Nailsworth, Stroud, Gloucestershire
PUBLISHED: 12:08 03 June 2010 | UPDATED: 15:36 20 February 2013
There aren't many towns where you can buy top designer kit from one shop, followed by the most intricate bits of ironmongery from another. But in Nailsworth, you can.
There aren't many towns where you can buy top designer kit from one shop, followed by the most intricate bits of ironmongery from another. But in Nailsworth, you can. The quality of the shops has even been highlighted in a national newspaper which, in a sweep of the whole country, picked out no fewer than two Nailsworth outlets commended for their individuality and quality: Nonsuch Books & Music and Buskins Shoes. You can also buy from the monthly farmers' market (on the fourth Saturday), and the innovative Market Street traders, who've organised their own craft market, with jewellery, home furnishings, books, aromatherapy products and much more, on the second Saturday of each month from 9am-3pm. If you need to do some Christmas shopping, you'll get all the staples - as well as unusual gifts - in this town.
In 1931, Nailsworth suffered an extraordinary flood, the like of which has never been seen before or since. On the day of the once-annual Nailsworth Horse Show - late into the afternoon - an almighty thunderstorm broke above the town, with teeming rain. As if out of nowhere, water started pouring in from Newmarket, and down the Avening and Horsley valleys. So strong was the flow, it lifted man-hole covers, and residents watched in horror as shops were deluged: soon, tins of biscuits and packets of butter came floating past. One family, whose house was built on top of a stream in Cossack Square, lost every pair of shoes as water swept through one of the cupboards.
Although it rapidly reached several feet deep in places, no one drowned, though some livestock perished. One cause of the 'great flood' was the way streams had been used as general rubbish dumps, causing disastrous blockages; it took weeks to clear up the filth left behind.
Want to know where to buy fabulous food? Use your loaf! Nailsworth is home to one of Rick Stein's Super Heroes, Hobbs House Bakery in George Street. Fifth generation baker Tom Herbert uses two obvious essentials in his bread - locally-milled flour, and water - alongside two rather rarer ingredients - time, and sheer passion for the art. If you want to learn more of his secrets, then join one of his Sunday bread-making courses; he runs around five a year (01453 839396; www.hobbshousebakery.co.uk). Another great product are Cotswold Meringues, made in Nailsworth from a closely-guarded family recipe and sold in local food shops. And you can wash it all down with a pint from Nailsworth Brewery, which uses water drawn from its own spring.
Don't fancy cooking? The choice of top-class eateries is staggering for a town of Nailsworth's size. You can dine on anything from the fine British staple of fish and chips, to oysters at William's Fish Market and Food Hall, or travel the world - Italian, Chinese and Indian food are all on the menu. Nailsworth Town Council's excellent website includes a guide to the various restaurants: www.nailsworthtown.co.uk
Tramp poet WH Davies ended his days in Glendower, a cottage in Watledge, Nailsworth. Famous for his poem, Leisure - What is this life if, full of care,/We have no time to stand and stare, he was one of the most popular - if controversial - poets of his generation. He spent many years as a vagabond in America and Britain, and wove his experiences into his Autobiography of a Super-Tramp . In 1923, he married a much younger woman, Helen Payne, whom he met when she was working as a prostitute in London. They lived happily and quietly together until he died in 1940.
We're not implying Nailsworth is greedy - but two Olympic heroes? All eyes in the town were fixed on Beijing this year, cheering on Dan Robinson, who came 24th out of 102 of the world's best long-distance runners, and Peter Reed, the gold medal-winning rower. But this is a town that's known for its sporting prowess. Popular and successful footballers Forest Green Rovers have been at the hub of Nailsworth since they were founded in 1890. Their new stadium, The New Lawn, is a fantastic venue at the top of town: www.forestgreenroversfc.com
As a very 'green' town (just look at the organic produce you can buy), you'd expect Nailsworth to be an ace recycler. And not just when it comes to glass and paper. This former woollen centre has turned many of its mills to good use. Egypt Mill - so-called because the colours in the dyeing process transformed the waters into the 'Red Sea' - is now an hotel and restaurant where diners can see the old waterwheels in action; Ruskin Mill is a cultural and educational centre inspired by the principles of Rudolf Steiner, William Morris and John Ruskin, with lovely gardens and a cafe; and Dunkirk Mill - converted into luxury flats - hosts a small museum with exhibits from that industrial past. Details of its occasional openings are available from www.stroud-textile.org.uk
Nor is that recycling process confined to the mills. The Old George, once a coaching inn, is a complex of upmarket shops and residential units. And the former railway line, with its winding track through woods and wild flowers, has become a peaceful cycle trail.
It's worth taking a few moments to stop and look properly at the buildings. Stokes Croft in Cossack Square was used for Russian prisoners during the Crimean War, which explains the name. During restoration work, the presence of even earlier troops was discovered in the form of graffiti from men billeted there in 1812 and 1815. You can see other fine Jacobean and Georgian merchants' houses, too. If you'd like to learn more about the town's history, visit Nailsworth Archive, upstairs in the town hall, open on Monday mornings from 10am to 12 noon.
Writer and broadcaster Sue Limb is patron of Nailsworth Festival www.nailsworthfestival.org.uk, which takes place at the end of April each year. The diverse entertainment includes drama, music, literature, comedy, film, walks and the famous Nailstock www.nailstock.com, the community-run free music festival, celebrating local bands and musicians.
"The Weighbridge Inn in Nailsworth is good if you're very, very hungry; the cauliflower cheese is my favourite." Novelist Katie Fforde.