Fridge magnets

Did you know that you can play around with the magnets on the fridge on main webpages of this website? Woo hoo, that’s right …have a play …move them around …spell some silly words … x

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Sudeley Castle & Gardens

Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle by Gordon Robertson, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sudeley Castle & Gardens, located in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, is set within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the rolling landscape of the Cotswolds. Sudeley Castle is a beautiful Grade I listed building that was built in the 15th Century and it has played a significant role in the history of England. Standing within the castle grounds is St. Mary’s Sudeley, a chapel that would be the final resting place of Queen Catherine Parr (1512–1548), who was the sixth and last surviving wife of King Henry VIII. Many members of the household staff have reported seeing the ghostly figure of a tall woman in a green, Tudor-styled dress walking through the Queen’s garden. The spooky figure is thought to be that of Catherine Parr, who tragically died of puerperal fever at the castle, one week after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Seymour.

Today, Sudeley is one of a few castles left in England that is still used as a residence, but it is also a popular visitor attraction.

History

The castle, including the Chapel and the Tithe Barn was originally built in 1442, by Ralph Boteler with the riches he had earned fighting in the Hundred Year’s War. In 1469 King Edward VI of England took the castle from Ralph Boteler and gave it to his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, who later became Richard III of England. Richard used the castle during the Battle of Tewkesbury, but later exchanged Sudeley for Richmond Castle, which consequently made Sudeley the property of the crown. When Richard died at the Battle of Bosworth, Henry VII inherited the castle and he gave it to his uncle, the Duke of Bedford.

When King Henry VIII took over the throne the property again became the property of the crown. When Henry VIII died, the castle fell into the hands of his son, Edward VI, who presented it to his uncle, Thomas Seymour. In 1547 Thomas Seymour married Henry VIII’s widow, Queen Catherine Parr. Catherine Parr gave birth to their daughter, Mary Seymour on 30 August 1548, but tragically died one week later. In 1728 Catherine’s grave was discovered after the grounds had been obliterated by the English Civil War. She was later buried again and a memorial tomb was erected in 1817.

At the end of the Civil War, on the orders of Oliver Cromwell the castle remained neglected and derelict for nearly 200 years, before it was rescued in 1837 by wealthy businessmen; John and William Dent. Their nephew, John Coucher-Dent inherited the castle in 1855 and it was his wife, Emma Brocklehurst who was instrumental in the restoration of the former glory of the castle.

The Gardens

The grounds of Sudeley Castle contains nine world-famous gardens. The main garden is called the Queens’ Garden and is so named because four English Queens; Anne Boleyn, Catherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I, all spent considerable time in the garden. Close to St Mary’s Chapel lies the White Garden which is surrounded by an enormous variety of roses. It is within the White Garden where Catherine Parr is entombed. The pattern of the Knot Garden is said to be based on a dress pattern worn by Queen Elizabeth I, which is also shown in a portrait which hangs in the castle. The Knot Garden comprises of a geometric pattern of 1,200 box hedges, and has a Moorish fountain at the centre. Other gardens in the grounds include the garden in which the Tithe Barn is situated, the Secret Garden, the Mulberry Garden and the Herb Garden Walk. Presently the gardens are maintained by a dedicated team and Sudeley’s ethic is to manage the gardens in a manner that sustains the habitat for the insects and wildlife in the area.

The Present

At present Sudeley Castle is owned by Lady Elizabeth Ashcombe and her two children; Henry and Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, who currently live in the Castle with their families and manage the castle as a visitor attraction. The castle and the gardens are open daily from 10am to 5pm.

The castle currently contains three permanent exhibitions. The ‘Threads of Time’ exhibition features a range of textiles made using techniques spanning 400 years. The ‘20 Treasures of Sudeley’ exhibition contains a grand collection of art and antiques that have been collected throughout the castle’s history. The Catherine Parr Exhibition showcases copies of original books written by Catherine Parr, who was the first queen to have work published professionally.

In February 2012 the remains of the body of Richard III were found in a car park in Leicester, and in April 2014 the castle was one of seven venues across the UK to host the official 3D facial reconstruction of Richard III. A permanent Richard III exhibition can be found within the castle.

The castle hosts regular events including talks from historians, family fun days, music performances and book signings. The castle is also available for weddings and corporate events and Sudeley Castle Cottages can be hired for family holidays.

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5 Things to do in Tewkesbury

It is as though Tewkesbury is the town that stood still, with a beautifully preserved medieval layout and character even today. It is a thriving place yet is also in ways an open air museum. Tewkesbury is a delightful and we really think it is a “must see”.

