Cummings' goings: Follow the yellow brick road
PUBLISHED: 10:12 31 January 2014 | UPDATED: 11:36 31 January 2014
Mark Cummings explains why Gloucester is akin to a friend that he really likes, but others fail to see their true value, and he is left slightly frustrated that there is something about this 'friend' that just doesn't 'click' with others.
I have a friend who I’ve decided to write about because I’ve spent 20 years extolling their virtues and thankfully now it’s become a whole lot easier to make people love them. My companion for 20 years is the city of Gloucester. I know that there are some who do love the city but there are some who haven’t had the chance to get to know its true character and find it a hard place to warm to. Before I tell you about my mate’s true personality, lets deal with the character flaws that exist in an honest and no nonsense way.
This is no rose tinted brochure piece because we all know, as with many towns and cities through the land, there are issues and problems. There are areas of the city that still look drab and unloved. There are areas of deprivation and the city centre at night can be dispiritingly quiet and lifeless. So no one is perfect, but do we dwell on first impressions or dig a bit deeper to see the true three-dimensional personality that is beginning to express itself?
My job is to cover every inch of Gloucestershire from Moreton to Symonds Yat, Didmarton to Tewkesbury so I get to experience it all. However my office is in Gloucester and this is where I’ve spent a good deal of my life and made many friends. I’ve worked in other parts of the country and experienced broadcasting to an area with no real soul or sense of community. So when I compare these areas to the experiences I’ve had in Gloucester then you’ll begin to see why I love sharing the positives about this city.
In how many cities in the world could all of the following have happened? Raucous hours spent in the Shed at Kingsholm, numerous magical nights in Gloucester Cathedral, parading thorough the city centre during the Barton Fayre dressed as a medieval magician, giving a civic reception at the docks having walked to London dressed as Dick Whittington, taking a group of gobsmacked tourists around the gate streets on a historical literary tour, seeing Rick Wakeman performing at Blackfriars Priory, and joining in a ancient pub crawl where the quality of beer is tested by a man dressed in massive leather trousers sitting on a stool soaked in ale...if the trousers stick to the stool the ale is no good!
This month I’ll be taking an ex ‘Stroudie’ to the city who has spent the last 10 years in Australia and I can’t wait to see their reaction when they enter Gloucester via the Quays and see what has happened in the last few years.
After a slow start, the Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet is booming with destination stores and popular restaurants filling up the empty units. The new cinema has added a fresh dimension. The buzz and energy of this place in the run up to Christmas was quite extraordinary. The Quays represent the ‘NOW’ and capture new visitors from far and wide. I think it would be great if we could scoop up these people and transport them into the ‘PAST’ taking them on a journey through time along the city’s historic streets to the Cathedral.
Wouldn’t it be great if once they come out of the shops and enter the docks, there was a yellow brick road with a sign saying “Give us 10 minutes and we’ll take you back 1,000 years. From the historic docks to Harry Potter, walk with us through time.” From the docks the trail would lead up to Southgate Street, to the cross and then down Westgate Street to the Cathedral. A map would point out the buildings on the route that inspired the stories of Long John Silver and characters such as Wendy from Peter Pan, Scrooge and the Tailor of Gloucester. Okay, so maybe the yellow brick road might be over the top but a clearly marked trail with a simple map featuring the nuggets of the city’s incredible history would surely seduce people into the city centre and encourage them to spend some of their ‘hard-earned’ in the heart of the city.
If you haven’t been to the city for a while, give it a go and follow that route, I have a feeling we will be doing a pilot tour ourselves and broadcasting it on my show this summer just to see if the theory works. I’ll finish with 10 reasons to feel positive about the the city that’s touched my heart and seeped into my soul.
• 700 million pounds worth of investment can’t be bad... take a look around.
• Dripping with history... civic guided tours are wonderful.
• A passion for rugby and don’t forget the Rugby World Cup is on the way.
• Gloucester Quays... give it a go.
• Gloucester Brewery... yum yum.
• Tall ships festival at the Docks.
• The removal of the Golden Egg building in Kings Square happening anytime now!
• The unique Barton Fayre and mock mayor parade... surreal and special.
• Robinswood Hill.
• The people... forthright and funny with a love of rugby.
Time to get lost again... I got hopelessly lost in Tredworth in Gloucester the other day. I was trying to find a road that was surrounded by one way streets and cul-de-sacs. I discovered bits of the city I hadn’t been to in ages, some brilliant shops and community projects. Since most of our reporters only know how to get somewhere with a sat-nav I think the time has come to get them lost in the county with no extra help and make them find their own way home. We did this a few years ago and the people they met and the adventures they found provided us with some cracking stories and fascinating guests.
No excuses... the dates for this year’s ‘Tour de Gloucestershire’ are Wednesday, July 23 and Thursday, July 24. This annual bike ride starts on day one from the old Severn Bridge finishing up later that day in Moreton-in-Marsh. Day two takes us from Moreton to Berkeley Castle. For details of this 200-mile adventure, simply email email@example.com
Where’s my winter warmer gone? For the first time in a few years there is no cheap last minute Canary break for me. I love a bit of sun to break the winter, but knowing this was going to be the case I now feel part of a new club, those of us who “guts it out” with no holiday from October to April.
Who needs the hassle when you can console yourself with a homemade Piña Colada, a box set of Benidorm and a vat full of that healthy glow moisturiser?
Set your heart free...
You don’t have to be sucked into the grossly inflated prices for flowers this Valentines Day. There is a way to celebrate your love for each other whilst avoiding the bombardment of commercial fripperies coming our way. Instead of falling into those gooey guilt traps, why not share a simple pleasure together that costs nothing but will provide a perfect magical moment to share?
I once had to meet my wife in Painswick and waited for her on the bench in the churchyard. This has to be the most romantic place to wait for the love of your life to appear. Nestled in between 99 perfectly shaped Yew trees in one of the most picturesque settings in the world doesn’t get much more soppy than that.
How about an early evening twilight walk on Rodborough Common? Fold your arms around each other whilst looking down on the twinkly lights of Stroud and the villages on the other side... bliss.
You could go for a shared adventure to try and discover one of the finest Cotswold’s views (I challenge you to discover a very special place known as ‘Pleasant Style’ on Littledean Hill where the view is spellbinding) and make it your special place.
If you are like me and don’t get to spend as much time together with your partner as you would like, why not go for one of those posh afternoon teas and spin it out for five hours as we did recently. It was the first time we’d talked properly in ages. I discovered my wife had started a new job, dyed her hair a different colour and had taken up yoga!
Finally, the voucher scheme is something I like. This is a written commitment to do something special later in the year that might not work so well in February. My suggestion is to promise a springtime walk to the bluebells on May Hill including a luxury picnic hamper to share on a warm April day.
This article by Mark Cummings is from the February 2014 issue of Cotswold Life
Mark can be heard on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s morning show 6am-9am
104.7FM and 1413AM, Stroud 95FM and Cirencester 95.8FM bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire