24 – 30 April

Let it be known as hostile hostel territory – the accommodation prospects in the Costwolds are bleak for the budget traveller. There are plenty of bed and breakfasts and posh pub rooms, but these are significantly more expensive and often not accessible by public transport. After a frenzy of internet searching and rising levels of despair (backpacking isn’t supposed to be this hard, surely?) Lyndsay and I managed to find a quirky little boarding house in Gloucester and then a short-term rental in Cheltenham from which to base our Cotswolds meanderings. Boom. The lodge in Gloucester was definitely scary, it rubbed shoulders with many tattoo parlours, grimy takeaways and flickering street-lights, but the rental in Cheltenham was smack-bang in the suburbs and not too bad. We even had a patio and a laundry room….with the ‘laundry room’ being a washing machine hooked to the power outside in a bike shed.

Accommodation sorted, and with sanity restored, the Costwolds region is stunning. It is filled with gentle green, grassy hills and meadows divided by hedgerows and dry stone walls. The fields are filled with sheep, plenty of lambs and the odd Clydesdale horse and everything is interspersed with forest. We bought “Mega Rider Gold” bus tickets which provided unlimited bus travel for the week we spent there, and BOY did we make use of them, roaming the countryside, getting lost and exploring lots of small towns along the way. My favourites were the Forest of Dean, Stroud, Tewkesbury and Cirencester. Let me tell you all about them!

We set off for the Forest of Dean on Anzac Day (sans Anzac biscuits, unfortunately) and jumped off the bus in a variety of sad, desolate little towns. Striking out for the forest and leaving the towns behind, we did a 7km circular walk with several natural art installations along the way. My favourite was an enormous suspended stained glass window which turned the entire forest into a cathedral. We also surprised a family of wild boar. So, basically, an excellent day. Here’s a piccie of the stained glass panel:

Forest of Dean

Headed out to Stroud on Saturday 27 April to stroll around the fantastic Farmer’s Market and ogle at freshly baked bread and pastries, an amazing range of fresh fruit and veg and salivate over the aroma of gourmet burgers on the grill. Oh, and also to perve at the gorgeous dogs accompanying the locals (so many shaggy happy dogs to hug). We stumbled across an incredible stall selling fresh falafel and devoured a grilled pitta with fresh falafel, hommus, tomato, cucumber, cabbage and sauces. It was delicious. I ate it so quickly I don’t have any photos. Oops. Then back on the bus to Gloucester to visit the Gloucester Cathedral, which was lofty, elegant and filled with light. The monk’s cloisters were used for the Harry Potter movies as well – inadvertently, our travels are turning into a Harry Potter extravaganza. Get excited everyone, I am sure there will be more Hogwarts-inspired posts to come. We also popped by the Beatrix Potter museum which was poky and quaint. Remember the story of the Tailor of Gloucester? Where the mice finish the sewing? Well, there you go. Based here. I used to love all of those stories as a child.

Gloucester Cathedral…in Harry Potter. I’ve walked in the same halls as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Incredible. Image courtesy of http://www.rupertgrintpress.com

Other highlights included a visit to Tewkesbury complete with a ramble along the Severn Way and through huge grassy fields for an afternoon, as well as exploring Cirencester and the remains of the Roman amphitheatre there. On Sunday 28th, after an afternoon of walking, we decided to head to a pub for a slap-up proper English Sunday roast, and had a fantastic turkey roast dinner (turkey, potatoes, turnips, carrots, peas, cabbage and Yorkshire pudding, all smothered in gravy) with a cheap bottle of red wine. Sat in a corner for a few hours and played scrabble while getting through the wine, with the second game definitely more difficult than the first. Some of the best words included these gems: jedi, gravy and tangible. Buoyed by good food and having reached the end of the wine, we then foolishly committed to the Sunday night pub quiz where we failed spectacularly with 16/60. Quite embarrassing, but then, we’re tourists. What do you expect.

Severn Way, Tewkesbury

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