Tewkesbury is one of our favourite places to visit and to be honest we always find it a bit of a struggle to come up with only five top things to do because, well, there are just so many things to do in this lovely town that we are always spoilt for choice.

Lilley's Alley - One of Tewkesbury's many alleyways

Lilley’s Alley – One of Tewkesbury’s many alleyways. Photo by Joel Meadows, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cooks Green Cottage is the ideal base for exploring out and about so you may want to consider Tewkesbury on your “to do” list when you come and stay. We have picked out five very different ways to enjoy Tewkesbury but we can recommend plenty more.

The Alleyways

Tewkesbury’s alleyways are an interesting place to explore. They appeared in the 17th century as demand for housing increased. Due to lack of floor space to fit the dwelling, compensation was made by making the narrow buildings tall. The alleyways acted as rubbish depositories and drains for the families that lived there and the air in the alleyways was all that was available to many homes leading to disease and dirty living conditions. These conditions reached a peak in the 19th century when cholera and diphtheria were rife. There were 90 alleyways at one time with 30 remaining today to explore. The quaint alleyways we see today are a far cry from what life was really like years ago.

John Moore Museum and Abbey Lawn Cottages

The cottages are 15th century and were built by the Benedictine Monastery as a money making enterprise. The cottages had shutters which would be lowered to convert into shops each day. The Merchant’s House and John Moore Museum are located in the row of cottages. John Moore was an author of local history and the museum comprises of much natural history to reflect John Moore’s work.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Inside Tewkesbury Abbey

Inside Tewkesbury Abbey. Photo by Jack Torcello, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The abbey was initiated in 1087 and finally consecrated in 1121. The abbey is home to what is described as the “finest Norman tower in the world” along with large Norman pillars. There are many interesting tombs in the abbey, some of great benefactors to the abbey. The architecture is fabulous with beautiful lattice work ceilings. Tewkesbury Abbey was saved miraculously from Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries by the efforts of locals who purchased the abbey from the King for £453.00 – a huge amount for the times.

Beckford Silk

For something different (and a bit further out) try this silk printing work shop. It has been operating for over 30 years. Enjoy walking through the dye room, print shop, and sewing area, where you can see craftspeople at work at every stage of the production resulting in gorgeous hand crafted shirts, silk scarves, silk ties and other garments and accessories. There are plenty of information and education boards to read to help understand the process but the crafters are friendly and will answer questions as well. There is a lovely shop selling the wonderful products and a cafe serving coffee and snacks.

Countryside Cruising

Just perfect for a lazy summer day, Kingfisher Ferries will take you on a boat ride from Tewkesbury to Twyning Fleet Inn, daily in the summer season. The boat staff point out points of interest in the town, but most of the cruise is through magnificent countryside that is a pleasure to see. Upon arrival at Twyning Fleet Inn you can disembark for a meal or drink in the inn gardens or remain on board for the return trip.

Click here to read more about Tewkesbury.

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10 Things to do in Gloucester

We had the hardest job coming up with ten things to do in Gloucester not because there isn’t anything to do but because there are so many things to do, places to see, people to meet as they say. We decided to sit down with a cup of tea and discuss the places we have enjoyed the most. This is not to say that other attractions are not worthwhile – they are! It is just that Gloucester has a wealth of wonderful things to indulge in making choices very hard.

1. The Jet Age Museum

The museum is a work in progress and is perfect for any aviation enthusiasts and ideal for family visits as children will love being able to sit in the aircraft and learn about the history of some famous aeroplanes. The museum consists of some original aircraft and some replicas. We liked the layout and the natural lighting coming from the glass front that overlooks the Staverton air field. You can see helicopters and other aircraft going about their business on the airfield which adds to the excitement. The volunteer staff is knowledgeable, friendly and helpful and there is a cafe serving delicious cake!

2. Gloucester Quays

Gloucester Quays

Gloucester Quays by Elliot Brown, licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you enjoyed television’s “The Onedin Line” you will love this location which was used for much of the filming of the series. Visit on the right day and you may see a tall ship in port and there in a festival held annually for these wonderful ships. These days pleasure boats are the norm and the lively area has many outdoor events for all the family from theatre to food markets. There are also many designer outlet shops for bargain hunters and it is a day well spent browsing for bargains and absorbing history.

Always a port, significant growth occurred after the completion of the canal to Sharpness which saw increased trade. Cargo of timber and wheat dominated although citrus fruits and wine were also imported. There is a group of Victorian warehouses that were used to store grain.

With plenty of places to eat and museums too it is a great place to visit.

3. Gloucester Cathedral

The Cathedral has to be one of England’s finest medieval buildings. It is the burial place of royalty including Edward II of England. There is an amazing vaulted medieval cloister where Harry Potter fans will recognise the backdrop as part of Hogwarts. The stained glass windows are a marvel of design from different eras with the Lady Chapel boasting probably the finest Arts & Crafts glass in the country. The cathedral and precinct are prime examples of stunning architecture and building skill. The whole area is charming and peaceful and there is a restaurant serving light lunches. The admission is free but visitors may make a donation if they wish.

4. Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum

At this charming museum, visitors can learn how soldiers and their families experienced life throughout the last three hundred years. The Gloucestershire Regiment (The Glosters) have been at many turning points in British Military History including the American Revolutionary War, Napoleon’s defeat, Dunkirk’s defence, the Korean War and most recently Afghanistan. The new Modern Army Display gives a taste of what it is like to serve in Afghanistan. The latest military equipment is on display and visitors have the chance to lift the body armour worn on operations in extreme temperatures. This is a great day out for history and military buffs who want to know more about this famous regiment.

5. The Barn Owl Centre

This is a fantastic experience for anyone who enjoys seeing creatures in a natural way. Each experience is carefully tailored for visitors and includes guidance from very knowledgeable staff who explain about the husbandry of the birds and their behaviour before demonstrating flights of birds of prey. The highlight of the trip is having a bird of prey landing on your arm. It is an amazing feeling and the staff are there every moment of the visit. What is obvious is the welfare of the birds comes first and you feel like a special guest.

6. Gloucester Folk Museum

Gloucester Folk Museum is dedicated to social history. The 500 year old Tudor building plays host to a marvellous display of small wooden items, historical costumes, dairy, pin factory and Victorian classroom tableaux bringing the social history of Gloucester to life. There is plenty to do with many hands on exhibits, children’s activities, demonstrations and events. The Folk Tea Rooms offer wholesome meals and snacks and a wealth of home baked goods to enjoy along with speciality tea and coffee.

Finish your visit by browsing the Folk Boutique where an eclectic mix of goods, souvenirs and mementoes are on sale so you can remember your visit. Delicious food, shopping and education – it does not come much better than this!

7. The Guildhall

Gloucester’s Guildhall was opened in 1892 and has become a distinctive venue for the arts in recent times having formerly been the home of the town council, until 1985, it has since been turned into a premier entertainment venue. Gloucester Guildhall is a bustling centre offering live music and shows, concerts, film, exhibitions, theatre and conferences. Even comedy nights and club nights are frequent spectaculars at the building.

Live bands that have performed at the Guildhall include Radiohead, Muse and Primal Scream to name a few. The Speakers nights are popular with guests including Germaine Greer, Tony Benn MP and Sir David Frost.

The broad spectrum of entertainment on offer makes a visit a must as there is sure to be something of interest.

8. Gloucester Leisure Cruise

If messing about in boats is your thing, why not take a trip aboard the Queen Boadicea pleasure boat for a 45 minute cruise exploring the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. The cruises run three times every day and are great for learning about the history of Gloucester’s waterways while enjoying a different view of things from the water.

9. Gloucester Ghost Walks

Especially spooky if you are visiting around Halloween, the Gloucester Ghost Walks are a popular attraction and as can be imagined with so much history – there have to be ghosts!

From the tourist information centre on Wednesday and Thursday evenings a walking tour of Gloucester’s haunted sites along with the stories makes a fun activity. The areas covered are Southgate Street and the Café Rene that has many unexplained happenings and also has a 600 year old Roman well inside. Addison’s Folly, The Old Bell, Crosskeys Inn, Meeks Shoe Shop and many other locations give up their spooky secrets on this tour.

10. The Warehouse Climbing Centre

For active sorts, this old Victorian warehouse is well worth a visit as it has been transformed into an indoor climbing place that is very impressive. There really is something for everyone here young to old, novices to experts.

There are many types of climbing walls of varying heights going up to 11 metres. There is a dedicated kid’s zone, a Bouldering Floor, Meeting Rooms, Party Rooms and a Shop with a Café. The friendly staff ensures full supervision is available at all times and also provide expert tuition. Non climbers can relax in the café bar and watch the action.

Want to know more about Gloucester? Read a brief history of Gloucester here.

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Cheltenham Festivals

Holst conducts the tents at Cheltenham Literature Festival 2013

Holst conducts the tents at Cheltenham Literature Festival 2013. Photo by muffinn, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The festival for which Cheltenham is most famous is the festival of horse racing at Cheltenham racecourse. Four days of sporting greatness is played out featuring a wide cast of people and horses including the annual Irish invasion. Cheltenham is also home to many other festivals across a broad spectrum of interests including music, science, art and literature which embodies everything that is so great about Cheltenham as a place to visit. We are always spoiled for choice when deciding which events to visit, so we have picked out some of the festivals that make Cheltenham so special that you can visit when staying at Cooks Green Cottage.

