Oh dear, I have been so busy lately that only now am I catching up with the pictures from my January jaunt to Stow on the Wold in north-east Gloucestershire.
Stow means “place”, or “holy place”, and wold just means “hill”. The settlement’s first name was St Edward’s Stow and the main church and town hall still bear his name.
The whole town is built of glorious golden Cotswold stone, a yellow oolitic limestone dating from Jurassic times 150 million years ago.
The area around Stow has been settled since at least the Iron Age, but it really took off when the Norman lords saw its potential. The first official weekly market was set up here by Henry I in 1107.
We parked at Maugersbury Road car park, which was fine, although I see now it is recommended that you use a car park next to the Tesco superstore in Fosse Way (Stow is beside the old Roman road of that name). We never even saw the superstore…
From the car park we walked up the slight hill of Park Street to the town centre. Later we returned here to have a pretty good lunch at the Old Butcher’s restaurant – a bit expensive, but good modern fare. I particularly liked my starter – smoked eel risotto.
The centre of Stow is full of very old inns and coaching houses, which is not surprising as it stands at the confluence of several main roads across the country.
In the Middle Ages the Cotswolds produced the best wool in Europe and the monasteries raised big flocks of large native sheep known as “Cotswold lions”. Apparently they had long, golden fleeces.
I guess it goes with the landscape – golden soil, golden stone, golden sheep…
The last battle of the English Civil War was fought near Stow in the spring of 1646, the Royalists losing to the Parliamentarians (Roundheads).
It’s a bit of a shame there is so much street car parking in the centre of the town, which spoils the view! But then, this is obviously a busy, practical place for the local residents as well as tourists. This was January, so it must be heaving in the high season of summer.
Stow on the Wold has many small shops, generally of the “gift” sort. The most familiar to me is Scotts of Stow, a homeware company whose mail-order catalogues you will find falling out of many a colour magazine.
I didn’t see many (any?) butchers, greengrocers, bakers etc, but maybe that’s the situation in many small towns these days, when there is a big supermarket like Tesco’s nearby.
There’s more about the history of Stow on the Wold here .