If you happen to be visiting a patient in the Cirencester Community Hospital in Gloucestershire, you might well feel like having a walk after the visit. If you go one way, the easier route, you’ll pass through the staff car park and see this sign:
Did you know the NHS was in the business of creating forests and orchards? I didn’t, and I don’t think many others do either, but if you follow the signs you’ll find yourself in a gloriously ramshackle bit of land, with apple trees and pear trees, with a few benches to sit on, though nettles tend to be growing up through many of them, so you’ll probably keep on walking, and chances are you won’t see another soul. It would be nice to think that patients from the hospital wander here as part of their recovery but I saw no actual evidence of this.
If you walk the other way from the hospital, you go through Querns Wood, where you might see evidence of guitar hero worship among the tree cutters:
And before long you’ll arrive at the Circencester Amphitheatre, a Roman creation, now reduced to a circle of hills forming a grassy bowl. Once it held about 8000 people, now it’s a place where kids run up and down exhausting themselves while parents watch.
However if you walk around the side of the amphitheatre you can find yourself at the Circencester Obelisk, which is a very big, very impressive and slightly mysterious construction.
The sources say it’s ‘probably’ 18thcentury, and probably erected for Earl Bathurst in what was, at the time, the grounds of Cirencester Park Mansion. Alexander Pope may have had some input. Bathurst wrote to Pope in 1736, ‘I have also begun to level the hill before the house, and an obelisk shall terminate the view’. Pope didn’t think an obelisk was quite the right thing for that spot, though signficantly, or not, Pope did erect an obelisk as a memorial to his mother.
My trip to Gloucestershire wasn’t a walking expedition but, thanks to my plucky chaffeuse I was able to walk (after a car ride) in the graveyard of the church of St James’s, Sevenhampton (which is actually in Wiltshire), famous chiefly as the place where Ian Fleming, his wife Anne and their son Caspar are buried.
The Flemings bought Sevenhampton Place in 1959 and spent four years having it restored and remodeled. It had forty bedrooms, a billiard room and a ballroom. Does anybody in the world have 39 friends they’d want to have stay with them? Anne love the place, Fleming not so much. Maybe after spending so much time in Goldeneye, in Jamaica, an English country house didn’t seem so appealing.
The Fleming grave is in a beautiful spot, overlooked by a field of cows and marked by (you probably guessed, if you didn’t know already) an obelisk, which is very elegant and surprisingly modest: traits that we only partly associate with Ian Fleming.