Cummings' Goings: The ultimate Cotswold Life experience
PUBLISHED: 16:35 01 September 2014 | UPDATED: 17:10 01 September 2014
BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Mark Cummings tries his hand at penning an advert for the ultimate trip to the Cotswolds, alongside his usual lowdown of local life.
I am a self confessed travel snob. My dream holiday must include a backpack, a road trip, a physical challenge and a whopping great adventure. I love to read the adverts in the Sunday supplements for the 12-day trip of a lifetime which is timetabled to the very last second. They often involve an exhaustive itinerary to OZ, Egypt or maybe The Galapagos for seven grand with a complementary soft drink or glass of wine every evening. I love to mock them in my smug self-satisfied way but I have to admit they do write them in a very seductive tone and no doubt one day I’ll cave in and find myself sipping gin and tonic after a long day’s cruise on the Nile hiding from the very dull man called Trevor from Telford. In a homage to these wonderful offers let me try and seduce you into ‘Cummings and Goings Classic Cotswold Caper - ABTA approved’.
“Our two-day adventure will take you on a trip through time where you’ll visit JK Rowling’s childhood village and wander around Harry Potter’s personal film set. We will take you past ancient castles and iconic abbeys, you’ll experience the thrill of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup and racing down the wing at the home of rugby. You’ll visit the exact location where the Domesday Book was signed and marvel at the sensation of standing where kings are buried and battles were fought. This once in a lifetime offer will get your creative juices flowing as you pass through places that gave birth to Scrooge, Long John Silver, the Tailor of Gloucester and Tinkerbell, and landscapes that shaped the work of Dennis Potter and William Shakespeare. The sensations on this trip are never-ending, including a visit to the runway where the B52s took off for the Gulf War. You’ll enter the world of espionage with some Banksy street art and travel around the cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral in a surprising and unusual way. Our exclusive excursion starts promptly at 7am on the magnificent Old Severn Bridge, opened by the Queen in 1966. We climb high into the Forest of Dean, sweep down into the Severn vale, lunch at the magnificent Tewkesbury Abbey, and end day one with an ascent into the dreamy North Cotswolds with a visit to Chipping Campden and an overnight stay in Moreton-in-Marsh.
“We depart from Moreton promptly on day two at 8am to capture the magic of many classic Cotswold towns and villages. After a barbecue lunch in Poulton we make our way to the Roman town of Cirencester, take in Stroud and Frampton-on-Severn, ending at the historic Berkeley Castle. Your end here will be far more joyous than Edward II’s who departed this earth at the castle with the help of a red hot poker...allegedly. The total cost, including transfers, unlimited fresh water, a complimentary drink at the Swan Inn in Moreton and a full English breakfast, plus a cool cider at the end of day two - a mere £67.99. We also guarantee there will be no one called Trevor from Telford allowed in our touring party.”
This fantasy happened a few weeks ago on two wheels, in two days, over 200 miles. You might remember last year I started on the journey of creating the ultimate cycle route to show off every iconic, historic, beautiful and mesmerising element of this incredible part of the world. I rode with a bunch of peddling pioneers from the Old Severn Bridge to Berkeley Castle as a sort of experiment to see if it could be done. The 2013 experiment proved a huge success and so this year we tweaked the route, handed over the practicalities to Performance Cycles in Poulton and added a bigger peloton of riders to take on the challenge.
There are several ingredients needed to make this a worthwhile meaningful exercise. Firstly there has to be an ultimate goal and for me it’s simple. I want to create an official route that can be done as an annual event that highlights the incredible diversity/beauty/history of Gloucestershire. To this end I was delighted Jason Humm from Gloucestershire Highways joined us from Gloucester to Winchcombe via Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and Cleeve Hill to sample the buzz of what we are doing. There is nothing confirmed yet but I am very hopeful this route will become part of our calendar for years to come.
Then you need physical agony which came in the form of Cleeve Hill, Chipping Campden to Moreton and Selsley Hill. Into the pot you need to add magical moments which included cycling around the cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral, along the touchline at Kingsholm and past the finishing post at Cheltenham Racecourse. Then you need some treats that came from the sheer beauty of cycling through the Forest of Dean with the River Severn a constant companion, the rolling lavender-scented purple fun of the north Cotswolds to the homecoming cuddle of the Stroud valleys. We then needed a sprinkle of jeopardy which helpfully came my way 10 days before the ride with an agonising ‘pop’ of a calf muscle playing tennis. Intense physio with the amazing Sandra from Cherrington gave me hope and the security of my doctor riding with me got me through. When it hurt he simply told me to bite very hard on his bicycle pump.
The final ingredient to make this a magnificent experience is simply the people involved along the way. So thanks to my fellow riders who were a constant joy, Perfomance Cycle’s support car team and my BBC Radio Gloucestershire colleagues who covered the whole trip with great enthusiasm. Many people just turned up and rode with us, from the Chief Constable who did Northleach to Fairford, Stan from Bream who did St Briavels to Parkend, Lynette on a trike from Tewkesbury to the racecourse and Paul from Stroud who did Selsley to Berkeley Castle. Most of all thanks to everyone who came out to cheer us along the way, from gentle encouragement in Chepstow at the beginning right through to banners and whistles on Cleeve Hill...you’ll never know how much it meant and helped us.
We will be announcing the dates for next year’s Tour De Gloucestershire very soon, so if you fancy taking part for just a couple of stages or the whole adventure stay tuned to my Breakfast Show and keep reading the column for the details of how to take part in 2015.
That was the summer that was...
As summer starts to drift into autumn here are a few wistful embers of warm Cotswold recollections
I experienced my first Cornbury Festival this year. We toddled off in the camper van to a festival without the children for the first time. It felt a bit odd on our own as we spluttered into the Great Tew Estate, but after a couple of ciders and a great set from Jools Holland we relaxed into a joyful weekend. The stars of our youth kept rolling up on stage day after day and it was a complete pleasure. Kid Creole appeared with some fresh firm youthful coconuts, Georgie Fame stormed it, as did Marc Almond and Ruby Turner. Simple Minds came on after dark and took us back to the mid-eighties with immense power and style and we had a nostalgic sway and cuddle to 10cc. For a totally different festival experience we retuned to our spiritual home of WOMAD near Malmesbury and enjoyed a few days of Tai Chi, massage, amazing music and food and our children periodically appearing from nowhere asking for money.
Man and dog in rehab...
Tyler, the rescue lurcher, broke his leg in late spring. He is nearly better but as I am still sorting out a swollen calf we still fight over who gets the elastic rubber rehab band to stretch our fragile ligaments.
Car sharing scheme gets off to dodgy start...
The big news for us this summer has been the supposed acquisition of our own personal taxi driver. My 17-year-old daughter Kate has just passed her test after a few interesting moments learning with her Dad. Instead of now having my own personal chauffeur service it seems we are now sharing my car. I got into it the other day to find my selection of CDS had been dumped on the back seat in favour of a band called Foals and a soloist called Henry Green. I can’t admit it to her but I love this artist, well worth a Google!
This article by Mark Cummings is from the September 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