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Around Tetbury Town and Country

This handsome Cotswold town has kept its appeal without allowing conservation to leach it of its character.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 100ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Fields, lanes and tracks, 8 stiles

Landscape Rolling hills, farmland and town

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 168 Stroud, Tetbury & Malmesbury

Start/finish ST 890931

Dog friendliness On leads in town and in one section with animals

Parking Several car parks in central area near church

Public toilets Old Brewery Lane or behind Snooty Fox on Chipping Lane

1 From the centre of the town pass the Market Hall on your right and then the Snooty Fox Hotel. Walk down The Chipping and then pass the Priory on your left. The road descends and passes the steep Chipping Steps on your right. 'Chipping' is an old English word for market. The area close to the steps, lined with weavers' cottages, was for centuries the site of 'Mop Fairs', where the unemployed could offer their services for domestic and farming posts. Continue along the road, passing Gumstool Hill on the right. The hill is used for the annual woolsack races. There was once a ducking-stool or gum-stool here, used for the punishment of 'scolds'.

2 Just before the Royal Oak turn right along a lane. Keeping to the left of a transformer station, follow this lane all the way to a gate at a field. Go through and walk straight ahead. Go to the top of a knoll and then descend on the other side, keeping to the right of a fence to cross a stream by a stone bridge. Continue along the path to a gate. Go through and then half left up a bank to another gate (ignoring a first gate on your left). Go through and then bear left to follow a path along a grassy area of shrubs. Follow this around to the right, pass a cottage on the left and a farm on the right and join a track. Stay on this and follow it all the way to a lane, where you turn right.

3 Stay on this for 2?3 mile (1.1km) and then, opposite a track on the left, turn right over a stile into a field. Walk along the field edge, skirting a pond, then carry on to find another stile, in the general direction of Tetbury church. The parish church is in complete contrast with almost every other church in the Cotswolds. It is a striking example of late 18th-century Georgian Gothic. Its spire is one of the highest in the country and its interior is delicate and simple.

4 Go over the stile and cross the field to a gate. In the next field head for some farm buildings but, just before them, turn right through a gate into a farmyard. Turn left to walk through the farmyard and continue on to a track. Stay on this until, just before a large house, you find a stone stile in front of you. Go over it and turn right over a stile into a field. Turn immediately left and walk along the left side of the field, with houses on the left, all the way to the far corner.

5 Go down to a road and turn right along the pavement to a track on the left, just before a bridge. Follow this down until, after a stone bridge, you turn right up to a kissing gate and then a stile. After a stile, turn right and follow a path beneath the trees to a stile. Cross this and continue on the same line to come to a road. Turn sharp right and follow a descending track - this was the original road into Tetbury. At its end you will emerge to the right of the arched road bridge. Turn left, through the far arch, and then bear right up a path - this brings you up to the centre of Tetbury, with the church to the right.

Tetbury's most attractive aspect is its streets of stone houses of all styles and of all ages. In the main they are used today as they always have been - as residences and places of work. Tetbury's early prosperity was based on the wool trade, but in the 18th century industrial demand for fast-flowing water, which Tetbury was unable to provide, led to the town's decline. As with other towns and villages in the Cotswolds, this did have one happy consequence - Tetbury has not been blighted by inappropriate development. Unusually, however, its modern prosperity and vitality are not dependent exclusively on tourism. On the contrary, tourism here is the gilt on the gingerbread, which makes it a very pleasant place to visit.

The centre of Tetbury is built around the Market Place, dominated by the pillared Market House. Built in 1655, it was later enlarged to accommodate the town's fire engine and lock-up. The Police Bygones Museum, on Long Street in the former Police Station, contains a collection of relics of Cotswold law enforcement in the old cells.

While you're there

Visit Westonbirt Arboretum, just over 3 miles (4.8km) to the south of Tetbury. It is one of the largest collections of trees and shrubs in the world. Although interesting to visit at any time of year, the autumn colours are truly resplendent because of the number of Japanese maples that flourish here.

Where to eat and drink

On the square is the well-known Snooty Fox, a former coaching inn. (It was called the White Hart from the late 16th century until the 1960s.) During the 19th century it also acted as Assembly Rooms in an attempt to attract the cream of society. There are many other pubs and cafes scattered about the town.

What to look for

Note the cupola on the roof of the market hall, containing a bell and surmounted by a weather vane featuring a pair of dolphins. These have come to be adopted as an unofficial coat-of-arms for the town. Nobody, however, has ever been able to explain their origin.


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