The Cheltenham Jazz Festival 

Started in 1996, Cheltenham Jazz Festival is now established as the leading and most popular in the UK. It takes place from the end of April until the first week of May. Featuring a broad range of musicians, jazz is performed in many different styles and over the years have featured such illustrious artists as Herbie Hancock, Van Morrison, Frank Sinatra Jr, Curtis Stigers, Courtney Pine, Jamie Callum and many more.

The events take place around the town in different venues including Cheltenham Town Hall, the Playhouse Theatre and also in outdoor marquees. The fringe events are usually free and are devoted to young up and coming musicians who showcase their music in parks, parks and restaurants.
The jazz festival also features master classes and workshops for adults, teenagers and younger children where advice and interactive sessions on performance.

The Cheltenham Music Festival

One of the longest established festivals The Cheltenham Music Festival has taken place in June and July since 1945. The festival is famous for contemporary music premieres. The Festival takes place in several venues across the entire county and the atmosphere of some of these venues add to the magic of the performance. Imagine being seated in a magnificent cathedral abbey or historic building such as the Pittville Pump Room. The festival is not just about music and equally featured are dance, film, visual arts and the spoken word. This event is a true celebration for lovers of the arts.

The Cheltenham Literature Festival

1949 saw the inception of the literature festival and the Cheltenham Literature Festival is considered one of the UK’s most prestigious events and has the accolade of being the world’s longest running literature festival. It takes place during the first two weeks of October and there are plenty of events around the town to enjoy including workshops, readings, debates and other entertainments such as themed meals. There is plenty to do for the children as well and at some stage most of the great names in modern literature have appeared at this wonderful event.

The Cheltenham Science Festival

This fascinating event was launched in 2002 and plays host to a prestigious international science-based competition for talented scientists. NESTA FameLab attracts competitors who have made the finals from 25 different nations. The event takes place in June each year. The festival is located in the gardens of the Town Hall and the building itself. There is also a tented science village built in Imperial Square. The Festival aims to be inclusive with serious science events alongside more light hearted events including comedy, experiments, and debates.

Cheltenham is truly a festival town that celebrates the arts and many other unique interests. You could say there is a festival for everyone from food and drink, musical shindigs, sporting festivals and much more. Whatever time of year you stay with us at Cooks Green Cottage, you will be sure to find a festival to visit to suit you.

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A Brief History of Gloucester

A tall ship in Gloucester Docks - an important part of the history of Gloucester

A tall ship in Gloucester Docks – an important part of the history of Gloucester. Photo by kennysarmy, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Gloucester is a place we advise all our visitors to Cook’s Green Cottage to visit. Whatever your interests Gloucester has so much to offer the visitor as it is so rich in history but also has a wealth of restaurants, shopping and entertainment venues. We have decided to give our website visitors a brief history of Gloucester. Picking up on the highlights since the Roman times will, we hope, give you a taste of how this wonderful city evolved and what shaped it through the years.

ROMAN

The origins of Gloucester are Roman and the site was a natural choice as it sits at the first point the River Severn can be crossed easily. A fort was built in 49AD to guard the river crossing followed by another fort where the town centre is. When the Romans left in 75AD, the place where the fort stood was built into a small town named Glevum for retired soldiers. This town along typical Roman patterns with a forum and a grid pattern was eventually abandoned around 407AD when the Romans left Britain.

SAXON

Nobody knows if people were living in Gloucester after the Romans’ departure but there may have been clusters of farmers in the locality. A battle with native Celts in the area enabled the Saxons to capture Gloucester as it stood. In the 7th century the Saxons built a monastery and the town began to grow. By the 8th century Gloucester was cited as one of the noble cities of the entire kingdom.

The 9th century saw the Saxons create a network of fortified towns called burghs. Anticipating a Danish attack, all men in the area would gather to fight in the burgh of which Gloucester was one. From Gloucester, a resounding victory was had over the Danish. As Gloucester flourished during the 10th century a mint was established and suburbs extended beyond the North gate.

Gloucester also became a pilgrimage town as the remains of St Oswald were brought to the city. This was good for the economy as the visiting pilgrims spent lots of money.

THE MIDDLE AGES

Gloucester is the place where William the Conqueror declared the Domesday Book be written.

Gloucester’s population was around 3500 during the Middle Ages making it a large town by the standards of the day. The Normans built a castle of wood in Gloucester in the 11th century which was rebuilt in stone during the 12th century. Due to wars between the Welsh and English during the 12th and 13th centuries Gloucester was strategically important. The fortunes of war favoured the economy with a garrison at the castle.

