The Cotswolds is famed for its mellow stone cottages, rolling hills and pretty valleys – but one very magical feature we also have in abundance is woodland.
Our pockets of woodland are carefully tended and preserved gems, there to be enjoyed through all the seasons.
One of our favourites, not far from our village of Edge, is the Laurie Lee Wood (previously known as Trantershill Wood), which is a truly magical place that pays fitting tribute to the renowned Gloucestershire poet and author, Laurie Lee. You probably know him best for his charming, poetic memoir trilogy about his childhood in the Slad Valley at the turn of the 20th century, Cider with Rosie.
If you enjoy the undeniably destressing mindfulness of immersing yourself in the woods, then you’ll definitely get a kick out of spending time in Laurie Lee Wood, albeit just a small (seven acre) wooded patch set across a north-facing slope above the valley of Slad Brook.
How Laurie Lee Wood was Saved
When Laurie Lee wandered the valley as a child Trantershill was an area probably wooded for several hundred years, but in his time it was planted mainly with beech trees. Many trees were subsequently felled for timber and it was restocked as a plantation in the 1950s, prompting Laurie Lee to buy it to protect it.
Later, after the author’s death, the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust raised money to buy the wood and preserve it for posterity as a public nature reserve, and formally opened the wood in 2013 on what would have been Lee’s 99th birthday.
It’s not just the story of this tract of woodland that makes it worth visiting, however. It really is a little oasis of beauty and natural wonders.
Treasures of Laurie Lee Wood
The Trust has undertaken some coppicing and management to open up glades in the woodland to enable the sunlight to penetrate and encourage wild flowers to grow.
This means that from springtime onwards you’ll find a gorgeous sequence of bluebells, wild garlic, violets, yellow archangel and woodruff to assail your senses, with white helleborine along the southern edges. Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot a rare bird’s nest orchid.
As summer fades the trees themselves come into their own, the majestic beeches putting on their best colourful autumnal show, while an impressive selection of fungi nestle on branches. Besides beech you’ll find yew, hazel and ash making up the canopy, all planted since 1950.
How to find Laurie Lee Wood
When you visit our part of the world it’s very easy to find Laurie Lee Wood – which is actually sandwiched between to other nature reserves, Dunkitehill Wood in the north and Swift’s Hill to the south.
All you do is look for Knapp Lane – a narrow road that branches off of the B4070 about two miles north of Stroud. For Google maps and Satnavs use GL6 7LA postcode, and you should find parking in some laybys on the lane.
There’s a short path running through the wood, but you can explore off-trail (with due care) if you wish. Be warned the ground is uneven and the terrain can be steep in sections. There’s a bench right in the middle of the woods if you need to take a break.
More Woody Walking
If you’re a keen walker you may wish to take advantage of the fact that Laurie Lee wood is just a small part of a five-mile circular walking trail, covering much of the Slad Valley, which is decorated with 10 strategically placed posts bearing poems penned by Laurie Lee on which to reflect as you make your way round.
The post in Laurie Lee Wood, fittingly, has his poem The Wild Trees inscribed on it.
The Laurie Lee Walking Trail takes you through no less than four nature reserves, including Longridge Wood, Snows Farm Reserve, Laurie Lee Wood, Swift’s Hill and Frith Wood.
You can obtain a leaflet about the Laurie Lee Wildlife Walking Trail from the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust for just £1.00.
If you, like Laurie Lee, are drawn to the woods in this part of the world, feel free to stop in at the Edgemoor Inn for some refreshment, and we’ll point you in the right direction to you can enjoy some therapeutic forest bathing, indulge in some wildflower appreciation, or revel in the autumn colours in the enchanting Painswick and Slad Valleys.