Walking to a heavenly waterfall

Heavens waterfall long view - Caroline Aistrop

This constantly wet, miserable weather may not be great for the seratonine levels or make you want to abandon your dormouse impersonation curled up in a warm corner somewhere, but it is ideal for one thing – waterfalls. It’s little known that Stroud has a waterfall – OK, it’s not a niagra falls-type waterfall or even a ‘stand at the bottom and get covered with spray’ waterfall. But, nethertheless, a waterfall it is. And it’s found near a place with a name that makes you want to walk there – The Heavens.

The majority of Stroud district sits on top of type of rock called oolitic limstone which is made out of calcium carbonate. This may sound unbelievable but this type of rock started life as the shells of sea creatures.  Yep, really. Millions of years ago, the land that  would eventually become this area was covered in a warm, tropical-like sea inhabited by all sorts of prehistoric animals like ammonites. When these died, their bodies dropped to the seabed where the flesh rotted but the shells remained. Over time, this layer built up and geological forces basically solidified them into thick layers of rock. A few shells remained intact – which is why limestone is one of the best rocks for fossil hunting. It’s also a very porous rock meaning that water passes through it, doesn’t flow over the surface and, hence, no waterfalls.

I’m a northern lass by birth and babbling brooks with waterfalls are a common feature of my home county and have to confess to missing the sound of a splashing stream and waterfall. So I was overjoyed to find this lovely waterfall in the valley running between the Heavens and Bisley Road cemetery. At this time of year, thanks to all the recent rain, it’s looking at its most splendid. I might not have deafened with the roar and was still dry after standing just a couple of feet away from it, but it was relaxing to stand and watch the tumbling and swirling water on its never ceasing journey.

The other enjoyable thing about visiting this waterfall is that it’s reached by walking through a beautiful, scenic valley which feels so secluded.  The waterfall is at the head of the valley and feeds the stream running along its bottom, eventually joining the River Frome. In summer, it’s a superb place to take children as you feel you’re miles away from anywhere and the children can run around the valley uninhibitied and play in the shallow stream. There are plenty of large, spreading old trees providing shade so take a picnic and make a day of it. The view across to Rodborough Common and down the Golden Valley is lovely, too, and in places you can even see towards the Severn.

When to visit: any time of year. Winter is best for seeing the waterfall at full spate; summer is a great time to walk through the valley, have a picnic and generally enjoy the place.

Location: valley between Bisley Road cemetary and Claypits Lane (just off Thrupp Lane) with a hamlet called The Heavens just behind the waterfall. OS Explorer map 168 044868.

How much time to allow: as much as you want to. Walking from Claypits Lane to the cemetery (or vice versa) will only take about half an hour. On a lovely day, it’s a nice place to while away some time or take the dog for a walk.

Terrain: up and down (some of the slope leading up to the cemetery is steep), and parts are very muddy in winter. There’s a public right of way from one side to the other and across the waterfall but it’s not a place for people with mobility problems. The footpaths have an earth surface and are easy to follow.

Facilities: none. There are toilets and cafes in Stroud town centre, a few minutes walk from the cemetery.

Directions: either follow Horns Road to where it runs along the bottom of Bisley Road cemetery and look for a public footpath on your right which heads down into the valley. Or from the Stroud end of Thrupp Lane, walk up the lane and turn left at the point where Thrupp Lane swings round to the right. Claypits Lane is a few feet in front of you. Walk up this lane, looking out for a public footpath on the left. Simply follow this – it’ll take you into the valley where it turns right along the valley side to the waterfall.

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