arly December in the Cotswolds and the morning is bright and cold. Two buzzards are carving high circles in the late autumn air. Below them lies a hushed world of tumbling slopes, clear brooks and crunchy-underfoot woodland. This is Gloucestershire’s Slad Valley, a wide scoop of land where even the leaves fall in slow motion. Houses are few, but peeking out from one hillside is the tiny woodsmoke village of Slad, home from the age of three to Laurie Lee.
There’s a good chance you know the rest – Lee’s songful book about his childhood here, Cider With Rosie, was for years a set text on the national curriculum – and even in these arduous times, with summer long gone, it would take a deadened heart not to feel the seductiveness of the setting. The valley’s deep-sided meadows and copses practically beg to be walked, and I’ve met up with a friend to do just that.