A visitor's guide to Minchinhampton
PUBLISHED: 14:09 17 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:09 17 April 2019
We’ve assembled a brief guide to help you to get the most from your visit to Minchinhampton, sponsored by Beaudesert Park School
Beaudesert Park School | 01453 832072 | beaudesert.gloucs.sch.uk
Four miles south of Stroud, but a world away from the tourist trail, Minchinhampton is quieter than many of the Cotswold towns. Its outstanding features include the Market House with its stone columns, and a church with a crown-topped spire, while the town's independent shops, such as the butcher's and upmarket bridal boutique, have gained it renown beyond the region.
Walkers, many with a dog or two somewhere nearby, come to explore Minchinhampton Common – 600 acres of glorious, hilltop grassland owned by the National Trust. Cattle and ponies roam free here in the summer months, their paths crossed by happy hordes of boys and girls from the well-regarded local prep school Beaudesert Park, chattering en route to the school's sports fields across the way.
Most noted for... Minchinhampton Common, which is managed by the National Trust. Rare and beautiful the grassland is enjoyed by nature lovers, golfers, locals and visitors, as well as wildlife and cattle.
While you're here... head for Box Wood which was bought by the community and is maintained by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Tread softly – between spring through to autumn, and according to the season, you'll find orchids and anemones among ancient beeches and hazel coppices. You even may come across rare hazel dormice!
But try not to... miss out on the Market House events. Drama and fitness groups, choirs and dance classes all take place in the 17th century building.
Former rugby international Mike Tindall has run out for the Minchinhampton side since retiring from the professional game in 2014. Author Joanna Trollope was born in the town and her grandfather, Rex Hodson, who delivered the parish magazines on horseback, was rector of Minchinhampton. The actor Keith Allen (father of musician Lily) and his actor wife Tamzin Malleson also have a home here. Media medic and GP Mark Porter lives close to the town. Every August, the Princess Royal and her family host international horse trials at their home Gatcombe Park.
Minchinhampton Common and neighbouring Rodborough Common host rare flora and fauna, aided by grazing cattle (and their output). Glow worms, rare bees and more than 30 species of butterfly, thrive on the grassland, which is among the scarcest in the country. The resulting mix of insects also makes excellent habitat for both greater and lesser horseshoe bats and the grassland is home to pasque flowers, spectacular bee orchids, gentians and cowslips, plus ground-nesting skylarks. Geologists have found fossilised Jurassic sea creatures in this area, thanks to the underlying limestone – there was even the skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex-like dinosaur uncovered at a quarry nearby! Ancient history fans will appreciate the remains of an Iron Age settlement carved into the grassland and the Bronze Age barrows, all part of the scenery that makes up the wild hillsides.
Minchinhampton is home to some top-notch food outlets, including a few Cotswold Life favourites. Award-winning traditional butcher's shop, Taylor & Sons has been a staple of the town for almost a century; Henry's coffee shop and dairy in the Market Place serves coffees, sandwiches, local artisan food and a range of organic dairy products sourced from the family's farm at Woefuldane. Since opening in the town in 2018 The Chip Shed has caused a stir with its excellent fish and chips, ethically sourced and traditionally fried. On Thursday mornings Minchinhampton buzzes with a weekly country market featuring the best local farmers' produce, plants, preserves and crafts. If you like to earn your calories, walk or cycle to Rodborough Common for a Winstones ice cream-based treat – more than 100,000 customers a year can't be wrong!
Move here for...
And get: A compact but airy period terraced cottage in Minchinhampton town centre, with three bedrooms, an inglenook fireplace and pretty back garden.
Eat at: The Kitchen
Why? This café-restaurant recently changed hands, but the feature bay window, and award-winning food is of the same standard as ever.
Drink at: The Old Lodge
Why? Sup your ale and enjoy the views across the common and valleys from this 16th century inn. The garden and rooms are perfect for weddings, celebrations and parties – there's even a long list of soft drinks for designated drivers.
Stay at: Burleigh Court Hotel
Why? Country house grandeur meets relaxed pared-back style in this 18-bedroom hotel, enhanced by nearly three acres of grounds with valley views.