I am compelled to write about an extraordinary event that has spiralled today concerning my own sleepy village in Gloucestershire. Someone once wrote “..if ever a place deserved the often over-used cliché, “undiscovered gem,” Chalford is the place! ” The village is located in a ridiculously lovely valley bounded by strikingly steep hillsides. It’s an idyllic spot nestled on a hill called the Golden Valley—and has been ever since Queen Victoria rode the Great Western railway through the valley. It is an Alpine village with only one small road.
Houses are perched up on the hill because it was one of the centre’s for the manufacture of broadcloth and its wealthy clothiers built many of the houses on the hill. It has a limited vehicle access so everyone has to walk up the hill to get to their homes. Before the car, there used to be a house at the bottom of the hill where the village donkey resided, whose job was solely to carry people’s shopping, wood, or whatever up the hill to the houses. This tradition lasted well into the 1950’s. Today a movement has started to bring back the donkey at its got the rest of the world in a twist about the prospect
Daily I buy all the daily newspapers from the Villages Store, seven days a week, and each day I walk down the hill and then lug the massive wad of papers back up the hill. Maybe not for much longer?
At 8.40am this morning, I was listening to The Today Programme and I heard that the residents of Chalford, centered around the community stores that have managed to keep the post office and village store open have launched an iniative to bring back the Chalford donkey. A community group newsletter petitioned for a village donkey as a means of transport, and has won the support of most of the homeowners.
What I love about this eccentric community that I live in is that they are thinking laterally about the issue and rather than asking to get roads put in which would disfigure and disrupt the area, they are going for an eco friendly option in reverting to mule power. Inundated with calls today , not about celebrity crises, not about rebranding, but about my village. The Daily Mail has offered to buy the community its donkey and wants to create a documentary on the subject. It just goes to show the speed of the media, and the impact of The Today Programme.
What I find really fascinating is that this sleepy part of Gloucestershire can suddenly become not just the place where I buy my news, but the news itself.