Ikea have come up with a whole new concept for their new catalogue – the bookbook. Well worth a look for anyone who likes new technology - or not.
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 wrote this poem in 1914, after the train stopped ‘unwontedly’ at the station. As one of the villagers told me, he never even got out of the train and was only there a few moments. But having seen the name on a signpost before in the Cotswolds, I thought it was time to pay the place a visit, and so my wife and I wound up there on the last day of September just over a hundred years later.
The railway station is long gone, torn down as part of Beeching’s decimation of the railway system in the 1960s. All that remains of it is a single sign salvaged by the villagers, and now lovingly maintained and prominently displayed at the village bus stop.
But Adlestrop is well worth a visit for anyone with even a mild literary interest. As well as the inspiration for the famous poem, Jane Austen also stayed here at Adlestrop House, close by the church. There were no other visitors on the day we went. The villagers we spoke to (surprisingly many as it was a beautiful warm early evening) were very friendly and welcoming, and happy to fill in details of the local family who own most of the village.
The poem itself reminds me of a similar stop made one spring day at Hamble Halt in Hampshire on the way home from university. Travelling in the middle of the day on a virtually empty train I well remember a wonted stop (Hamble Halt was a tiny station, but a stopping place for around one in three trains at the time) and a moment or two of peace. The slamming of the railway doors. The murmur of distant conversations and the buzz of insects. Then the moment or two of silence before the whistle blew and the train crawled out of the station on its way again. Perhaps that’s why the poem is so popular; it must strike a chord with many who have had similar experiences, and it seems quintessentially English.
Anyway, there it is. If you are ever near Stow or Moreton-in-the Marsh a visit would probably not detain you more than an hour and is well worth it. Don’t miss the walk up to the church past the quietly beautiful Cotwold houses and gardens, and see where Jane Austen observed the locals from the austere pews. It beats Alton Towers any day.