The main industry at this time was wool along with a leather industry. Iron was also worked with a large fishing industry on the River Severn. Imports and exports were thriving.

The 13th century saw friars arrive in Gloucester known as Greyfriars because of their habits. They were followed on by Dominican friars known as Blackfriars due to their habit colour. When King Edward II was buried at St Peters Abbey, it made a contribution to the economy again as visitors flocked to the tomb. A decline in the towns fortunes began in the 15th century as Wales was now conquered meaning Gloucester was not so important strategically and there was also growing competition from other towns for goods and services.

THE 16th CENTURY

Gloucester gained a bishop and Abbey Church became a cathedral. After the reformation of the churches when Queen Mary tried to restore Catholicism to Britain, she burned many Protestants including John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, burned for heresy in St Marys Square. Around this time a grammar school was established called the Crypt School and the wool trade continued to decline. Along with outbreaks of plague Gloucester was struggling.

THE 17th CENTURY

Gloucester was still a busy port and a market town for the surrounding region in the 17th century and although various trades had declined there was a boom in pin making. The city suffered in the civil war 1642 to 1646. Much of the south west were supporters of the king but Gloucester supported parliament. The town’s people destroyed houses outside the city walls so any enemy could not take refuge and added some earth fortifications. Gloucester stood fast during a siege where they were bombarded with cannon until the Royalist army retreated.

In order to curry favour with Charles I the city erected a statue. The monarch was less than impressed and ordered it to be destroyed along with the city walls.

THE 18th CENTURY

Changes during this period included the demolition of the cross which had stood for centuries. A hospital was opened and traffic improvement achieved by demolishing the east gate. Two new market places were established and a prison opened on the site of the old Gloucester castle. Pin making continued to flourish but the wool trade died out.

THE 19th CENTURY

Gloucester was full of civic virtue and great improvements were made such as free medicine for the poor, gas lighting, a piped water supply and network of sewers. Horse drawn trams served the public and buildings were erected including the school of art and science.

Many dry docks were built and a ship canal was built serving Gloucester to Sharpness. Scandinavian timber was transported along this canal and many warehouses were built.

The railway arrived in 1840 leading to a new industry of making railway carriages. Pin making such an essential industry declined but flour milling, timber milling, farm machinery and a little shipbuilding kept the city afloat.
Gloucester was fast growing and at the end of the century the population of was 47,000, although 434 were killed by a smallpox outbreak in 1895.

THE 20th and 21st CENTURY

Gloucester improved rapidly in the 20th century gaining electricity and electric trams followed by buses. There was another outbreak of smallpox in 1923 claiming 3 lives. Slum clearance took place in the 1920’s and council houses were built. Many museums opened with reference to Gloucester’s past and famous residents.

So there you have a very brief history of Gloucester. The city is now one of the finest in England with a population of 117,000. Exploring the past there is a great education and moreover an enjoyable day or two out.

Click here for a list of 10 things to do in Gloucester.

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Cycling in Gloucestershire

Cycle path in Gloucestershire

Dudbridge to Stroud cycle path by ©BazzaDaRambler, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Cycling in Gloucestershire is a very popular past time and many of our guests at Cooks Green Cottage bring their bicycles with them when they come to stay. We have a secure, brick outhouse with a lock to store bicycles safely in the dry and of course our outdoor space is ideal for giving bicycles a wash down after a day on the byways of this beautiful county. If you are on a budget stay then bringing your bicycle makes sense as a cheap, healthy option to explore the local area and enjoy the countryside. Rental bicycles are also available in the area.

There are many dedicated off and on road bicycle routes and safe parking facilities throughout Gloucestershire which makes it a great place to explore on two wheels. It is a quick and efficient way of exploring and you will most likely cover over two miles in fifteen minutes so a lot of ground can be covered. You can even take your bicycle with you on public transport and enjoy cycle trails at your destination.

A day on the road is something to be savoured in this part of the world and after a hearty breakfast to set you up in the charming Cooks Green Cottage, you can pack yourself a picnic of local produce or buy some local artisan bread and cheese on the road. There are also many pubs and cafes where you can safely park your bike while you enjoy a traditional pub lunch or midday snack.

TETBURY TO SHERSTON CYCLE RIDE

This cycle ride is only 13 miles and we are including it as it is considered as one of the most scenic cycle rides in the UK. Not too far from the cottage, you start your journey at Tetbury and within a few minutes you will be freewheeling through quiet country lanes, pretty villages and traditional buildings. Shipton Moyne village is where you will find the oddly named “Cat and Custard Pot” pub which is worth a coffee stop or even real ale if your wheels won’t wobble afterward! The next stretch will bring you to Easton Grey village then on to
Sherston, where it is highly recommended you stop for a delicious plate of renowned Malmesbury Gold sausages served up by the 16th-century Rattlebone Inn.

