Welcome to The Cotswolds!

I love the English Cotswolds and think everyone should visit this beautiful place at least once in their lifetime. Having lived all over the world and traveled as much as possible, I still think that this little part of England is one of the world's greatest treasures. This site is dedicated to helping spread the word and encourage sustainable travel to the Cotswolds.

If you enjoy reading this blog, please help spread the word by sharing with your friends!

Friday, 30 October 2009

A Perfect Autumn Walk in The Cotswolds

In the southwest of The Cotswolds, between Tetbury and Chipping Sodbury, lies the Westonbirt Arboretum, where the Autumnal arboreal fireworks are some of the best in Europe.

The arboretum was created around 1829 and many of the specimens now present date back to that time. The site covers an area of 600 acres and includes areas of Ancient Semi Natural Woodland, specimen plants and open grassland. This woodland is an important area in itself as it represents one of the largest areas of woodland of its type in the area. It is primarily Oak Standards with an understorey of Hazel coppice with some areas of high forest. 
Today Westonbirt is a Grade One listed landscape. The Holford family, who started the collection, planted in a picturesque style following the guidelines laid down by W.S.Gilpin. It is the landscape that the Holfords created that give Wesonbirt the grade one listing. New maple plantings will, in time, create the world’s best collection of Maples and is in keeping with this tradition.

The combination of this variety of trees within a beautiful Cotswold setting make for some unforgettable walks, and are a must see if you visit during the Fall. If you'd like to see what Westonbirt looks like right now, check out their Autumn Colour Watch page, where new photos are posted on a regular basis. The official page is on the Forestry Commission's site, right here.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Country Wines from The Cotswolds

I love country wine. The huge variety of flavours offers up something perfect for any occasion, and they can even be drunk seasonally (I'm partial to Strawberry Wine in the summer and Mead in the depths of winter).

When I lived in Cheltenham, one of the many high points of the Farmer's Market was a stop at the St. Anne's Vineyard booth, where an endless and always changing choice of delicious, perfectly made country wines was (and still is) on offer.  Before moving to Cheltenham I had never tried country wine, and it was St. Anne's Elderflower wine that converted me... and their Mead that made me a bit of a fanatic.  This plonk is locally made right in the Cotswolds (Newent) by a couple who clearly know what they're doing and are very passionate about their product, and a tasting is highly recommended if you are passing through.  They offer tasting tours to groups of 15-25 and if you miss the farmer's market, are on sale around Gloucestershire.

Visit St. Anne's Vineyard's Website

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Saturday, 24 October 2009

Waking a Sleeping Beauty

A Brit from the industrial north of England explores the storybook world of the Cotswolds, in a classic British sports car.

On this sunny afternoon, the bells are ringing as we motor into Blockley, a secluded village in the heart of rural England. We park outside the medieval church and ask what's going on. Is it a wedding? No, says a woman with a wicker shopping basket over her arm. It's the start of the local flower show.

We cross the churchyard and join the queue outside the community hall. We hand over the £1 entrance fee and enter, only to be engulfed by a scene of joyous, unmitigated Englishness.

During our four days in the Cotswolds, that most lyrically charming region of south-central England, nothing else quite so perfectly encapsulates the appeal of village life. At one end of the hall, a framed photograph of the Queen smiles down on a group of showgoers, who in turn smile down on a vase of artfully arranged daffodils judged best flowers in the show. The woman who grew them, Brenda Samuels, can hardly believe she has won. "I'm ecstatic!" she beams.
The flower show comes at the halfway point of a driving tour that my wife, Clare, and I are taking around this region of gently rolling fields and wooded hills west of Oxford and south of Stratford upon Avon. We're following the Romantic Road to the Cotswolds' most appealing towns and villages. These picturesque communities evoke an England of timeless calm and comfortable wealth, originally built on the wool trade. It's an almost mythical place which I, growing up 40 years ago in the industrial north of the country, could only read about in books, living as I did in a city of smog and steelworks. I still have some of those childhood books, and their photographs of the Cotswolds show Arcadian scenes that have hardly changed to this day. As the English travel writer S. P. B. Mais wrote in his 1932 classic, The High Lands of Britain: "[Nowhere] else in the world can you find beauty that is more completely soothing to the soul." This blissful land was less than a hundred miles away, but it could have been another planet.

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Friday, 23 October 2009

A Traditional Cotswold Bonfire Night at the Fleece Inn

A Truly Unique Bonfire Night
If you are looking for a very unique and traditional Bonfire Night celebration, this one is certainly worth consideration.  The Fleece Inn in The Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire, is hosting a Bonfire Night & Festival of Light on Saturday, 7 November.  The event will feature vintage stationary engines, tilley lanterns, Black Jack Morris dancing, folk music, warming food and much more.  The event runs from 5pm - 11pm, and you may reach The Fleece at +44 (0)1386 831 173 or email them at thefleeceinn@nationaltrust.org.uk.

If you'd like to stay the night, click http://thefleeceinn.co.uk/temps/bb.html for details on the B & B, originally built in 1400AD and complete with it's own ghost!

The Fleece Inn is a public house in BretfortonWorcestershire in the Vale of Evesham: the half-timbered building, over six hundred years old, has been a pub since 1848, and is now owned by the National Trust.

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bals Knap Long Barrow

elas Knap is a neolithic long barrow, situated on Cleeve Hill, near Cheltenham and Winchcombe, in Gloucestershire, England. A great place to visit any time, but maybe even better on Halloween Eve.... it is supposed to have a ghost.

We found this great video of the site- very nice footage and good info about the tomb itself.  To view on YouTube, click HERE.

For details on getting there and what to do, have a look at their listing on English Heritage, the curators for the site.

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Prestbury: The Most Haunted Village in England

Any tour of haunted Gloucestershire must begin at this village on the northern outskirts of Cheltenham, close to the world-famous Prestbury Park racecourse.

More than two dozen spirits are said to haunt its streets, the most famous being the Black Abbot, who is regularly seen in the church and churchyard and occasionally in other spots including the High Street.

Photographer Derek Stafford, who was taking pictures in the floodlit churchyard in November 1990, found a hooded figure on his last slide (the photo in this posting is the actual photo).

The Black Abbot's ghostly wanderings traditionally occur on three church festivals - Christmas, Easter and All Saints' Day.

During road works some years ago a skeleton was found with an arrow between the ribs.Several ghostly horsemen have been heard and seen in Shaw Green Lane and the Burgage - one reputedly a medieval rider heading to Edward IV's camp at Tewkesbury during the Wars of the Roses who was killed by an archer, another a cavalier who was killed by a rope across the road during the Civil War and another a knight in armour.

The ghost of a young girl has been seen in the garden of the Prestbury House Hotel, which is also said to be haunted by the sound of horse's hooves.

A white lady and several shades of old women have been reported at various locations around the village.Sundial Cottage in the Burgage is haunted by a girl playing a spinet - her ghost used to be seen but faint music is still occasionally heard.

A spectral shepherd and his herd have been seen in Swindon Lane and visitors to Cleeve Corner near the church have reported waking up feeling as if they are being strangled.
Research found that a bride was once murdered in her bed there.

Visitor information: Prestbury is on the northern outskirts of Cheltenham. For details of ghost walks call Cheltenham Tourist Information Centre, 77 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1PJ
Tel: +44 01242 522878

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