A Cotswold Village
Nestling into the Cotswold hillside, as if sheltering from the bleak winter winds that blow in from the east across the exposed fields, is the little village of Elkstone with its cluster of typical Cotswold stone buildings. At almost 1000 feet above sea level the parish is the highest in Gloucestershire and was mentioned in the Doomsday records. The ancient Norman Parish Church dates from 1160 and is renowned for its unusual dovecote above the chancel and its exquisite Norman arches in the chancel and sanctuary.
I have a strong connection with the village since my grandfather was rector there and my mother grew up in the rectory, going to the village school. Much of her education was gained from the fields and hedgerows of the village. Elkstone is set high on the Cotswold hills a few miles off the Cirencester to Cheltenham road. My Mother used to say how cold it was in winter in a draughty large rectory. I remember her stories about life in the local village school, and the characters of the village.Not surprisingly, growing up in Gloucestershire, her favourite Beatrix Potter story was the ‘Tailor of Gloucester’ which she used to love to read to the grandchildren.
In my mother’s days the country lanes were free of motor traffic and the grass verges were filled with wild flowers. She had a wide knowledge of wild flowers and country matters that lasted all her lifetime. Life was hard in such a remote place, but there was a quality of village life that we so often miss today in our anonymous towns and cities. I’m pleased to see from the village website that there is still a thriving community there.
What treasures await discovery on these roadside banks by observant eyes? We hope no cars will spoil a quiet walk along this delightful left-over from past days. Sadly, there aren’t many of these quiet lanes left now. As we amble, we look for dog violets, an early primrose, unusual ferns, – time for a bit of botanical research when we get home to look up our discoveries in our wildflower reference book.
The following words could well have been written about Elkstone village:
“How lucky country children are in these natural delights that lie ready to their hand! Every season and every plant offers changing joys. As they meander along the lane that leads to our school all kinds of natural toys present themselves for their diversion. The seedpods of stitchwort hang ready for delightful popping between thumb and finger, and later the bladder campion offers a larger, if less crisp, globe to burst. In the autumn, acorns, beechnuts and conkers bedizen their path, with all their manifold possibilities of fun.”
Miss Read – ‘Our Village’
Nature Deficit Disorder
Quite a contrast to the above, many of today’s children are taken by car to the school gates and have probably never had the privilege of walking along car-free country lanes such as we have pictured above, and stopping here and there to pick a flower or look for a bird’s nest or pick up acorns, or beech mast or even perhaps a bird’s egg shell.
Today’s children are seriously deprived of the chance to explore and interact with the open countryside, so vital to practical learning about the environment, conservation and biodiversity.
Progressive schools are more and more using the outdoor ‘classrooms’- the school wildlife and vegetable garden, pond dipping trips, woodland walks, farm trips, fungus forays, all so much better than a stuffy classroom.This is hands-on learning. Watching children involved in such activities is like seeing cattle being let out into the green fields after being shut in all the winter. Like the animals, the young people respond with enthusiasm. Learning becomes easy here, all seem keen to get involved.
But this still leaves a lot of responsibility upon parents to make up for the lack by taking their own children out to explore the open countryside.
.“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.” ― from ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.’ by the American, Richard Louv.
For a more recent visit to this Cotswold village see ‘Up on the Cotswolds‘