After an enjoyable stop a lazy, peaceful cycle will bring you to the magnificent Westonbirt Arboretum, in spring time the whole area is covered with purple, pink and white blossom a scene that is breath taking. After exploring the arboretum it must be time for afternoon tea (it is a good job that you are cycling!) It is reputed the Hare and Hounds Hotel serves a lemon drizzle cake that is positively heavenly. Thankfully, post afternoon tea it is just a three mile ride back to Tetbury where the journey began.

This lovely cycle ride is just one of many waiting for you in Gloucestershire and there are numerous websites that offer downloadable cycle routes.

Mountain Biking

If off road and adventure is more your thing Gloucestershire has plenty to offer in the way of trails and mountain bike centres. We have listed some of the mountain bike trails here, but unlike the more gentler pursuit of cycling through the Gloucestershire countryside, we have not personally experienced flying over a small mountain top!

Leckhampton Hill

This is a very popular spot for mountain bikers and has all the obstacles a biker needs from technical climbs, jumps, swoops and easy dirt tracks.

Cleeve Hill

Another popular mountain bike trail and forms a double with Leckhampton Hill. Both areas offer scenic beauty and history so really it is a perfect chance to hone skills and see the country side.

Redhill Extreme

This track is purpose built and since 2007 has hosted some major 4X events. The track is approximately 350m long, and has doubles, tables, triples, step-downs, step-ups, hips, berms and multi-line sections!. While it is possible for beginners to roll down the track without leaving the ground, the track has been designed for those who are intermediate and advanced. It is not designed for novices and they could be caught unaware at some points. There are numerous dirt jumps though to keep riders amused.

There are plenty of fun options for cycling in Gloucestershire whether you want to do some extreme sports, enjoy the countryside on your own or a rented bike, or simply have your bicycle on hand at the cottage to nip down to the local shops enjoying the scenery along the way.

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Local Vintage Steam Fairs

Gloucestershire Steam Fair

Gloucestershire Steam & Vintage Extravaganza 2013 by Barry Skeates, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

There is nothing quite like it in this great little part of the world of ours. A day out at a steam fair or steam rally is high on our list of fabulous things to do when visiting Cooks Green Cottage.

For those not familiar with steam fairs, a steam fair or rally is an organised event where visitors can see an amazing array of steam power at work. There are usually steam powered vehicles, machinery and sometimes stationary engines. An event of this type is quite the spectacle and usually has something for every member of the family to enjoy.

In keeping with the steam theme there are often other crafts and skills on show from the great age of steam as well as some of the artisan skills such as wood turning, not to mention side attractions like a funfair and tasty farm food. You may well see horse powered transport as well.

The steam fair will have an arena or track where the vehicles are paraded and demonstrated and there will be trade stands galore related to the main attraction and other pursuits. There are opportunities to look at the vehicles close up and ask questions of the exhibitors.

Look out also for entertainment areas where you can hear music, enjoy a beverage from the beer tent while keeping an eye on the children’s play area.

In this article we look at the forthcoming steam fairs and rallies in the vicinity.

Northleach Steam Show

This fine steam event has been running since the 1950’s with a gap but has been revitalised again and has something for everyone. This is a traditional steam fair that takes place over two days in September, this year 2014 on 6th and 7th September. There are plenty of vintage vehicles and steam driven ones. From vintage cars and military vehicles to the steam traction engines, this fair is an enthusiast’s dream. All of the family will enjoy taking part in this spectacle and Northleach Steam Show also present a Real Ale Festival and plenty of live music amongst other attractions which include rural crafts, charity stalls and food glorious food. For more details, visit Northleach website.

Gloucestershire Steam & Vintage Extravaganza

This event is held annually in the heart of the Cotswolds at South Cerney. An extravaganza is the perfect description with a steam section that is a highlight of the event. Many of the UK’s assembled steam engines all converge at South Cerney to be part of this marvellous event. This three day spectacle will take place in 2014 on August 1st, 2nd and 3rd and an early start is advised as there is so much to see.

There will be the usual steam arena with spectator friendly steam action nonstop. Model aircraft will be on display and be sure to catch some of the aerial displays. Kids will love the countryside arena where they can get close up and personal with wiggly ferrets and noble Shire horses. The Timber arena is fascinating and you can see trees turn into furniture before browsing the trade stands located all around the grounds. A licensed bar and food stands keep visitors refreshed during a break, before the fairground, tractors and classic cars beckon.

