26 May 2016

in the footsteps of laurie lee

Travel Diaries - Walking with Rosie: Part 3

the cotswolds


A visit to Stroud should incorporate a diversion to the village of Slad and the once home of Laurie Lee, author of the famous 'Cider with Rosie'. This stunning little village looks out onto the valley in which the book is based and in 2014 a new walk was created. It's from just outside the village that you can undertake a journey into the books very heart with the 6.5 mile Laurie Lee Wildlife Way. So on a perfect Monday morning that is exactly what Sketches did. 

Gorgeous Gloucestershire 
Lets start by saying that the weather was absolutely stunning. Blue skies with the occasional cumulus cloud on a gentle breeze drifting across the sky. The clouds cut by vapour trails of aircraft heading toward the Atlantic Ocean and the US. The grass and trees as green as can be, apple blossom beginning to show and buttercups and daises mingling with wild orchids on top the hills. Really! It was like we were being transported into the book. Entwined with the rich tapestry of Laurie Lees poems it made me dream of his childhood running around the fields and meadows we were about to walk through. 


the cotswolds
Each post has a Laurie Lee poem

the cotswolds

Guided by Poetry 
Our little guide sheet (£1 from the Tourist Information centre) provided us with relevant information, along with signposts and information boards which had poems written by Laurie Lee. This is more than just a walk. So off we headed on our six mile jaunt. The walk takes you through wooded areas, across streams, up steep climbs (be prepared!) and through farmland and valleys. The landscape was simply stunning. Typically English? The meadows a blanket of yellow butter cups. The hills awash with late spring and early summer wildlife. 


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There are ten posts on route that allow you to take a breather and to read Laurie's intimate thoughts. These certainly add to the walk, giving you an insight into his creative mind. It creates a nostalgic feeling of wanting to never leave! A time before TV and social media. Well that's how I felt anyway. A light lunch looking down on the valley and a final hike through the woods and the walk was done. 


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A Hamlet on route

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Towards Stroud - Laurie Lee Wildlife Walk
The Laurie Lee Wildlife Walk
This is a stunning way to see the landscape. It's well preserved and signposted. It did only open in 2014 so I suppose it should really. The guide was a great help and depending on your fitness it can be done in around 3hrs. If however you want to take your time, read all the poems and take in the surroundings, oh and perhaps visit the Woolpack pub, where Laurie Lee would frequent, (a little diversion towards the end of the walk) then this is a wonderful day out. Experience the Cotswolds and get close to the very heart of 'Cider with Rosie'. You won't be disappointed. I promise.

I hope you have enjoyed our little series on The Cotswolds. They really are one of the most beautiful places to visit on our wonderful planet. So I hope these articles have inspired you to visit them. Thank you for all your support, it really is appreciated. 


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20 May 2016

Stroud

Travel Diaries - 'Canals, coffee and cows!'

There is something quite magical about spending time along a canal. It's calming, your at one with nature, you can dream about living life on a canal boat, take in the morning air, listen to the chirping of birds and the chugging of canal boats. Bliss! West of Stroud, our base for this mini trip, is the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, one of the broadest and deepest canals in the world. These waterways play such an important role in the preservation of the UK countryside and are well worth visiting if you can. On a bright Sunday morning I looked at the map for a place to take a walk, picking out the little village of Saul. It was on the canal and seemed an interesting place to head to. Had never been there so thought; why not. Our next adventure had begun.

Picturesque Valleys - The Cotswolds
Gloucester to Sharpness Canal
A morning stroll along the towpath made for a perfect start to the day. Having navigated my way to the village of Saul, I parked down a lane, there is a carpark with charge if you'd prefer that. From there you can then head off in either direction of the canal and enjoy the landscape or just take pleasure in the canal boats slowing making their way past you. The docks, a short walk away make for an interesting diversion (see below) and the Stables Cafe, next to the carpark and the mechanical swing bridge makes for a great rest place a some breakfast. Which is what most people seemed to be ordering. However I had other places to visit, so once refreshed we headed for Stroud.

