A day in Stroud, Gloucestershire

We decided to spend a day in the small market town of Stroud nestled in the south west Cotswolds, ten miles south of Gloucester.  The town had piqued our interest as it had recently been named by the Sunday Times as the best place to live in Britain so we were interested to find out why.

Gloucester Services, M5 Motorway
Gloucester Services on the M5 Motorway

On the way there we stopped off at Gloucester Services on the M5 motorway between Junctions 11A and 12.  You might wonder why I am bothering to mention a service station but the one here is like no other as it does not have any of the usual fast food outlets or chain coffee shops.

Cafe seating, Gloucester Services M5 Motorway
Outdoor seating at the service station

The building has an angled grassed over roof to blend in with the landscape and specialises in artisanal food selling locally sourced produce.  Inside, the design is light and airy with sunlight streaming in through large glass windows.  There’s a very pleasant cafe overlooking a small lake with outdoor seating for when the weather is nice, a farm shop, butchers, cheese stall and a selection of high quality gifts all beautifully arranged.

Gloucester Services Cafe, M5 Motorway
The attractive interior

It’s a perfect place to stop for a coffee and a cake if you’re passing by and ideal for a trip out to pick up some local delicacies if you live nearby.  Who would have thought a motorway station could be so appealing!

Stroud High Street
Stroud High Street

Returning to the car, it didn’t take us very long to reach Stroud where we found parking close to the railway station (free all day Sunday).  Although we had parked close to the canal we decided to explore the town centre first.  It seemed a pretty place with steep streets and some interesting architecture.

Pavement cafes along narrow alleyways in Stroud
Pavement cafes tucked along narrow alleyways

As it was a Sunday it was fairly quiet as not all the shops were open but we spotted several small local retailers such as the excellent Stroud Bookshop plus numerous inviting cafes and pubs.  The town is said to have an impressive local food scene with a weekly Saturday farmers market that’s very popular and brings the community together.  Tucked away off the high street are narrow alleyways where we discovered yet more little shops and pavement cafes.

The Subscription Rooms, Stroud
The Subscription Rooms

At the top of George Street stands the Subscription Rooms, now a performing arts venue and home to the annual Stroud Theatre Festival.  A key moment in the building’s history was in 1962 when The Beatles performed there.

Sims Clock Tower, Stroud
The Sims Clock Tower at the top of the high street

After looking around the town we headed out to Stratford Park which lies to the north but is easily reachable on foot.  The park was a private estate until 1935 with its 17th century wool merchant’s house now used as the town’s museum.  The park is noted for its large collection of trees many of them planted in 1890 when the estate was laid out.

The Orangery, Stratford Park, Stroud
The Orangery in Stratford Park

We’d pre-arranged a timed entrance slot to the museum which offers free admission but discovered that most of it was not actually open for viewing.  A modern extension has been incorporated into the original building which contains an art gallery displaying temporary exhibitions.

The Museum in the Park, Stroud
The Museum in the Park

More than 4,000 objects are usually on display documenting the history of the town and these include some of the first lawnmowers ever manufactured and a rare Baughan motorcycle.  To the rear is a very pretty landscaped garden which was looking beautiful with its roses in full bloom.

The Museum in the Park Stroud rear garden
The museum’s attractive rear garden

Leaving there, we made our way back towards the car and took a walk along the canal bank.  Stroud is linked to the River Severn by an eight mile canal that was completed in 1759.  In the 18th century two canals, the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames and Severn Canal linked to the Rivers Severn and Thames enabling goods to be transported across the country as far as Bristol and London.

Cotswold Canal Visitor Centre, Stroud
The Cotswold Canal Visitor Centre at Wallbridge Lock

The waterway served the local woollen mills delivering coal to the mills to power their machinery and to carry cloth to the city markets.  The Cotswold Canal is now the collective term for these two separate but connected waterways.  Many of the old mills still line the canal but only two continue to produce cloth making the coating for Wimbledon’s tennis balls and baize, the green felt used for snooker tables.

Wallbridge Lock, Stroud
Wallbridge Lock with the cafe on the left

New life has been breathed into these disused mills as several have now become creative hubs to writers, artists and craftspeople living in the town, similar to what happened in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire which is famed for its bohemian lifestyle.

