South Cotswolds - Stroud and the Five Valleys
Stroud is located on the north slopes of the River Frome where five valleys meet. Stroud and the Five Valleys was an industrial center in the 18th and 19th centuries. Rivers flowed through the area, sheep were raised on the hillsides and commons above the town. Many mills still remain - you see them along the valley floors. None are working mills, but have been converted to apartments or workshops.
View of Stroud from Rodborough Commons
Some say Stroud is not really a Cotswold town. It is not a perfect "golden" village but is a regular mid-sized town (population around 20,000) with a somewhat ugly High Street filled with regular stores. It is frequently described as "gritty". Others say that Stroud is the only "real" Cotswold town left - not a place of perfectly restored second homes for wealthy Londoners and vacationers, but instead a place where people live and work like they did in all the Cotswold towns a few decades ago.
I think that Stroud is an acquired taste. I like going to the Saturday Farmers' Market (the best in the area), shopping on the High Street, stopping in at Woodruff's, a vegetarian cafe, for lunch. If you are staying in the southern Cotswolds, you will probably use Stroud for its shops. It has the best Waitrose in the area (the one in Cheltenham is larger and has a home shop) and also has the other large supermarkets. You can take the train into London from Stroud.
Walk the High Street: The High Street in Stroud is a pedestrian street lined with shops and cafes. There is more shopping on King Street at the end of the pedestrian part of the High Street and on the small streets off the High Street.
Market Hall: Stroud is a Market Town historically, but the Market Hall is new, on Cornhill Street just off the High Street. Come here for the fabulous Saturday Farmers' Market.
Church: The St Laurence Church is was rebuilt in Victorian times (19th century) but the medieval tower and spire were kept. It is a bit hard to find and is off the High Street (entrance from The Shambles). See the pyramid Hollings Tomb in the churchyard, from 1805 when John Hollings did not want to be buried in the ground. website
Stroud Cemetery: In 1854 a new cemetary was opened on the slopes above Stroud (on the Bisley Road just after the Horns Road turnoff). See the Victorian architecture of the twin chapels and the interesting graves. The cemetery was divided into three sections, for Conformists, Non-Comformists and Paupers. It is also a local Nature Preserve.
JRool Bistro (restaurant), 12 Union Street. Lovely restaurant with great food. Nice outdoor courtyard. website
Woodruffs (restaurant), 24 High Street. Casual vegetarian cafe. Service can be slow, but the food is very good and it is a friendly, fun place. website
Food & Drink in Nearby Villages
Bisley - The Bear Inn (pub). Historic inn in this charming village above Stroud. Lunch and dinner served. website
Eastcombe - The Lamb Inn (pub)
Painswick - The Falcon (pub), on the High Street. website
Painswick - The Patchwork Mouse (tea room), on the Hight Street. website
Sheepscombe - The Butchers Arms (pub), on B4070 north of Stroud. Good pub in a nice village in a beautiful valley north of Painswick. website
Slad - The Woolpack (pub). Good local pub with good food, vegetarian options. website
There are some small food shops and specialty shops in the center of Stroud.
Stroud Farmers Market, Cornhill Market, off the High Street. This is the best place to get vegetables, meats, eggs, bread, etc. straight from local farmers. Saturday morning's. website
Sunshine Health Shop, 25 Church Street. Large natural foods shop off the High Street. They have a separate body care products shop on the High Street. website
Waitrose, at the roundabout on the eastern edge of the town on the A419 to Cirencester.
Tesco, at the roundabout between Stroud and Painswick, where the A46 meets the A4171, on the western edge of Stroud.
Sainsbury's, to the south of Stroud, on Dudbridge Road, at the roundabout before Selsley Hill road.
There are a lot of interesting shops in Stroud on the pedestrian High Street and the other roads in the center - a good kitchen supply shop, books, shoes, clothing shops, plus the regular town shops like Boots and electronics, etc.
The Five Valleys
Frome Valley (Golden Valley): The River Frome (also called Stroudwater) starts above Stroud at Caudle Green and comes down through Miserden to Sapperton, then goes west through Stroud and joins with the River Severn. From Sapperton, the river runs beside the Cotswold Canal (not used for many years but now being restored). Queen Victoria took a train through this area and called it the "Golden Valley". This is the area from Chalford to Stroud.
Nailsworth Valley: The Nailsworth Stream runs beside the busy A46 in this valley from Stroud to Nailsworth.
Painswick Valley: This valley follows the A46 (road from Bath) through Painswick and north towards Cheltenham. There are several beautiful villages off the main road.
Slad Valley: This valley follows the Slad Brook and the B4070 road that runs north from Stroud to Slad and beyond. Laurie Lee, the author of "Cider With Rosie" lived in Slad and the book is set in this area.
Toadsmoor Valley: This small steep valley runs north from the River Frome at Brimscombe to Bisley. There are old cloth mills in this valley.
Commons Near Stroud
Selsey Commons: Across the Nailsworth valley from the Minchinhampton Commons, the Selsey Commons are smaller and not as easily accessible. Park in Selsey and walk up. Beautiful views to Stroud and the flat farm area to the west.
