|New leaves by stream|
In this estate, the stream is well below road-level, with steep banks, and is firmly fenced off on the pavement side with railings and heavy-duty fencing. On the other side, the gardens of the houses slope right down to the water and most are either open to it, or have gates in their fences suggesting that their owners at least go and look at it now and then. The brook runs behind one set of houses and in front of another for 50 yards or so and then disappears into a square concrete culvert covered by an iron grille which carries it underneath the road and into a different part of the estate.
Even here in this patch of neat and regulated housing, the stream gathers the last remnants of the countryside around it. By the bridge which carries the road over the culvert is a young chestnut tree growing right down on the stream bank, its sticky buds bursting beautifully into leaf at my eye level, and further back are a couple of big pollarded willows and smaller trees growing on the bank. The stream is flanked by brambles, the odd wild buddleia, nettles and similar. A patch of daffodils makes a bright spot under the trees. A tiny path runs erratically along part of the bank – possibly a badger path? The fences are no doubt a health and safety measure, but they also suggest a concern to keep this wildness at bay.
|Little Mill Court|
|From Slad Mill|
Where does it go from here? Stern signs warning ‘Beware Steep Bank and Water’ suggest that it runs beside the car park of the Salvation Army housing at Streamside, still running parallel with the main road. Further towards Stroud, I turn off the road, following a footpath sign down a concrete path past a bank studded with the golden stars of celandines, to a concrete bridge where I’m suddenly overwhelmed by the noise of water. On the left, the stream appears from behind houses and plunges down a three-step weir with great force.
When this weir was new, not so very many years ago, it must have looked very stark and stern, but now the concrete wall is softened by a bead curtain of trailing bramble, and various plants and small trees are growing into the stream at the top of the weir. A yellow-chested wagtail flits up from the water as I arrive, and settles on a branch above the water where he poses for a surprisingly long time, long enough for me to coax my recalcitrant camera into focusing on him.
|The weir and the wagtail|
The very final glimpse of the Slad Brook is less joyful. After passing another block of buildings I turn down an unnamed and slightly gloomy alleyway which leads to a scrubby open area of backs of buildings and car parking, and also to another tiny bridge and a view of the stream running behind old workshops. Here are big iron gates saying ‘Danger Keep Out’ and ‘No Unauthorised Access’, more heavy-duty railings. and an iron grid allowing access to a big box on the wall which announces itself as a ‘River Level Measurement Station’ provided by the Environment Agency. This, I'm guessing, has been installed since the Great Flood of 2007 when this end of the Slad Road was deep under water and people were jet-skiing on it. Hard to imagine that now, looking at the stream, so small and close-trammelled in its concrete channel. On one side are the red brick backs of old workshop buildings and on the other, more concrete and fences. There are no banks to speak of, but nevertheless the stream still keeps its fringe of greenery, plants growing between the bricks, ivy and brambles climbing up the walls, small saplings sprouting from the water itself. Nature takes every space you give it, and in some strange way I find that reassuring. Underneath this little bridge, the stream vanishes into an altogether more final culvert.
|The last bridge|
After this, the stream is underneath the buildings - possibly, or possibly not, in its culvert. I'm told that in some of these houses the stream runs in an open channel through their cellars, and a few months ago, when work was being done on this end of the Slad Road, it was possible to hear the stream gurgling sepulchrally below the hole in the road. But in any case, this is its last public appearance before it flows into the river Frome somewhere below central Stroud. And beyond this point I’m no longer in the Slad Valley, by any stretch of the imagination. So this is the last of the valley, and my last view of the brook.