Imagine the English countryside at its best and you’re probably already thinking of Gloucestershire.
Steeped in history and rich in agricultural practice, the county offers the unique experience of traditional rural life.
It’s been said that Gloucestershire has the most diverse geology of all the English counties, which is why it can offer such a wide range of landscape, flora and fauna, heritage and attractions.
Gloucestershire has supreme examples of all that is finest in terms of countryside that has been influenced by humankind since time immemorial.
For centuries people have co-operated with the landscape in terms of agriculture, woodlands and architecture to sympathetically provide for their needs.
Gloucestershire is composed of many different areas
The Cotswolds, is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty lying between Stratfordupon-Avon,Bath and Oxford, and just ninety minutes travelling time from London. The use of local honey-coloured stone for houses and dry-stone walls has created a harmonious and beautiful landscape.
Visit in summer, when red poppies dot the fields, or winter, when cottage lights against the dusk are wonderfully atmospheric – the Cotswolds will welcome you through the year. Great pubs, gardens, churches, attractions, cream teas, farm shops and more.
The Severn Vale, a distinctive area on the edge of the Cotswolds, stretches from Tewkesbury, with its attractive black and white timbered buildings, along the River Severn, through Gloucester, and on towards Slimbridge and Berkeley.
The Stroud Valleys are home to many artists and craftspeople.
The Forest of Dean consists of almost 10,000 hectares of ancient Forest. There’s a captivating atmosphere about this area, with its rich industrial history and unique traditions. This is a great place for outdoor activities of all sorts, as well as for bird spotting and flora – the area is renowned for its wild daffodils and bluebells in spring, and for rich autumn colours.
THE GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTRYSIDE
Gloucestershire can be divided up into a number of distinctive areas, each of which enjoys its own local characteristics. The best known area of Gloucestershire is the Cotswolds, a band of limestone hills covering half of the county.
The steep scarp edge to the west runs down the middle of the county and the hills slope gently away eastwards to the valley of the River Thames. The Cotswolds are internationally renowned for their architecture, with picturesque villages of mellow stone cottages nestling in the valleys. Pictured is Arlington Row at Bibury. Barns and churches are built along similar fines, with massive buttresses and stone-tiled roofs.
The Royal Forest of Dean is one of Britain’s ancient hunting forests with over 100 square kilometres of woodland still standing. Here secretive villages fringe the forest while quiet glades of foxgloves are hidden among great oak trees. The River Wye forms the western boundary of the county with spectacular gorges and beautiful woodlands.
In the Severn Vale lush meadows lie alongside the lower reaches of Britain’s longest river, famous for its tidal bore. Half-timbered buildings are in evidence and the curious solitude of the widening estuary is a haven for thousands of wildfowl and wading birds. The Lea Valley in the north-west of Gloucestershire has literary, connections including influential Dymock Poets, and is quietly attractive in its own right.
The area is well known for its display of springtime wild daffodils. In the south-east corner of the county two areas of flooded gravel workings form the Cotswold Water Park, an increasingly important wetland area offering a greater area of water than the Norfolk Broads. The area is a centre for water sports, nature conservation, walking, cycling and angling.
Although countryside accounts for 90% of Gloucestershire the remainder is made up of the county’s villages, towns and cities. Gloucester is the county’s capital, famous for its Norman cathedral, restored docks and fine rugby team. Close by is Cheltenham, a spa town renowned for its Regency architecture and a winner of the Britain in Bloom competition.
Tewkesbury has fine examples of half-timbered houses while Stroud has a rich industrial heritage. Coleford is the administrative centre for the Forest of Dean and Cirencester fulfils the same function for the Cotswolds.