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|
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.
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.
|Looking down Stroud High Street|
|The Black Book Cafe - Stroud|
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.