The School in the Woods

Off for a walk into the Chedworth area of Gloucestershire and it promises to be sunny. My friend Robin and I have done this walk before starting from the Roman Villa and roaming through some of the finest countryside this area has to offer. Last time it was in the middle of Summer, this time it’s a cold but sunny start.

Perfect day for walking and we were headed for Fossebridge and the pub for lunch, then back across the Vestey estate to our starting point at Chedworth. There’s a steep climb after the pub sojourn up the field and into the woods.

We’d noticed the last time we were here that there were a number of what looked like abandoned buildings within the wood. Brick foundations are still visible and concrete paths interlaced the woods, though now covered in wood detritus they were still intact beneath the wood and leaf mould. This was a substantial settlement and we mused on what it could be. Our view was that it was certainly from the last war, there was still one smallish nissan hut still standing in a corner, now used by a farmer to store stuff. Complete with asbestos roof it had all the look of a World War 2 building.

The biggest building was the the left of this image just inside the woods and stretched for hundreds of yards.

The largest building was just in from these trees on the left
Here it is. You can see the brick foundations

We determined to find out more when we got back near the internet, and it turns out this was an American Hospital, built for casualties from the war. Hidden away in the woods in this lovely part of Gloucestershire in the middle of Lord Vestey’s estate. Information about if it was ever used is sketchy so far, but it seems not. It then converted to a school for Polish girls, other victims of the war. Take a quick look at the link here.

It seems that these refugees of the war travelled the world and ended up arriving in the Cotswolds, allowed to come here as they had ‘fiances’ in the Polish forces stationed here. This was a bit of a ruse as there was no intention for them to marry these strangers to them, in fact they signed something to the effect that they would not. It’s all a little sketchy but great good came from it. Settled in this camp they were educated by fellow Polish teachers. I understand that many of them went back to Poland or to other countries in later years.

Take a left out of the Fossebridge Inn, walk along a hairy bit of road ( a lot of fast traffic here but it’s not far ) over the bridge and immediately right into the large field after going through a big green gate. You are then on Lord Vestey’s land but we have a right to roam in this country, which must piss off the gentry no end but is excellent for the rest of us. Walk up to the edge of the wood from here, a steep climb.You then get into the woods and you are there within the woods, within what was a military hospital area and later this school for Polish girls.

Once out of the woods at the far end ( this is not a guide to the walk so take a look at the official footpath ) you get a view of Stowell House, up on the right, overlooking this wonderful valley of the River Coln. It’s where the gentry can look down on us.

This is on the last lap of the walk as it was yesterday
This is the same place in the summer
This is the River Coln meandering through on the last lap of this walk.
Reminds me of the sort of subject for a French Impressionists painting

If anyone out there has more information about the Hospital and the School in the Woods, then I’d love to know.

2 thoughts on “The School in the Woods

  1. I’m hoping that someone who might have been there, either in the US forces, or someone who helped build it, or some older Polish school veterans, might get in touch as there’s not much of a story apart from what I found. Thanks for kind comment.

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