Full Circle

Cheltenham Travel Blog

 › entry 51 of 52 › view all entries

Do you remember at the beginning, before I set off, I posted a picture of the view from Leckhampton Hill? I said this was my favourite place on earth, and wondered if my trip around the world (4 continents, 2 sub-continents, 7 countries, 5 Islands) would change that.

The particular spot from which the picture was taken is the highest point on the hill, situated just above a towering phallic structure, called ‘Devil’s Chimney’, which was erected (ahem!) by local quarry miners with a healthy sense of humour.  Perching here is like being on the side of a ceramic bowl; the escarpment stretches away either side and wraps around far into the distance, where you can see the bony ridge of Malvern Hill on the horizon. The river Severn makes its entrance from stage left, and in the middle distance is Aggs hill; perfectly round & topped by a single oak, making it look like a pert boob. In the sprawling centre of the bowl sit Cheltenham and Gloucester, snuggling up to one another like reluctant siblings.

In moments of homesickness I’ve closed my eyes and bought to mind details of this scene: Leckhampton church with its stone-walled graveyard and grazing cows in the lush fields beyond; the wide curve of Old Bath Road; the delineation of greenbelt from bland new-housing down by Hatherley…

I’d also clearly recall the same vantage point at night: The circle of deceptively circus-like lights around GCHQ, where serious issues of national security play out under a blanket of silence. The glowing illuminations of Gloucester dry ski-slope; The M5 beetling brightly towards Wales; that strange formation of street lights near Charlton Kings that look just like the outline of the chick on Cadbury’s crËme-egg wrappers…

Over the last couple of weeks (I’ve been back for almost 3) I’ve come up here daily and I’m often in a state of sweaty elation having either jogged or cycled to the top. The summer is almost over and even in this short time the evenings are clearly drawing in. The first time I came up after arriving home was definitely an emotional moment; the sun was setting through pink & orange striped clouds and the hill tumbled away before me, thick with the fertile green of a wet summer. The town looked just as it always has; a mish-mash of coloured roofs and winding roads.

Catching my breath I felt genuine elation, along with the unexpected sensation of nothing having changed at all.

Today as I sat hot & huffing away like a tortured tomato, I asked myself ‘what’s so special about Leckhampton Hill?’ It’s pretty, yes…but lets be honest it’s not going to be chosen as a cinematic setting for the next Lord Of The Rings epic... or even the next homely BBC Austen adaptation. It’s just… um... nice. 

As I looked out I could see the ancient stables where I kept Lucky, my pony…
The neighbouring farm where we used to buy hay from the now-deceased farmer…
The residential routes along which I cycled my paper-rounds daily…
The park where I had my first kiss (horribly slobbery for the record!);
The school gates where I learnt I’d aced my A-levels...
The garage where I bought my first car…
And the car park where my 1st boyfriend unwittingly smashed the rear of said car into a concrete pillar...
The hospital where I had my stomach pumped clean of fistfuls of Anadin….
And the same hospital where my mum was treated for cancer
The registry office where she later married my (dear) stepfather;
The warehouse where they built a thriving business together;
The shops and pubs where I worked;
The hills where Lucky & I won cross-country cups;
The house where I first got drunk and & passed out behind the rabbit hutch…
The band stand where we’d gather as teenagers to swig cheap vodka and watch the ‘Trackies’ and ‘Goths’ set about each other with broken bottles and baseball bats…
The council offices where I co-ordinated an award winning ‘riding and road safety’ campaign....
And the letterbox through which I later got 4 speeding convictions…
The DVLA office where I jubilantly passed my motorcycle test…
The cricket ground where I watched my ex-boyfriend teaching a child how to bat, and fell deeper in love with him…
The bars, streets, houses, where doubt first began to creep in…
The road we drove last September towards Heathrow and unknown adventure...
The quarry paths just beneath me, where I’ve worn through countless brake pads, trainer soles, and even the odd layer of skin...

The difference from a year ago is that I’m now looking out with a greater sense of contentment, and dare I say it… compassion…. than ever before.

Watching the countryside shift seamlessly towards Autumn it crosses my mind this view is more than just the peaks and troughs of Cotswold hills (Oolitc limestone if you’re interested)….. This is the landscape of my life.

In the future I hope I can sit here and plan more adventures to new places…. Peru, Sweden, Norway, China, Arizona are all currently nibbling away at my itchy feet like pet piranhas… and then, when I get back, I’ll return to this special spot and begin planning again... Then, perhaps, if I ever make it to old age, when my body’s brittle and achy, I’ll sit here --in the place where I belong-- and I’ll hitch a lift on the rolling mists over the Severn Vale, or the clouds drifting over the racecourse … and I’ll loose myself in memories of all the wonderful people and places I’ve been so fortunate to know. 

dfoo says:
Loved this last post. Fitting end to all your travels. It's hard to turn your back on your hometown where you heart will always be.

I look forward to your future blogs.
Posted on: Nov 29, 2007
ienjoybeingagirl says:
I loved reading your blog...it was so inspirational! You have great photos from Cambodia, I am going there next year and I can't wait. Good luck in your future travels!!
Posted on: Sep 13, 2007
findmeabeach says:
What a beautifully written blog, it's a joy to read :-)
Posted on: Sep 13, 2007
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photo by: HelenP