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 divided into three distinct regions, The Cotswolds, The Severn Vale and the Royal Forest of Dean.
It has 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, nature, heritage and attractions.
The Cotswolds & The Cotswold Escarpment
Designated an area of “Outstanding Natural Beauty”, the Cotswolds, where dry-stone walls cross a landscape of rolling hills and hidden valleys, and the Cotswold Escarpment, where stunning views out over the Severn Vale & the Golden Valley meet the eye at every turn. Ancient churches dominate the honey coloured market towns and picturesque villages of the Cotswolds, whose rich architecture is a legacy of former wool wealth. ‘The Cotswolds was made prosperous on the back of the sheep. Cheltenham, Oxford, Gloucester, Bath.
The Severn Vale
The river Severn meets the Avon at the medieval town of Tewkesbury. It follows its course through the floodplain landscape of orchards, meadows and traditional half-timbered villages. Past Gloucester and Cheltenham the river widens and snakes on to Slimbridge and Berkeley Castle.
Royal Forest of Dean
24,000 acres of ancient forest create a magical setting for walking or touring. Many artists and potters choose to live here, often drawing their inspiration from the industrial heritage of the area. Newent, Coleford, Cinderford, Ross on Wye.
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.