs, the Chilterns... Enjoy your trip.



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