CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

The secret Cotswolds

PUBLISHED: 09:00 06 May 2015

COT Devil's Chimney

COT Devil's Chimney

Archant

Touring beautiful Britain for a new TV series has made me think about some of the ‘secret’ places we have here in Gloucestershire

The Cotswold landscape is a beautiful and inspiring thing to see. It’s hardly a secret of course and over the years there must have been thousands of tourist guides and coffee-table books which prove the point. But the place I call home has always held a special fascination for me. The soft, undulating hills, the Jurassic limestone rock beneath our feet and the lovely golden stone that’s used to build those distinctive homes and dry stone walls have made the Cotswolds famous around the world.

But despite the obvious draw for visitors from overseas, the area is just one small part of the wider British Isles; a place that can boast some of the most diverse and awe-inspiring views of any nation our size. From the tranquil beauty of the Lake District to the rugged Cornish coast, it’s like a geological jigsaw puzzle. It’s that unique, and often untold, story of the countryside that Ellie Harrison and I have championed in our BBC One series Secret Britain. The idea was a simple one; to explore the hidden corners of the UK and meet the fascinating local people who have a passion for it. We explored everything from the watery world of Wales and the mysterious moors of Yorkshire to the Highlands of Scotland; and every single location was suggested by Countryfile viewers. There’s been a great response to the series and I’m thrilled that the three programmes have gone down so well with the public. But now I’m back home and busy welcoming visitors to the Farm Park, my Secret Britain travels have made me think about some of the gems in our own local landscape.

The first edition of the series featured Ellie trying to conquer her claustrophobia and going underground in the country’s deepest cave. Gloucestershire can’t beat that record, but the caves at Clearwell in the Forest of Dean are some of Britain’s oldest and most complex mine workings. Iron ore was mined from the underground caverns for thousands of years. About 50 years ago a wonderful local character called Ray Wright spotted the potential of the caves and finally opened them to the public in 1968. They’ve an amazing network of cool, echoing underground halls, tumbling water and colourful crevasses. Special deep level trips even take you climbing and crawling 200 feet below ground.

Then there’s the Devil’s Chimney near Cheltenham which used to be a popular and well-known attraction. The stack of limestone rock above a disused quarry looks just like a twisted chimney and it even appeared on old railway posters back in the days of steam. Sightseers used to leave a penny at the top of the formation as a bribe to the Devil to stay underground. Although I’m not sure how many of them really believed that Satan lived in Gloucestershire! But these days the Devil’s Chimney isn’t on many ‘must see’ lists. Perhaps that’s because the nearest railway station, at Leckhampton, closed back in the 1960s or maybe we’re a bit more sophisticated these days and tend to agree with the theory that the chimney isn’t the work of the Devil at all, but just a practical joke by a gang of 18th century quarrymen. Whatever its origins, I think it’s about time this local landmark was in the spotlight again.

What about one of the great overlooked locations in the region? The Cotswold Water Park. Every day tens of thousands of motorists on the A419 drive past this network of reclaimed gravel pits without a second thought. But I wonder how many people know that there are an incredible 150 lakes covering an area of 40 square miles between Cirencester and Swindon. It attracts Kayakers, sailors and cyclists of course, but it’s also home to a wide variety of wildlife such as beavers, otters, dragonflies, nightingales and siskin. Which just goes to show that there’s a secret Cotswolds out there, waiting to be discovered.

----------------

This article by Adam Henson is from the May issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Adam, follow him on Twitter: @AdamHenson

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Yesterday, 12:06

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Yesterday, 12:06

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Yesterday, 11:55

After something to entertain the kids during half-term? Or are you counting down the days to enjoy the thrills and spills of Halloween? Here are 20 ways to celebrate the spookiest time of year in the Cotswolds

Read more
Yesterday, 11:51

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

What started as a business ploy by one Cotswold firm has developed into an inspirational garden

Read more
Thursday, October 11, 2018

It’s that wonderful time of year again when we warm ourselves by roaring bonfires and enjoy dazzling firework displays that light up the skies. Gather your loved ones, wrap up warm and enjoy an evening of Guy Fawkes celebrations in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

If a bit of English eccentricity is your thing, spend an enjoyable afternoon exploring the delightful follies of Faringdon

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

Visitors to the village of Bourton-on-the-Water can now escape the well-trodden tourist trail at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s beautiful Greystones nature reserve and its newly opened visitor centre

Read more
Thursday, September 27, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Thursday, September 27, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

No pain, no gain? Walking, cycling and horse riding make getting fit a lot more enjoyable than that

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On a crisp, autumnal day, there is nothing better than gathering the family for a stroll amongst some of the most colourful woodland and countryside the Cotswolds has to offer. We’ve accumulated a list of our favourite places to catch the majority of this season’s golden hues

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Latest Competitions & Offers

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search