Old mills linking the canal bank in Stroud
Old mills lining the canal bank

We strolled along the towpath from Wallbridge Lock where we came across the Cotswolds Canal Trust visitor centre but sadly it was closed.  Next door though, the Upper Lock Cafe was open and was a picturesque spot to relax with a pot of tea in its small garden overlooking the canal.  A heritage lottery funded project is underway to restore the canal in stages so that it can be used again for leisure boats.

Coaley Peak viewpoint, near Stroud, Gloucestershire
The Coaley Peak viewpoint near Stroud

Back in the car we continued onto Coaley Peak, a local beauty spot four miles south west of Stroud.  On the way we had to stop a couple of times as cows were blocking the road but I’m unsure if this is a regular occurrence or if they had just escaped from their fields.

Views across the Severn Valley from Coaley Peak, Glouestershire
Views across the Severn Valley from Coaley Peak

There’s a large free car park and several picnic benches at this scenic high point.  It was quite hazy but we still enjoyed some far reaching views over the Severn Valley, the Forest of Dean and across to the Brecon Beacons so I popped back to the car to pick up my camera to take the panoramic views.  The flat, grassy land around the Peak forms part of a nature reserve and is a popular stopping off point along the Cotswold Way Nature Trail long distance footpath.  This concluded our day out in Stroud which had been very enjoyable and a town we would happily return to sometime in the future.

 

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50 thoughts on “A day in Stroud, Gloucestershire

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    That has to be one of the nicest, if not the nicest service station, in England. Certainly the nicest one I’ve been to anyway. I’m glad you mentioned it though as I couldn’t quite remember if it was Gloucester or not.
    Stroud looks lovely too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love visiting places that are brimming with independent shops, cafés and galleries and thus would love to spend a day or two in Stroud. From today, those who are fully vaccinated are finally able to travel abroad, but we decided to wait for a while as Delta variant cases are on the rise. Hopefully next year. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m certain you would enjoy a visit to Stroud Aiva. In fact the entire Gloucestershire / Cotswolds area is beautiful. We’re waiting awhile too to travel further afield and taking the opportunity to explore more of our own country. Hope you have a good week. Marion.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can easily see why this town has been named one of the best places to live in Britain. Stroud High Street looks very charming. I love the picture of the umbrellas suspended in the air between the rows of buildings. Stratford Park looks like a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Stroud is a delightful small town nestled on the edge of the Cotswolds and we very much enjoyed our wander along its streets, through the park and beside the canal. Thanks do much for your ever welcome thoughts, they are much appreciated. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a pretty little town! Never heard of Stroud, but its subtle colors from the potted flowers and umbrellas in the streets add to the charm of the place. Glad to have discovered another little gem in your part of the country!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. It seems every town in the Cotswolds has a certain charm! The service station seems to be the place to stop, in place of the usual coffee shops. I can see why people would find Stroud an attractive, comfortable place to live.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Stroud is very pretty indeed! It does sound like an idyllic place to live. Quietness, nature, good food, cafes, a bit of Beatles history – it’s all very appealing. Based on your travels around Britain, which places would you pick as possibly offering the best living conditions? PS: I am in mourning after last night’s result.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s a very difficult decision as I could live in so many different places up and down the country big or small. I’d insist on a rail station within walking distance from home though. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you. We got home at half time so were able to see most of the match. Hopefully they’ll pull it off next year!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You are right about that motorway service center. Somebody used their imagination on that one to give motorists a peaceful place to grab some good food. Stroud looks to be a pretty little town. Love the bright umbrellas used for decoration. Too bad about the hazy day, but the view from the peak was still worth it. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Wow, I like the look of the Gloucester services … I will understand if people driving there just to enjoy the variety of shops 😊. I always enjoy your canal walks and this one in Stroud is another picturesque one and love the little garden at the museum.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. We used to go to my in-laws in Bristol via Gloucester services, adding on an extra 30 miles or so to the journey. It was worth it every time. However, they are not unique because they are owned by the same people that own and run Tebay services, so you can also get good and interesting food, locally sourced, if you go to the Lake District as well.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Lovely travelogue. The cows on the common are not escapees, but are permitted to graze there 😊 Stroud is a lovely vibrant town, the Saturday farmers market is worth a re-visit and if you take your bikes you can peddle along the disused railway to Nailsworth!

    Liked by 4 people

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