John Betjeman

John Betjeman’s Eastleach Film

Take a leisurely stroll around the picturesque Gloucestershire village Eastleach Martin with poet John Betjeman.

 

 

Read the script of this film – click here.

Nestling into Gloucestershire’s rolling hills alongside the River Leach, the village retains its picture postcard charm today. This is one of 26 travelogues that Betjeman made for Shell’s Discovering Britain series in 1955, which saw him venture all around the British Isles. This issue is called Eastleach Martin, Gloucestershire.

John Betjeman
John Betjeman

In the Cotswolds, many main roads like this are dull; not a house in sight, hardly a tree. You can’t believe any villages are near. Even the signposts seem to be telling lies; look at this one – “Eastleach Martin” ( we see an old-fashioned, black-and-white wooden sign at a crossroads that points to Barrington, Shilton, Filkins and Eastleach Martin). It leads to my favourite Cotswolds village. I’m not going to tell you how to get to it, ‘cos its’ a secret place you have to be clever enough to use a large-scale map to find it. It’s between Burford and Fairford, I will tell you that much, and the road suddenly descends into a wooded valley.

And here, from Eastleach Martin churchyard, you can look across to Eastleach Turville, which also has its own church.

The way to look at a village is to get out of your motor car and walk – and this place is full of hidden footpaths. Let’s cross form Eastleach Martin by a stone footbridge into Turville, ( I like going slowly and stopping to stare ).

Keble Bridge Eastleach
Keble Bridge Eastleach

This fresh, clear, weed water will soon join the Thames at Lechlade, which is really Leech-lade and takes its name from the River Leech. As you walk up the village street, the old cottages look as if they’ve been there since William the Conqueror’s day, though they’re probably not more than two hundred years old. The tradition of cottage-building in the Cotswolds has been passed down to the present day, so that these buildings seem ageless.

Ageless Cottages - Eastleach
Ageless Cottages – Eastleach

The Cotswolds are a country of dry walls, always built like this, and if you give them a hard enough push at the top they’ll fall over.

I always like to look at the post office to see what’s going on in a village and I always buy the local postcards in case there’s something I haven’t visited. I notice today they they don’t use the elaborate adjectives they used to; they don’t call drives “grand” anymore; it’s getting old-fashioned.

Former Post Office - Eastleach
Former Post Office – Eastleach

I said walking was the best way to look at a village and one of my favourite walks here is to Turville Church, which stands there with its saddle-back tower and has stood for more than four hundred years. Baptisms, marriages and burials have been going on here, and in all the Cotswolds villages, for centuries – to the sound of water, to the lumber of cartwheels, to the swish of cows’ tails as they flick off the flies and drink the crystal River Leech.

If you can find the Eastleaches from Burford, well, Burford is seventy- four miles from London and fifty-five miles south of Birmingham.