the cotswoldsthe cotswolds

Stroud
Perched in the valley surrounded by steep hills the town of Stroud is a small but pretty stopoff. A place you can easily spend an hour or two strolling around. Quaint shops mingle with high street brands and if you're looking for a place to stop and grab a coffee or a bite to eat, well it was lunchtime. Then I highly recommend heading for Black Book Cafe at the top of the high street. Lined with walls of books from floor to ceiling, this splendid little cafe housed inside a wonder 1930's building (see below) is homely and welcoming. Sit and read a book or just enjoy the drinks and food available. The coffee was superb, the food delicious and the owners friendly. Word of warning; it's a bit of a climb up the hill; at the top of the High Street, but well worth the effort. I promise.
the cotswolds
Looking down Stroud High Street
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The Black Book Cafe - Stroud
Doorstep to so much more
It would be easy to dismiss Stroud as it doesn't have many attractions, but that may be to your detriment. As a base it offers a gateway into the very heart of the Cotswolds. Above the town atop the hills you can see kites and parafoils launching into the sky. A mile or so out of town is the village of Slad (more next time) and the home of Laurie Lee. There are walks and of course its close to other major towns like Gloucester, Cheltenham and Chichester. Stroud also has a vibrant art scene. There happened to be an Open Studio event on the day I was there, so browsing at the artwork (not all of it great!) was relaxing and occasionally inspiring. Stroud also holds a jazz festival. So plenty for everyone.

So having had my fill of canals and coffee, our final day on this excursion was to head into the hills and see some of the real Cotswolds. So please join us soon as we walk the Laurie Lee Wildlife Trail around the village of Slad.


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17 May 2016

a day out in gloucester

Travel Diaries - Into the Cotswolds

The chance to explore one of the most beautiful parts of England; The Cotswolds was too hard not to turn down when offered. To see beautiful scenery, spectacular villages, wonderful flora and fauna and have some adventures into the unknown was the perfect tonic. So with camera and note pad in hand Sketches headed to Gloucester, then Stroud and finally followed in the footsteps of Laurie Lee, author of Cider with Rosie on the new Laurie Lee Wildlife Trail. So why not join us over the next few days as we give you plenty of reasons to visit the Cotswolds.


Gloucester
Gloucester Cathedral
Double Gloucester
When you arrive into the city its not particularly clear what Gloucester has to offer. Mundane houses and sixties style buildings don't quite fit in with the beautiful hills that surround it. We descended into Gloucester through typical Cotswold style villages (stone washed houses that have an orange tint - well to my eyes anyway!) So the cities secrets and beauty were not immediately clear driving into the centre. The main town centre is much of a muchness, so best to avoid unless you want to do some shopping. We decided to head further into town, making for its two main attractions, hence the double Gloucester cheese reference!  

Cathedral Walls
Gloucester was unfortunately bombed during the Second World War, however some original parts do remain and most can be found around the Cathedral, (click on the word for more information about this majestic place.) Its well signposted, so even I could find my way. You'll be greeted by a beautiful grand gothic structure surrounded by Georgian style houses and the remains of what must be the original church. It's inside however that you will find its true delights. Tranquil, ornate but not overpowering, creating a reflective atmosphere, is how I would describe it. The colourful windows and the central area of the cathedral give way to a completely covered cloister. Or is that cloisters? It was here that we had a truly magical moment. With the passageway deserted the only sounds reverberating off the walls were the choir boys voices practicing. Their high pitched notes sounding so angelic and serene. It was a special moment. It felt like it was just for me! If you visit on a Saturday morning you too may have that same experience? The cathedral though is a delight and a true highlight of the city.


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gloucester
Into the Cloisters

To the Waterfront
If that was the single Gloucester moment (talking cheese again!) then the second comes when you head to the historic docks, (click on the word for more). Rejuvenated but also retaining the of spirit of its industrial past, this is the place to come and relax when the sun shines; which it was, thankfully. Wondering around was a real joy, there are cafes, food and clothes outlets aplenty. Or you can just lay on a bench or on the side of the docks and soak up the sun. If you can I highly recommend you head for the Gloucester Brewery close to the tall ships building yard. It's what sunny days were made for, a beer (made onsite) whilst sitting watching the canal boats and tourist cruisers go about their business. Their shop has an extensive range and I can confirm that the beer was very nice indeed. 

The docks also have a museum, a number of old mechanical pieces and history boards to give you an idea of what this place was once like. It all made for a very pleasant afternoon and conjured up dreams of living a life on a boat cruising the canals and waterways of Britain.
gloucester
Anyone love a canal boat? Tours are available

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Remembering the industrial past at Gloucester Docks

Gorgeous Gloucester
Its hard to express how nice this little city is. Avoid the usual town centre shops and head for the historical attractions. If the sun is shining then enjoy the docks and even take a mini cruise. It really is the perfect tourist stop off. Full of hidden corners and plenty of history. Well worth at least a day trip? Most definitely and the perfect start to our little Cotswold adventure. 

Have you been to Gloucester? What did you like about it? I'd love to hear from you on any of the social media buttons at the top of the page or leave a comment. Next time we explore Stroud and head down the canal.  
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