Editor's Comment April 2016

PUBLISHED: 09:42 17 March 2016 | UPDATED: 09:57 17 March 2016

The stocks in Stow © clare_and_ben, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The stocks in Stow © clare_and_ben, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Dust down the stocks in Stow and polish up the iron maiden at Littledean jail, as any serious attempt to remove the Cotswolds in any form from its natural home of glorious Gloucestershire will be resisted tooth and nail, says Mike Lowe

I can’t help but think that the supposed outrage over the suggested ‘merger’ between Cotswold District Council and West Oxfordshire is something of a red herring. The two councils already share a chief executive and many other back-of-house services, saving CDC around £3 million a year. There is no reason that these initiatives cannot continue without any unnecessary re-branding, however politically convenient West Oxfordshire might find it (and that appears to be the principal motive).

We don’t, and can’t feasibly, share police, ambulance, fire, roads and most health services, so a full-scale amalgamation is unlikely, if not impossible. Nationally, Oxfordshire is classed as a South-Eastern England region; the Cotswolds, of course, is in the South-West sector, leading to all sorts of complications regarding government funding, house-building, education and the rest.

So why the fuss? Perhaps it’s the innate fear that our error-prone council might sleepwalk into another catastrophic cock-up. Perhaps it’s just an emotional reaction to something we all feel very passionate about.

Rest assured, any serious attempt to remove the Cotswolds in any form from its natural home of glorious Gloucestershire will be resisted tooth and nail. The sacks of feathers are ready; the buckets of tar are warming. Dust down the stocks in Stow and polish up the iron maiden at Littledean jail. The councillors and officers of CDC need to tread very carefully indeed.

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By the time you read this, a daily episode of Countryfile will be beaming out of your tellybox. The reason for this spin-off, already nicknamed ‘John Craven’s Moos-Round’ in honour of its esteemed presenter, is down to the remarkable success of its parent programme. Since its move from Sunday morning to Sunday evening, Countryfile is regularly the most-watched show on television, clocking up over eight million viewers while leaving more populist programming trailing in its tractor-wheel wake.

I do find this vaguely puzzling. While no-one can deny the charms of our own Ellie Harrison and Adam Henson, it is rather more difficult to see the attraction of segments on kelp farming in Northern Ireland.

This new audience can’t all be disillusioned Urbanites yearning for the rural idyll, can it? Thousands of hardcore Escape To The Country viewers who are taking very seriously the dream of selling up their tiny flat in Camden Town and buying a country estate near Chipping Campden?

Has no-one told them about the mud? And the smells? And the lack of public transport? And the appalling broadband ‘service’ that means it can take five days to download a movie in Miserden? Or that we’re all straw-sucking yokels, armed to the teeth and liable to shout abuse at strangers?

If only. Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds are thoroughly modern, and therefore inordinately attractive to incomers. For proof of this, look no further than the fact that we will shortly become the only county in the UK that will have the roles of Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Bishop and Chief Constable filled by women.

As someone who grew up in the same part of Manchester where Emmeline Pankhurst was born and lived, I’m rather chuffed about this.

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I apologise profusely to all of our readers who care about the preservation and correct use of the English language, because somewhere amongst the 70,000 words in this magazine we have inadvertently allowed a writer – a woman - to use that abhorrent term “medalled” as a verb.

It is my fault entirely; I momentarily took my eye off the ball. And now, in penance, I’m thrashing myself with my well-thumbed 1934 edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage.

Follow Mike on Twitter: @cotslifeeditor

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