The Cotswold Canals Trust is restoring the canal that runs from the River Severn, through Stroud, into Wiltshire, to join the River Thames at Lechlade on the eastern edge of the Cotswolds. This canal is made up of two canals that meet in Stroud: the Stroudwater Navigation (from the Severn to Stroud) and the Thames & Severn Canal (from Stroud to Lechlade). This canal was used during the 18th and 19th centuries, but fell into disuse when trains took over from canals for transporting goods. Parts have been restored, but much of it is not yet done.
One very interesting feature of this canal is a two mile tunnel that starts near Sapperton and ends at Coates (beside the Tunnel Inn pub). The tunnel has collapsed, but the start and end are impressive. website
Bisley: Beautiful stone village high above Stroud. The roads are narrow and we are always through the village before we know it, but it is worth a stop. There are beautiful houses and a good church with a 13th century tall spire and statue inside of a knight. Beside the church are two historic houses - Over Court and Jaynes Court. website
Chalford: A village built in terraces on the steep northern slope of the Frome Valley. Many of the houses were weavers' houses from the time when the mills were active. There are lanes between houses that are steep stairs. A hundred years ago donkeys were use to move things around the village. Recently there was talk about bringing donkeys back. Get to Chalford off the A419 east of Stroud, but don't drive into the village, the roads are shockingly narrow. See the roads for yourself - YouTube video of Chalford.
Miserden: This village is all part of a privately owned estate. The residents rent their houses from the estate. Historic church, good pub, good walk in this area. It is hard to find this village - take the B4070 (Slad Road) or the Bisley Road from Stroud and watch for the turnoff north of Bisley. The River Frome begins just north of Miserden and runs nearby. website
Painswick: Pretty village with an exceptional church, with 17th century spire, table tombs and historic clipped Yew trees, many planted in 1792. Many Georgian style buildings on lovely lanes off the main road. Painswick Rococo Gardens are north of town. Painswick Beacon, a view point, is outside of town. website
Selsey: Victorian church with stained glass by Pre-Raphaelites (William Morris, Ford Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Philip Webb).
Sheepscombe: Another charming village north of Stroud. Good pub.
Slad: Small village in the Slad Valley north of Stroud. Laurie Lee, the author of Cider with Rosie lived here.
Coopers Hill: Hillside north of Painswick, famous for cheese rolling races held in the spring (Whit Monday).
Historic Houses and Gardens
Misarden Park Gardens: Miserden, north of Stroud and Cirencester. Notice the spelling difference between the estate name - Miserden - and the gardens - Misarden. website
Painswick Rococo Garden: Historic gardens, famous for their winter snowdrop display. website
Walking in the Cotswolds: Recommended guidebooks and maps for walking in the Cotswolds. We use these guides: Cotswold Classic Walks (Goldeneye), Cotswold Short Walks (Pathfinder Guide), The Cotswolds Walks and More Cotswolds Walks (Pathfinder Guides). Using those books, I listed our favorite hikes in this area below. All are circular walks - begin and end at the same spot.
Stroud Pedestrian/Cycle Trail: This trail was built over old train tracks that ran through this area. The path is paved and is used for walking and bikes. It starts behind the Egypt Mill in Nailsworth and goes into Stroud (or branch off for Stonehouse and Eastington). It is about 5 miles to Nailsworth and you can take a bus back, but they do not run frequently. Instead park in either Nailsworth or Stroud and walk out and back.
Cotswold Canal: The canal runs through Stroud. From the multi-level car park by the Waitrose, cross the A419 to the canal and the river. Follow the trail east towards Sapperton.
Cranham - Sheepscombe (Goldeneye - 3hrs): Wonderful walk in the area north of Painswick. From Cranham, up to a hilltop and around the edge through woods, down to Sheepscombe (good pub, church), then back up and around the other side of the hill. Beautiful woods, good views.
Cooper's Hill and Buckholt Wood (Pathfinder - 3hrs): Another hike from Cranham. We have not done this one, but it looks like a good hike. Part is on the Cotswold Way.
Laurie Lee Country (Pathfinder - 4.5hrs or 3hrs): This hike takes you out the Slad and Dillay valleys. This is gorgeous countryside. You can easily make this into a shorter hike. Pub in Slad. Same hike is in Goldeneye - Slad and Dillay Valleys.
Misarden Park/Edgeworth (Goldeneye - 1.5hrs): We did the short Misarden Park walk. Easy walk, beautiful village (with pub), beautiful views. Jarrold Short Walks (Misarden Park) has a different version of this walk (1 or 2 hrs).
Haresfield Beacon (Jarrold Short Walks - 2.5hrs): Beautiful views from the Haresfield Beacon, north of Painswick. Pathfinder has a longer version which includes the Standish Wood (Haresfield Beacon and Standish Wood - 3.5hrs).
- The Cotswolds - Stroud District: Stroud District Tourism. Information for Stroud, Nailsworth, Dursley, Painswick, and Wotton Under Edge.
- Strolling in the Stroud District: Downloadable hikes in this area.