A visitor's guide to Coberley, Cockleford and Cowley
PUBLISHED: 16:25 17 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:25 17 April 2019
We’ve assembled a brief guide to help you to get the most from your visit to Cowley, Coberley and Cockleford, sponsored by The Green Dragon Inn
The Green Dragon Inn | 01242 870271 | green-dragon-inn.co.uk
Cockleford, and the joint parish of Coberley and Cowley, are small, but history packs a punch here. Just five miles south of Cheltenham, the villages are popular stop-off points for walkers and many a countryside fan in search of a rural idyll. The area is well known to Gloucestershire's Girl Guides and Brownies – their Deer Park activity centre is between the villages and in 2019 they celebrate 50 years of adventures.
Expect scenic views along the River Churn and the Gloucestershire Way if you're walking, punctuated by important historical sites. Ancient features include Iron Age hill forts, burial mounds and barrows. Around 400 arrowheads were found at a single gateway on the National Trust site at nearby Crickley Hill, clear evidence of a fierce battle.
Ermin Street, the Roman route between Gloucester and Cirencester, runs close by and in 2007 near Coberley, a villa, along with its mosaics, coins and brooches, was re-excavated for Channel 4's Time Team programme. If you're walking watch for signs of drovers' roads, wide country trails that were used as highways to drive hundreds of sheep and livestock from meadow to market, often with shelter and stop-off points on the way. If you're exploring, leave time for wild orchid spotting in the grasslands – but don't pick – these flowers are protected and rare.
Most noted for... its unusual burials at St Giles, Coberley. A favourite warhorse, Lombard, was laid to rest in the churchyard. When owner Sir Giles Berkeley died in 1294, his heart was removed and buried in the church close to his beloved steed, while the rest of his body was interred in St Giles, Little Malvern. The story continues from there. His son Sir Thomas Berkeley married Joan, who became Lady Berkeley. When widowed, she married Sir William Whittington and one of their sons was Richard 'Dick' Whittington. There's evidence to suggest after Sir William's death, Joan returned to Coberley with Richard, so London's most famous mayor grew up in the village. In time Lady Berkely was interred alongside her first husband – two effigies mark their tomb.
While you're here... watch out for Cotswold Alpacas. Though native to South America they've adapted to Cowley where they are bred for their top quality wool. Owners Bridget and James Tibbs-Hamilton are passionate about the creatures and offer weaving, looming and felting workshops and husbandry courses for like-minded creatives.
But try not to... go all secret squirrel. Cold War era bunkers lurk along Greenway Lane, where, rumour has it, additional hush-hush levels were constructed below ground. In addition, it's claimed ancient underground passages lead to a long-lost local castle – very Stranger Things.
Naturalist, artist, doctor and Antarctic explorer Edward Wilson, whose statue graces the Promenade in Cheltenham, grew up at nearby Crippetts Farm, where his mother bred Dexter cattle and chickens. He joined Robert Scott on two British Antarctic expeditions, dying on the way back from their ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole. The Wilson gallery and museum in Cheltenham honours his life and works.
Elkstone's predominantly Norman Church is the highest in the Cotswolds, standing at nearly 1,000ft above sea level. Golden and glowing, it has a rare dovecote in its roof.
The gardens at Cerney House six miles from Cowley, were a project taken on by the late Lady Angus and her daughter Barbara. Features include a walled garden and traditional herbaceous borders, an organic kitchen garden and orchard, plus a rediscovered icehouse and bothy tearooms. There are plants, gifts and seasonal produce on sale at the shop.
An artisan business based at Dowmans Farm, Coberley, and you can book Cotswold Lion Brewery tours with friends on Friday and Saturday nights, or buy bottles to savour at home. The 'lion' of the brewery's name is actually the distinctive breed of sheep introduced to the area by the Romans – hence the logo.
Move here for...
And get: A smart four bedroom detached cottage in Cowley, built in Cotswold stone, with a substantial conservatory and garden, views to die for and good connections by road. It comes with a separate two-storey annexe – ideal as a studio, workshop or home office.
Eat at: The Green Dragon Inn
Perfectly preserved, you'll find flagged floors, oak beams and quaint details in the dining room and bar, and smart comfortable rooms upstairs. Expect locally sourced produce such as venison and wild boar, mixed with classics and vegetarian delights to create a modern flexitarian menu.
Drink at: The Golden Heart Inn
Inside the 16th century building you'll find log fires in winter and comfy seating as well as real ales, ciders and a comprehensive wine list. They also serve coffees and teas, have a large garden with valley views and are definitely dog friendly.
Stay at: Cowley Manor & Spa
Why? Built by James Horlick, the malted milk drink magnate, this countryside estate hotel was originally a medieval manor that had been altered over the centuries. After buying the old house in the 1890s, Horlick expanded it beyond recognition and developed the stunning gardens, enhanced by sculptures, lakes and cascades. Horlick's landscapers continued the work of the previous owner, who had had 135,000 trees planted as avenues and in Cowley Wood. The grounds are managed with conservation and wildlife in mind, making a restful and charming retreat. The hotel has 31 individually decorated rooms, many with wonderful views, plus a spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools.