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A reminiscence


Pip Heywood, 4th December 2023


        I was born at Wickstreet House in 1951. Then, in 1962, we moved into a brand new house known as Viner’s Wood, just up the hill from where I was born. In this way, I spent all my growing years close under Juniper Hill. It was always the first destination for a walk, climbing up through the beech woods and emerging into the wide view, walking along the ridge to stand above the grassy undulations of the old quarry workings. From here, Painswick was tucked behind the trees to your right, the ridge of Edge Common was directly in front, and then to the left, the descending line of Whiteshill, and the wide view beyond, away towards the Severn Estuary and Wales. After the climb from home, you were well rewarded.


My earliest memory of Juniper Hill dates to about 1958, when I was seven. One day after tea, my Dad suddenly suggested we went out for a walk. On my little legs, it seemed as though we trudged on and on. We went up onto Wickridge, where the track runs along the hilltop, with views down the far side into the Slad Valley. Then eventually we struck off left across an open field. I still have a vivid image in my mind: tired but amazed, with the dark shapes of Mum and Dad and my two older brothers on either side, we came to the escarpment. It was a beautiful midsummer’s evening, with the sun having set some while before. We sat on the edge of Juniper Hill and looked out at the darkening valley, in a magic space – I’d never been out that late before.

As a filmmaker, I still have Dad on my shoulder, with his eye and his sensibilities as a landscape painter. To all intents and purposes, that began on Juniper Hill. All through my childhood, he would be setting off with his haversack and sketchbook, as often as not to sit and draw the Juniper escarpment in all weathers. I’m sure he made more pictures of that single place than anywhere else. So often, he would paint a skyline, perhaps with Painswick church spire in the distance, and then in the foreground you would come into a deep, often abstracted space, deep in a summer’s meadow, with bee orchids and long grasses, or in the winter, wind-blown snow, pinpricked with red berries.


Sometimes I would go with him and sit nearby in the deep grass, but as I grew older, I regularly walked up there on my own. It was a place of real significance. I looked down into the last western valley of the Cotswolds, with a view out across the wider landscape of the Severn. I sat and looked out, on the brink, wondering about my own future.


The escarpment and the adjoining fields behind have from long before my own memory been a place of common access. There are now all the vital current arguments about bio-diversity and the necessity if we are to have a human future, to live alongside Nature, allowing it to thrive with all its own intelligence, rather than carving it up and dominating it. To fence off, apportioning this place, dividing it up into separate ownerships, cuts to the heart of all of this. It’s essential that we live with a sense of commonality. Juniper Hill, Edge Common to the west and Swift’s Hill eastwards in the Slad Valley, are places where we can openly lift our spirits, connecting with issues far wider than those few acres themselves. We need them.

 To conclude, here’s an extract from my book ‘The Eye of The Hare’.


My dad, who could draw, made me a flick book once. A little picture in the corner of every page of a notebook, of a man, just a simple stick man, but drawn so that on each page his arms and legs were in a slightly different position. Then he gave me the book and told me what to do. I flicked through the pages, and saw the man running, then leaping into the air in a great jump, and landing again. Flicking each page, one after another, like a film.  

I park on the grass beside the lane and climb the track. I’ve not walked up here for more than thirty years, yet everything looks familiar, with the steep banks, and the black silhouettes of hornbeam and holly.


At the top the track levels out. I stop to get my breath, and look across the field. At the far side a dry-stone wall runs up to the corner of the wood. The light is failing. I notice an odd shape on top of the wall. At first I think it’s a piece of wood. Then suddenly I know it’s a fox, watching me. For several long seconds we are both still, and then the fox moves, half turning away, stopping to look at me again, and then with a slick movement he is gone.


I’m up on Juniper Hill, where Dad painted the fox on the wall. The picture is signed and dated 1977. He was younger then than I am now. He must have walked up through the wood from home with his sketchbook. In the picture, sunrise is spreading west, from the Slad Valley on the right to Painswick on the left. And the whole work is held in tension by the fox on the wall. I’ve had the painting ever since, and love it. It keeps my dad alive for me.   

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