It's so often the little, unnoticed things. A very brief trip into the north of the Cotswolds yesterday brought me yet again to Stanway. Perched up on the escarpment just off the B4077 east of Toddington, this tiny village has so much to delight the eye. It starts with a war memorial up on the main road that sports on its limestone column a cowering dragon being given a seeing-to by St.George (and lettering by Eric Gill), from where a lane leads down to a simply magnificent 17th century gatehouse connecting the south front of Stanway House with the yew-shaded churchyard. They were doing something to either the yews or the churchyard wall, but as I wandered by I spied these steps. Such a simple thing, here was a way of climbing over the stonework into the grounds. I poked my nose over the wall to see if there were a corresponding couple of projections on the other side, and there were. They reminded me of the Grandmother's Steps on The Cobb in Lyme Regis, such a functional device that obviated the need for a timber stile or indeed a gate. One can only imagine the use they've been put to. Children incorporating them into their games, housemaids lifting their skirts as they hurried to work in the big house, swains on the lower step plighting their troths to those same maidens on Sunday evenings. More about Stanway soon, I expect.
I am a writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)