|The factory by the stream|
You'll recall that the Slad Brook was last seen disappearing into the back of this industrial estate. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get permission to access the stream from the northern section of the industrial estate, but the owners of Rycote have been more than kind in allowing me to follow it through the land beside their factory. And after a brief session with an attentive salesgirl, I'm trying out one of their microphone windshields - there always seems to be a breeze in this valley and so far it's featured quite prominently in lots of my sound recordings. The shield makes my little mic look as if it has aspirations to be a teddy bear and it no longer fits in my pocket, so I hope the extra furriness is worth it.
For most of its journey through the industrial estate, the stream is underground, so I don't think I've missed much. From the corner of this car park, through thick bushes, I can just see it emerging from the culvert under a stone arch. It's now in a very much deeper, partially-stone-faced channel, and what with the depth and the undergrowth it's impossible to get closer to it here.
I'm now very much in the outskirts of Stroud - on the hem of Uplands, to be more precise - and there's a certain amount of man-made noise around. However, this is a surprisingly peaceful site, and I can still hear the stream and the bass humming of a large, fat bumblebee moseying about in the blackthorn blossom. All the excitement of microphone-windshield-making goes on inside the long, low building in front of me, but none of it seems to spill into the outside. The stream runs along the edge of the site, through the car park, past the factory, and alongside a largish area of grass at the back of the building, before disappearing into a housing estate. By the look of things, no-one disturbs it much. It's flowing in a channel some 6-8 ft below the car park level with steep banks on either side, lined with trees as usual, and I can find no easy way to get down to it until I get to the grassy bit at the back of the building. Here, the brook is flanked by two huge willows, their furry buds just bursting, and there's a flattish area beside it. With some caution, I clamber down the bank. It's not difficult, if you don't count putting my hand on a baby nettle by accident (which I do). Once down at stream level, I feel as if I'm in hiding. This is a spot which just asks to be sat in, looked at and listened to, and here is a fallen tree across the stream, perfectly positioned for sitting.
The stream itself sparkles with rippled sunlight, fretted with long, pin-sharp tree-shadows. I walk on to the furthest part of the bank I can actually reach. Beyond here, the bank becomes too steep to navigate, turns a bit of a corner, and then disappears into the housing estate. Through the leafless trees, I can see the silhouettes of houses, like distant mountains. It's all surprisingly wild and lovely, a patch of rampant nature right in the arms of the town. I make an extremely unsuccessful attempt to capture the scene in watercolour, dropping half of my new watercolour pans into the brook. Decide watercolour is not my medium.