When I was a child, these hills held me, sheltering my growing self, and nurturing my identity. So much of my paganism started here, learning to love the land, discovering its stories, enchanted by the seasons, and the wildlife. Forest, vale, high blue hill, River Severn, Cotswold, Malvern….
The hills circle this small town, enfolding the space. It’s such a sheltered spot, so distant from the cities. Life is gentler here, people are friendly. I can also see how the place has changed in my absence – there are more houses, but fewer young folk, because you have to be very well off to afford a house here, and young people with new families stand little chance of owning property. The house I am in was built for factory workers, growing up on this road, people weren’t wealthy, but to buy in here costs a fortune now. The world has changed.
Returning, I’m aware of those hills holding me again, the feeling of peace and safety. Which is odd, because for years I had nightmares about being stuck here, unable to remember where home really was. In the last twelve months or so, the dreams of being trapped and needing to run had me back here as a safe haven. And now I am, and it is. A part of my soul belongs to this place, and I feel more complete for being here.
Not all of my ancestors came from this part of the world. My paternal grandmother came from the Forest of Dean across the river, my paternal grandfather from Winchcombe, on the edge of the Cotswolds. My grandmother’s father’s people came originally from Cornwall. But many of my ancestors lived and died in this area, their stories connected to the land itself, their bones resting here. I feel much closer to them for being in this place. I have a sense of belonging, of tribe, that had been missing. Here, my ancestors of blood, bone and tradition are all the same people.
Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Ozz, perhaps I needed to travel in order to know where to come back to. By my late teens, the circle of hills felt too small, and I was hungry to know more of the world. I will travel again, see new places, live in different houses – of that I have no doubt, but I have found something precious here. These are my roots, this is my past, and wherever the future leads, I have that understanding now, of where my heart-home lies.