Going uphill from Stroud along the old Bisley Road the escarpment trudges up to meet you as the long spine of ridge Stroud High Street is perched on lower down gives to the high cold upland. There are wide fields here, clumps of beech trees, hedges and views all around of the valleys and ridges that wrap about dipping out of sight. You can see right out of the valleys to the endlessly stretching distance of the Severn Vale. It is well wooded around Bisley as it is everywhere in the valleys. Woods are at the heart of this landscapes history. There are still several places near Bisley called ‘Frith Wood’ or ‘the Frith’. This is a well recorded name around here. Frith is one of the less common and probably early Anglo Saxon woodland naming words. There are many other kinds of Old English names for describing words embedded in modern place names and certain regions of England have a particular abundance of some specific woodland names, which might be hardly found in others. The Frith name around Bisley comes from ‘Fyrhthe’ that describes probably in its oldest sense a kind of wood in a well-wooded region, maybe of oak and beech. There’s another meaning of a scrub-woodland on the edges of a large wood. These are good guesses made by place name experts trying to work out the intricate land vernacular of words Anglo Saxons gave to topography and silviculture. Bisley as well being surrounded by Frith names has the Lower, Middle and Upper Lyppiats. This means a ‘Hleap Geat’ or leap gate and specifically is describing the kind of gate made for deer to leap in or out of a woodland enclosure for the purposes of hunting. The Lyppiat area is defined by the Toadsmore Valley on one side, and the smaller Horns valley on another side. Bisley was then once far more wooded and the woods stretched from Stroud High Street with glades breaking it in places to Bisley and Oakridge. The woods would have varied but beech, ash and oak are species recorded in placenames here, especially in the many ‘buckholt’ names on the escarpment on the periphery of Stroud. Names of Ash trees emerge hidden in ‘Eastcombe’ near Bisley that was ‘Ashcombe’ and not much further on ‘Nash End’ that is ‘the Ash Tree end of the Estate’. At Chalford there is Avenis Green which was ‘Abbas Ash’ the Ash of Abba. I’ve also noticed Box, holly and yew likes growing in certain woods around here. Bisley’s own name has ‘Leah’ at the end that here means ‘clearing in woodland’ or seeing how wooded this area was it could mean ‘Bisas Wood’. Bisa or Bisi is apparently a Germanic personal name like Abba.
Today Bisley is a rather tidy and well-off village of Cotswold stone cottages that meet around its church which stands above a prolific spring gushing out of a series of gothic-ish Victorian stone spouts into a curving gutter. I have feeling that this amazing spring feeding into the Toadsmore Valley had a small temple-shrine attached to it in Roman times reverencing the waters. There are surviving stone altars now in the Stroud Museum that seemed to have come from Bisley church into the possession of Lyppiat Park. Was there even once a Celtic goddess of Bisleys springs? The church standing on the ground above seems to occupy its ground in a deliberate act of taking over from a pagan site, though Bisleys church foundations may be late Anglo Saxon or Post Norman Conquest. Not far away is Bournes Green where a significant Roman Villa is known to have existed. Bisley seems to float in a sea of trees hiding another mysterious history.