Summer School & Annual Walk 24th&25th June 2023 at Snailbeach village hall & The Bog Visitor Centre, Stiperstones, Shropshire
Our Main event of the year was a great success in every way with 40+ members & guests attending including Mary Webb’s three great nieces, and for the first time, her great great nephew David Rennie. David and his aunts are all descendents of Donald Meredith, Mary’s nephew, son of her beloved brother, Douglas. Donald is our much-loved honorary vice president.
It is always a joy to be in the Snailbeach/ Stiperstones area, right in the heart of Mary Webb country and the setting for two of her novels,The Golden Arrow and Gone to Earth. The area also featured in the 1950 film of Gone to Earth.
The morning’s programme included two talks from our president,
Dr Gladys Mary Coles, biographer and leading authority on Mary Webb. Gladys Mary spoke of the wealth of folklore woven into Gone to Earth, demonstrating Mary Webb’s knowledge of the myths & legends of Shropshire. She often re-named places in her novels; Lordshill becomes ‘God’s Little Mountain,’ ‘The Devil’s Chair,’ ‘Diafol Mountain.’ The novel is highly dramatic but also contains a wealth of humour. It is the story of a half-gypsy girl, Hazel Woodus who lives with her father Abel in a tumble-down cottage at Bromlow Callow. Naive Hazel is devoted to her pet fox, Foxy and despises fox hunting. She is pursued by both the local squire, Jack Reddin and the vicar, Reverend Edward Marston, with tragic consequences. Gladys Mary emphasised that the novel, written in 1916 during the first World War should be seen as part allegory, as Mary expresses through Hazel, her horror at the cruelty of man and the futility of war. Mary had three brothers at the front and feared for their safety.
In her second fascinating lecture Gladys Mary analysed the main characters of the novel and their role in Hazel’s downfall.
Gladys Mary Coles is an exceptional speaker, engaging and knowledgeable and always manages to find a new angle or previously unknown information to delight the audience. We are privileged to have her as the society’s president and founder.
After an excellent buffet lunch provided by our favourite caterer, Wendy Oakley and her team, we walked to the historic little church of St. Luke’s Snailbeach to view the society’s ‘Treasures’ exhibition, designed by Sue Hughes in 2016 and on loan to the church.
The afternoon’s entertainment was provided by the wonderful Val Littlehales, a native of the area, a real Shropshire ‘wench’! Val delighted us with stories and legends and references to Gone to Earth told in Shropshire dialect and embellished by a motley assortment of wigs and hats. We all loved it!
During the day there was an opportunity to explore Andy Cox’s excellent book sale including rare and vintage copies and Pat Evans’s beautiful artwork.
The final event of the day was the auction of the beautiful hand-felted picture based on Gone to Earth by Sue Hughes. Wynford Wyke was auctioneer for the day, managing the bidding as excitement mounted, with the hammer (or some heavy object) dropping at £175 for this exceptional work of art.
Congratulations to Rachael the winning bidder.
What a day! After a farewell cuppa we set off for home, some to reassemble tomorrow for the annual walk from The Bog Visitor Centre, Stiperstones for the Flenny Bank Walk led by chairman and intrepid walker, Gordon Dickins.
The weather for the walk was perfect, even the gathering cloud over the Stiperstones didn’t deter us. The Shropshire landscape was at its best, both tranquil and dramatic, no wonder Mary was so inspired. Our lunch stop at Shelve pool with dragonflies for company, was reminiscent of scenes from Sarn Mere in Precious Bane. Continuing the walk, it was a rare joy to see and hear a Curlew and a low-flying Kite. Finally the weary walkers arrived at the welcoming Bog Visitor Centre for a well-earned cuppa and cake. A chance to rest awhile, chat to new friends and old and share the special warmth of a Mary Webb gathering. Roll on the next one on Saturday 23rd September, our Autumn Gathering and AGM. New members are always welcome! To join the society please download the application form and email to Liz Stamps, Membership Secretary,