Yes, I remember Adlestrop

John was meant to have the week after Easter for holiday. The weather wasn’t encouraging – grey and with an east wind chapping at the extremities. I had thought I’d finished with wearing my scarf inside as well as outside but had to retrieve it from the winter shelf in the cupboard. And John finally arrived home with lots of unfinished writing to do. He said he’d like to be by a river, which sounded idyllic but the magic of sunlight on water on a warm afternoon with flashes of blue dragonflies whirring here and there, was, most probably, a distant dream… given the weather forecast.

I did, however, look up some enchanting sounding places by rivers, using Alastair Sawday’s wonderful guides but in the end we opted to go and see John’s parents in the Cotswolds towards the end of the week, when John had caught up with his heavy schedule. Meanwhile, we had an afternoon in Kew, which was bursting with blossom and lunch at The National Gallery. John was delighted with the position of our table, which gave him a chance to take a photograph of the statue of Sir Keith Park (in Trafalgar Square) from an interesting angle! Otherwise, I directed the decorator who had arrived in Barnes on Tuesday morning, bright eyed and brush in hand. It lifted my spirits to see things getting freshly painted.

I’d been reading a poetry book = Evergreen Verse = which I’d come upon when emptying rooms, ready for painting and there were a number of poems I found, all of which I would put in my list of favourites. There is one called ‘Adlestrop’, written by Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917). The village of this name is very near Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire and about twenty minutes drive away from John’s parents’ house. The poet was on a train on the 23rd June, 1914, when it made an unscheduled stop at Adlestrop station. The poem is timeless, the moment in summer eternally captured. I had to track it down.


Yes, I remember Adlestrop–
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express- train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

EDWARD THOMAS 1878 – 1917

I finally managed to persuade John to come with me. The sun was out and we drove through the busy streets of picturesque Stow and past The Oddingtons. Adlestrop is a tiny village with a population of about eighty people. There are two vast houses, a pretty church and small Cotswold, honey coloured houses with cottage gardens. I called at the Post Office, which is tiny and belongs to the 1950s. It was closed between midday and 4 pm. A sensible time for lunch followed by a nap, I supposed. The only people around in the village were wearing knapsacks and looked like tourists. I couldn’t see any evidence of a train station, although there was a strange, old fashioned sign at the start of the village in the fork of two roads, showing ADLESTROP.

Later on, I tracked down the story. Adlestrop station used to be between Kingham and Moreton-in-the Marsh. It was axed by Dr. Beeching in 1966. The old station sign and an erstwhile platform bench now serve as a bus stop in the village. It seems unlikely that a bus ever appears. The poem is inscribed on a metal plate attached to the bench.

Apparently, Jane Austen made several visits to Adlestrop, where her uncle was rector and it is believed that the house and grounds of ‘Adlestrop Park’ were the setting for her novel ‘Mansfield Park’.

I hadn’t shown John the poem beforehand. I should have done because after reading it, he decided to do a blog on the afternoon we spent there. On rereading it myself, I found the poem even more poignant, as Edward Thomas didn’t live to see his work published. He died in action during the First World War. I love the simplicity of this poem and the strength of feeling it awakens in me. It is as if I am holding the poet’s hand across the years and at the same time living in an infinite dimension of shared consciousness.

Edward Thomas, 1878-1917

Edward Thomas, 1878-1917


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