Leisure Time - Gloucestershire / Cotswolds

By SPP Reporter

Most of the Cotswold area is in Gloucestershire. This is an area of gentle hills with stone walls criss-crossing the landscape, many built in the 18th & 19th Century, hidden river valleys and distinctive market towns and villages made of the famous honey coloured Cotswold stone. This area of Gloucestershire includes world famous historic houses and gardens such as Hidecote Manor, Painswick, and Sudeley Castle, home of Henry VIII's last Queen. The story of the Cotswolds is really the story of wool which can be explored at attractions such as the Cotswold Farm Park and the Cotswold Heritage Centre. Despite its unique rural atmosphere, the Cotswolds is less than two hours from London.

Cheltenham is a regency spa town, on the edge of the Cotswolds. Its known for its Regency buildings, museums, art galleries, theatre, and is home to the Cheltenham Festival and Gold Cup – 4 days of horse racing.

Places to visit include – the Pittville Pump Room and Park, Sandford Parks Lido, the Wilson Museum and Art Gallery, the Gustav Holst Museum, Imperial Gardens, the Victorian Everyman Theatre and Cheltenham Playhouse.

Cheltenham offers many different dining experiences, from cafes on the Promenade to the restaurants and bistros at Montpellier and the Suffolks, where there is a restaurant in a church and one in an art deco cinema. There are also a wide selection of well-known branded food outlets and restaurants.

The Brewery Quarter is home to Cineworld with IMAX, and luxury film experience at The Screening Rooms, together with many well known branded restaurants, fitness rooms, ten-pin bowling and the opportunity to have family fun at the Play Farm.

Cheltenham offers a year-round programme of plays, opera, ballet, musical shows and pantomime, at Cheltenham Town Hall, the Everyman and the Bacon theatres and the Playhouse. The Heritage Open Days offers the chance to explore many of the town's finest buildings.

Cheltenham provides a varied shopping experience, from well known shops in the High Street and Promenade, to the independent shopping quarters of Montpellier, the Suffolks and Bath Road, with its individually styled shops, boutiques and antiques. There are also the out of town shopping areas of Kingsditch and Gallagher Retail Parks on the Tewkesbury Road.

There are many festivals and events held in Cheltenham, throughout the year. It hosts the annual Cheltenham Festival & Gold Cup, and also the Cheltenham Festival Series – Jazz, Music, Science and Literature. Other events include the Cheltenham Cricket Festival, Heritage Open Days, and the Christmas Market.

Gloucester is the capital city of Gloucestershire, and known for its 11th-century Cathedral, historic Docks, museums, rugby team, and shopping areas.

Gloucester has become a mecca for the TV and film industry. The Cathedral has been used for the Harry Potter films, and the Sherlock, Wolf Hall and Doctor Who TV dramas. The Docks were used for the Hollywood film 'Alice In Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass'.

Places to visit include – The National Waterways Museum (telling the city's industrial past with canal boats, the Tailor of Gloucester Beatrix Potter Museum and Shop, the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum celebrating the 'Glorious Glosters' regiment, the Museum of Gloucester, the Gloucester Life Museum, and the Cathedral.

There are many places to eat and drink in the city of Gloucester, from Michelin star restaurants, gastro pubs, sandwich shops, family-run businesses and national chains, with choices from traditional English and authentic Mediterranean, Chinese, Indian, African and Greek cuisine.

The Gloucester Farmers Market held every Friday at The Cross, (where the Gate streets meet), sells organic fruit and vegetables, and a range of locally sourced meats, beers and ciders, and plants and flowers. On the first weekend of every month, Gloucester Quays hosts the Orchard Street Food and Crafts Market.

Gloucester's main shopping areas are in King's Walk Shopping Centre, Eastgate Shopping Centre and Gloucester Quays. On Westgate Street, College Street and College Court, there are friendly and independent boutiques – perfect for gift shopping. There is a range of antique shops and flea markets for unique collectibles at Gloucester Antiques Centre and Upstairs Downstairs.

In Gloucester, there are many venues for all music lovers, from rock 'n' roll, blues, soul, country to jazz. Gloucester Guildhall puts on a variety of shows and films, whilst the King's Theatre showcases the work of local and regional theatre groups.

Gloucester hosts various festivals and events throughout the year, including the Cajun and Zydeco Festival, Gloucester Quays Food and Drink Festival, Gloucester Carnival, the History Festival and the Gloucester Quays Victorian Market.

