Christmas in the Cotswolds: Reasons to be cheerful
PUBLISHED: 12:35 11 December 2015 | UPDATED: 10:12 14 December 2015
'Tis the season to indulge, relax, get active, escape, turn over a new leaf.
The nights have drawn in, the days are short; it would be easy to curl up and hibernate. But that would be to miss so much: the sculpted beauty of winter trees etching patterns on the sky, the crunch of mud frosted solid underfoot on a morning walk, lunch beside a log fire in a pub. And there’s the approaching glow of Christmas.
Whether you’re prone to SAD (seasonal affective disorder) through missing the sun or all revved up and looking for festive fun, here are 10 favourite ideas for getting out and about to make the most of the season.
1. Go winter wild
Avoid ‘cooped-up kids’ syndrome by pulling on the boots and scarves and playing winter I-Spy, for example at Brown’s Folly Nature Reserve, Bathford: spotting old man’s beard, berries, maybe a sparrowhawk or deer, and all the different shaped frosty cobwebs at this time of year – great for photos, www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk.
Or let Wild Westonbirt bushcraft and survival youth club (Dec 19) bring out youthful Bear Grylls (14-18 year olds; booking essential, 0300 067 4854 or Karen. email@example.com.
2. Food, glorious food
Get some tasty inspiration – ‘Cooking at Christmas’, ‘Christmas Dinner Party’ – on December courses at The Cookery School at Daylesford, near Kingham. Alongside tips for making your culinary Christmas stress free, you’ll be using organic, seasonal ingredients from the farm – and there’s a timely class on ‘Healthy Tips for Christmas Leftovers’ too (Dec 27), www.daylesford.com.
3. Festive family fun
Meet Rudolf, Prancer and Comet, the resident reindeer at The Bird and Deer Park, Prinknash, as the park transforms into a Winter Wonderland (Nov 28/29; 5/6, 12/13, Dec 18-24). See waterfowl looking their best, swans turning pink on the lake beneath Christmas lighting and Santa arriving by reindeer-drawn sleigh, www.thebirdpark.com. Enjoy more animal magic at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, Guiting Power, as donkeys, sheep and goats play Farmers’ markets and seasonal fairs are full of temptations right now.
For further information on the Cotswolds AONB and the Cotswolds Conservation Board Cotswolds Conservation Board The Old Prison, Fosse Way, Northleach GL54 3JH Tel: 01451 862000 www.cotswoldaonb.org.uk their part – with audience participation – in the Living Nativity (Nov 28–Dec 20), www.cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk.
4. Stock up
Whether it’s stocking- or tummy-fillers you’re after, farmers’ markets and seasonal fairs are full of temptations right now. Find everything from sweet treats to jewellery at Winchcombe Christmas Festival (Dec 1, www.winchcombe.co.uk); or Cotswold crafts, food, music and mulled wine at the Christmas Food and Craft Market, the Cotswolds Discovery Centre at The Old Prison, Northleach (Dec 5, www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/events). There’s also everything from rural crafts to cakes at Cogges Winter Fayre and Market (Dec 6, www.cogges.org.uk).
5. For the person who has everything
What do you buy the man / woman who has everything? A gift voucher for a Cotswolds Rural Skills course – of course. Not only will they get hands-on to learn something new, fascinating, useful and fulfilling, they’ll be keeping alive traditional crafts that have shaped the Cotswolds. Check out hedgelaying, blacksmithing taster days, dry stone walling, wool weaving and more at www.cotswoldsruralskills.org.uk.
6. Away from it all
Family, friends, food, fun – they’re all fantastic at Christmas. But if you want to escape the hectic hullabaloo for a quick re-balance and re-charge, head up to those high wolds and commons, Cleeve, Minchinhampton, Rodborough, Selsley. Or simply stand and quietly enjoy the bracing panoramic views from Bredon Hill or the Tyndale Monument on Nibley Knoll. Head cleared, now?
7. Silent night
Here’s another sanity-saver: stargazing. And dark, crisp winter skies are ideal. Pausing to look at the moon, the Milky Way galaxy, or spot activity like the Geminid meteor shower (peaks around the night of Dec 13-14) is totally absorbing. Good stargazing sites include behind Cleeve Hill, around Guiting Power, Kilkenny Picnic Site, and the Rollright Stones has Dark Sky Discovery Status as a top spot away from light pollution. Find a stargazing i-calendar / star maps at www.bbc.co.uk/stargazing or join in with your local astronomy group: www.cnaag.com, www.cotswoldas.org.uk, www.bathastronomers.co.uk, www.wasnet.org.uk.
8. All in a good cause
It’s wet, it’s muddy and it will certainly work off the Christmas excesses. The Great Brook Run at Chadlington (Dec 28) takes in field and water on a route that’s just over a mile. Register before 12.15pm, start at 12.30pm, finish... when you can. Proceeds go to charity while many runners go to The Tite Inn where they can warm their frozen toes by the fire, www.greatbrookrun.co.uk.
9. Banish the blues
Fresh air, exercise, companionship – they’re all great for keeping any winter blues at bay. Why not join a friendly walk with the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens? Easy to strenuous, walks cater for all abilities and interests, from Tetbury Time Trail (Dec 6) to St Catherine’s Valley Round (Dec 11). How about the Post-Christmas Freshener to Painswick Beacon (Dec 30) or Breeze Along the Edge ‘wake up call for New Year’ (Jan 3), a level walk designed for all ages, www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/walking
10. In with the new
After the last Christmas choc has been scoffed, there are those New Year’s Resolutions to sort out. Could this be the year you cycle yourself fit? With such varied terrain, the Cotswolds is ideal for it. Ease in gently somewhere flat like the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath, upping the ante to mountain biking off road around places like Chedworth and Withington. Lots of route ideas at www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/cycling-riding.
Did you enjoy this article? Read 24 reasons to spend Christmas in the Cotswolds