The Cotswold Show

Cirencester Park plays host to the Cotswold Show on 5th and 6th July 2014, an exciting, highly anticipated annual event that celebrates the best of country living and vintage engineering. Steam traction engines are proudly on display alongside monster trucks and classic tractors. There is so much to do at the show from learning survival skills, seeing birds of prey, browsing the food fair and not least the animals from rare breeds to the pride of domestic animals. Be prepared to be exhausted as this show thrills the whole family from start to finish.

The Little Vintage Show

May sees the Little Vintage Show in Gloucestershire which has a variety of attractions to be seen including a fantastic steam display. On offer are vintage tractors, steam engines, military vehicles, vintage caravans, bicycles and motorbikes, so whatever your favourite you are bound to find it here. Lots of attention is given to entertainment and there will be family fun over the weekend of the 4th and 5th of May at this traditional show.

If the dates do not coincide with your stay at Cooks Green Cottage, don’t worry, we have found a very useful website with a list of events that are happening throughout the year which you can find here.

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Top 10 Local Animal Attractions

We go animal crackers in our latest post from Cook’s Green Cottage and take a look at some of our favourite animal attractions in the area. We are blessed with a diverse selection of educational, leisure and conservation facilities and hope our visitors enjoy them as much as we do on our days off.

Cotswold Farm Park

Cotswold Farm ParkBetter known by its name “Adam’s Farm”, this working farm has been family run for over forty years and specialises in conservation of rare breeds. Adam Henson who is the current generation running the farm is also well known as a television presenter on programmes such as Countryfile as well as specialist television shows featuring the farm and its produce. The farm is open to visitors who can choose to camp or caravan on the premises. With so much to see and do, the farm is not only an attraction that will appeal to families but is the perfect educational experience as well.

Children will love the special care barns where young animals that need special treatment are resident. You can also try to spot eggs hatching in the incubators and learn how to handle chicks and ducklings from experienced staff.

For horse lovers there is the opportunity to ride through the Cotswold countryside, while others will enjoy the farm animals and wildlife on a Wildlife walk where a Bronze Age burial mound is featured, dry stone walls. As well as the farm animal attractions, you may be lucky to see the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly.

Relaxation where the living is easy comes in the shape of Adam’s Kitchen where homemade fare full of goodness and sweet delight is on offer. Try a steaming baked potato or some homemade sausages. There are two snack bars situated on the farm and for a fabulous meal enjoying the best of the farm’s produce try The Old Spot Bistro.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

Cotswold Wildlife ParkIf the family feels like going wild, try a fantastic day out at Cotswold Wildlife Park. Just strolling through the park gives perfect views of the animals and the setting makes it seem as though you are in the wild and could reach out and touch the animals (not to be encouraged though!) There are Zebra and Rhino casually grazing on the lawn in front of the house and you can walk through the giraffe walkway and go face to face with these wonderful creatures.

Enjoy time in the Walled Garden’s Tropical House where you will see birds, bats and sloths free ranging around. Follow up with penguin feeding and enjoy the comical lemurs. Bella the train will take families on a ride around the park for when feet need a rest. There are also animal petting areas, adventure playgrounds and educational activities also.

For the extra brave there is a reptile house with poisonous snakes including giant Anacondas, Black Mambas and Morelet’s Crocodiles to name a few. The Bat House and Insect House are also worth a visit. There is a main restaurant and also kiosks around the park or if you prefer picnic areas. End your day with a visit to the gift shop and take home a reminder of your day out.

West Midland Safari and Leisure Park

West Midlands Safari ParkWest Midland Safari and Leisure Park is located in rural Worcestershire. The park is some 200 acres with a four mile safari drive where you will see some spectacular wildlife. There is a pack of African Wild Hunting Dogs, exotic rare White Tigers; Giraffe; a Rhino family, Wallabies, Elephants and plenty of other species.

When your drive is complete, explore awhile on foot and enjoy Pets Corner featuring a Sealion Theatre. There is also a Seal Aquarium and Reptile House where the more friendly species are available for a meet and greet with fans! The Seaquarium is a must with a dazzling display of tropical and freshwater fish and other sea creatures. Watch the Hippo family swimming in their special hippo lakes.

Finally, there are plenty of places to eat and relax and for the adventurous, many theme rides. Souvenir shops round off the leisure area for a browse at the end of an exciting day.

WWT Slimbridge

SlimbridgeOne of nine wetland centres in the UK, it was founded in 1946 by Sir Peter Scott. Set in 120 acres, Slimbridge is a world renowned water bird reserve. The £6.2m visitor centre has a wildlife art gallery, Waterside Restaurant, The Hanson Discovery Centre, Observation Tower and a cinema.