Tewkesbury grew around the Abbey, for 800 years a Benedictine monastery and the town rich in historic buildings. These include a coaching house mentioned in Dickens, the house of the nodding gables and numerous ancient alleyways and courts. Strikingly beautiful scenery, historic buildings and a wide range of sporting, recreational and cultural opportunities make Tewkesbury and its surroundings an ideal location for days out with the family.

Places of interest to visit include – Tewkesbury Abbey, John Moore Countryside Museum Tewkesbury, Pride of Avon Tewkesbury, Telstar Cruisers Tewkesbury, Nature in Art Twigworth near Tewkesbury, Old Baptist Chapel Tewkesbury.

South Cerney
The village of South Cerney is recorded well before the Norman Conquest as a prosperous and well populated place. It is well worth a visit, particularly for the walks beside the River Churn which runs through the village. The houses are mainly built of the beautiful warmcoloured stone peculiar to the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds is an area of outstanding natural beauty which lies within Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire north of the Thames. Nearby Cirencester, the capital of the Cotswolds, is a thriving market town.

The town's main origins lie in the Roman period when as Corinium Dobunnorum it was one of the regional capitals of Roman Britain. Although relatively little of the Roman town survives above ground, the large grassed over ampitheatre is worth a visit. The parish church of St John Baptist dominates the town centre on a scale which suports its title 'Cathedral of the Cotswolds'. One of the fine Cotswold wool churches, it is a lasting symbol of the towns wealth and influence in medieval England. Cirencester also boasts an arts centre with workshops in a converted brewery, and there are regular craft fairs and antique markets. The town is fortunate too in its open spaces – the Abbey Grounds on the site of the old Abbey of St Mary, and the extensive 18th century parkland landscape of Cirencetser Park.

Places of interest to visit include – Westonburt Arboretum on the A433, a must in the autumn. Prinknash Abbey, a modern monastery whose monks produce unique gold-glazed pottery, Bourton-on-the-Water a model village and bird sanctuary and the City if Bath at the very southern edge of the Cotswolds.

Ashchurch is situated 2 miles east of Tewkesbury on the borders of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. There is a small non-manned railway station at Ashchurch and the nearest main line stations are at Cheltenham, Evesham or Gloucester. These provide easy access to London, Bristol, Birmingham and the north, the West Country and South Wales.

This part of Gloucestershire is conveniently located on the lower slopes and escarpment of the Cotswold Hills, giving splendid views westward across the fertile valley of the River Severn towards the Malvern Hills. Overlooked by the scarp, the Severn Vale stretches from the Vale of Evesham across to the edge of the Royal Forest of Dean in the West. Dotted throughout the vale where Rivers Severn and Avon meet, is the massive Norman Tower of Tewkesbury Abbey.

The City of Bath
The World Heritage Site of Bath and the stunning countryside surrounding it is one of England's most beautiful places to visit. The presence of hot springs discovered by the Pre-Roman dwellers led to the Roman City being called Aquae Sulis. The ancient Roman baths now form one of the major tourist attractions of Bath and are located in the centre of the City. Bath developed as a major spa town and as a gaming centre in Georgian times, when much of the present City was created. The splendour of Bath derives primarily from these fine examples of Georgian architecture and town planning.

This is complemented by the fine Abbey and many beautiful parks and gardens. The city boasts a remarkable range of museums, galleries and exhibitions covering almost every subject under the sun, you can have a bird's eye view of the city's golden terraces and green countryside from Beckford's Tower, discover Bath's most famous resident, Jane Austen at the Jane Austen Centre, or find out more about 1,600 years of history at the Abbey Heritage Vaults. One of the best ways to see the attractions of Bath is to take an open-topped bus tour. These run regularly throughout the year and you can hop on and off at the major attractions. There are also a number of walking tours and boat trips available on the River Avon and on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

There are numerous places to visit in Gloucestershire – wildlife & animal parks, adventure parks, animal farms, play centres, theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries, historical buildings, steam railways, leisure centres, swimming pools, arboretums and arts & crafts centres.

Discounted Family Tickets for Local Attractions

Innsworth Station Welfare Office have discounted family tickets for Bristol Zoo, Bristol Aquarium, Cattle Country Adventre Park, Noah's Ark Zoo Farm and WWT Slimbridge. The tickets are booked and paid for in advance. Contact the Welfare Office for further details and how to book tickets.

Welfare Office contact details – Tel: 01452 362550, Email: welfarearrc@hotmail.co.uk

Details and information on a place and local events can be found at www.exploregloucestershire.co.uk and www.soglos.com

As some places are seasonal, do check their website or contact them for the opening times and prices.

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