It had been a good, brief visit to Bristol, but we were eager to get to our next home, in Selsley, a village of around 175 houses, a church and one pub, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Stroud.
After breakfast near our hotel, we checked out and waited for our ride for the 35+ miles (56 km) from Bristol to Selsley. Fortunately, the owners of the garden apartment we will occupy for the next three months could provide the transportation at a much better value than train or bus. And as our ride pulled up, we were greeted by Jennifer, the cheerful property-owner of the apartment.
It didn’t take too long to get out of the city and into the hilly, green and predominantly rural landscape. We passed through small hamlets and villages with old, stone buildings and homes. Long idle wool mills stand along the stream that runs near the road, many having been turned into workplaces or flats.
We soon turned into the drive and through the iron gates of “Tythings”, the name of the traditional-style stone house and the location of our new home. Jennifer showed us around back, through the beautiful garden to our little ground-level apartment.
Shortly after our arrival we were sitting in our sunroom overlooking the garden when a young man came up to the open window and politely introduced himself as Ethan. The eldest son of Jennifer and Nick (who works in London during the week), Ethan is a talented, articulate and intelligent 11 year-old.
As we were speaking with Ethan, a small red-headed boy zoomed past in the background, and we soon found out that he was Ethan’s brother Peter, a four year-old bundle of energy and mischief. He was currently busy throwing a well chewed and now-deflated rugby ball for “Winter” the family dog. As I was asking Peter about the dog’s name, I was corrected for saying Winter (win-tur) when his name is Winter (win-tah).
We have been included in a couple of family events as well, such as attending Ethan’s school production of “Seussical the Musical”, where he had a leading role. The entire performance was well done and much fun. On the 4th of July, Jennifer, an American, hosted a picnic complete with fried chicken, BBQ ribs, potato salad and corn on the cob, and delicious blueberry pie. Several family friends, and their children attended and one gentleman even brought fireworks (usually reserved for Guy Fawkes Day) and briefly alarmed the neighbors and the family dog Winter.
Located high on the edge of the Selsley Common, our views through the trees ringing the garden are wonderful. Looking out over the cows in the pasture next door, you can see the villages of Kingscourt, Lightpill, Dudbridge, Ebley and over to the other “wolds” or hills, capped with the Rodborough Common and the Minchinhampton Common, among others.
Interestingly, the commons of this area are designated biological and geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Gloucestershire as well as being in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). They are large open expanses and rich biological habitats overlying bedrock of Jurassic (200–145 million years ago) limestone and covered with native grasses and wildflowers. During the summer, cattle roam freely as locals exercise traditional grazing right, often causing traffic issues or disruptions to golf games in Minchinhampton.
The unobstructed views from the Commons are incredible. Here on the Selsley Common, we are at the edge of the Cotswold escarpment with wonderful views over the valley of the River Severn and Malvern Hills into Wales.
As we are well up on the wold, the town with all its shops, restaurants, and supermarkets is downhill. While that may sound OK, it must be remembered that once the backpacks and shopping bags are filled, it can be over two miles back home, and the last almost half-mile is up a steep hill. Of course, for now, we don’t have a car, so initially most of the trips into town involved shopping at the nearest supermarket to stock our pantry.
But, we came to the Cotswolds to walk, and not just to the supermarket and back. As I’ve explained to some, when we arrive at a new place, after taking care of the essentials, i.e. food, wine, TI (tourist information), we spiral around the block and then outward. So, after we made a turn through town, we made our way onto the Selsley commons and a few of the countless public footpaths that crisscross the countryside. We made our way to and through hamlets and villages, over the commons, through woods, and down lanes that have been walked for hundreds of years.
The footpaths are well marked and the hills are steep, the countryside is beautiful and the weather has been good. Once again we have landed in a good place, . We have only scratched the surface of this friendly, diverse area … this is going to be fun.