Some thirteen members of staff explored our local canal recently in search of its history and in appreciation of its uniqueness.
The Stroudwater Navigation that runs from Framilode on the Severn to Walbridge in Stroud is truly unique. It is the only canal in the country that has a full archive of its documentation and records. No other canal in the country offers historians and story tellers so much material.
The canal becomes the Thames and Severn Canal at Walbridge and reaches the Thames at Inglesham, some twenty-eight miles distant. Severn trows worked their way to Walbridge and barges from there.
We talked about the Stroud scarlet cloth that was stretched out on tenterhooks on Rodborough Common, in the 18th century, and how that cloth went all around the world in different ways and for different purposes. We thought about how our local landscape had been conjoined with continents across the whole world. We discussed the unique nature of the arch outside the school.
We wandered on past the interface between the rural, the urban and the suburban (‘edgelands’) and talked of William Blake the poet and how to see the extraordinary within the ordinary: a seemingly nondescript landscape can still reveal beauty and history.
Our path back to school took us along a hidden suburban footpath. We gazed up at Selsley Common where 5,000 people met in 1839 to demand the vote for all; where William Morris had his first commission at the church, and where a prehistoric mound commands the view to the Severn.
We discussed how this urban footpath could be Saxon in origin or even prehistoric: could it have connected the burial mounds at Selsley with those at Randwick? This was a sobering thought – and this is how we finished our walk: ‘Underneath the pavements, the beach!’ Everything is older than it seems!