From Russia, wild swans visit each winter and six kinds of flamingos entertain visitors during the summer. There is an extraordinary selection of wildlife from waders to water voles, dragonflies to wild hares. Slimbridge is home for the world’s largest collection of geese, swans, and ducks. There is an all year programme of events, walks, talks and wildlife encounters.

  • Slimbridge recommends these following “must do” activities at the centre:
    Explore the reserve on a Landrover Safari.
  • Visit the duckling nursery.
  • Dress in disguise to join in with the Great Crane Project. You can visit the marsh garden where the cranes are reared and help out with their education!
  • Meet the six species of flamingos all in the one place without travelling the world.
  • Enjoy the incredible spectacle of the daily wild bird feeds.

Crickley Hill

Crickley HillThis area is in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. It is the perfect place to visit for nature lovers who prefer a peaceful visit to be in touch with nature. The area boasts a remarkable variety of plants and habitats and the limestone land supports many insect species including butterflies.

On the hill is evidence of human activity dated 4000 years ago, likely because the hill is a prominent spur of the local escarpment. Overlooking the Severn Vale, with wonderful views and the chance to see native wildlife, insects and birds, Crickley Hill is a special place to visit.

Best of the Rest

There are so many animal attractions that we will revisit some others in another post, but in the meantime, the remaining 5 from this top ten list are listed here:

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Cheltenham Town Hall

It comes as no surprise that Cheltenham is in the top twenty of places for tourists to visit in England. Right from the very beginning when a natural spring was found, Cheltenham has drawn flocks of visitors as indeed it did pigeons that drank regularly from the spring leading to the discovery that would make Cheltenham a fashionable wealthy spa town. Amongst the many attractions for visitors is Cheltenham Town Hall. Here we take a look at this iconic building that is the top of every visitors list of “must see” places.

Cheltenham Town Hall

‘Town Hall in Cheltenham for the literature festival’ by Kerrigakendra, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cheltenham Town Hall was built in the early part of the 20th century and unlike most towns, Cheltenham Town Hall is not the seat of the borough council but rather assembly rooms. Assembly rooms were places to meet for both sexes of the higher social groups. As most entertaining was done at home and the only other outlets for entertainment was the theatre, the assembly room was a place to go to see and be seen in a social context of musical recitals, balls, conversation and lectures. It was a place where ladies and gentleman could feel at ease. Gentlemen did have other outlets such as coffee shops and gentleman’s clubs, but the assembly room was a great place to be if you were looking for a wife.

Most important towns in England had an assembly room and Cheltenham Town Hall would have had similar attributes such as a main ballroom, card rooms, supper rooms and tea rooms. There was plenty of entertainment on offer for the elite who were permitted to attend. Admission was sometimes strictly screened for some events. The assembly room faded away as public entertainment venues increased and the stigma attached to women attending such places declined.

Before the Cheltenham Town Hall to be seen today, there was an assembly room building which was demolished to build a bank. Cheltenham Town Hall took the place of this gathering place. The site chosen was Imperial Square and the building was designed by an architect from Gloucester called Frederick William Waller. The construction was undertaken by a local Cheltenham company – Collins and Godfrey. The cost of Cheltenham Town Hall, including interior decoration and all fixtures and fittings, was £45,000 a substantial amount. The formal opening took place on 5 December 1903 by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Michael Hicks Beach MP who had strong Cheltenham family connections.

The impressive main hall has Corinthian columns and a coved ceiling. The room measures 92 by 52 ft and is 53 feet high, with a Doulton ware from which the Central Spa is made is still in use today. Two statues of King George V and King Edward VII in their coronation robes were gifted to Cheltenham Town Hall. The statues were crafted by Cheltenham firm RL Boulton & Sons who donated one statue and the other was gifted by Mr TE Whittaker. The statues sit in alcoves on display. AN organ was also donated in 1928 by Mr and Mrs Edward J. Burrow.

Modern Day Cheltenham Town Hall

TOWN HALL CHELTENHAM

‘TOWN HALL CHELTENHAM SPA 8th march 08 (108)’ by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today, Cheltenham Town Hall still fulfils its role as a gathering place for all members of society. In its richly ornate interior, audiences enjoy concerts and plays, dances and special events. Weddings are popular and there are rooms for hire to make every special occasion exceptional. There are many seasonal events and everything from wine tasting to dance classes is on offer. Cheltenham Town Hall is thriving today every bit as much as when it was first designed for social gatherings. Of course no entertainment would be complete without refreshments and you can find a café bar and catering to satisfy anyone from an al fresco glass of wine and a salad to a full meal service.

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