Stroud's time has come

PUBLISHED: 11:36 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:36 20 February 2013

War Memorial on Russell Street

War Memorial on Russell Street

Work to restore the Cotswold canal system will begin in Stroud this year

According to the Chinese calendar, 2010 is the year of the tiger. But in the Cotswolds equivalent, it could well be that this is the year of Stroud.

Why? Well, work to restore the Cotswold canal system, linking two of Britains greatest rivers the Severn and the Thames will be taking place in the town. County highways have promised that disruption should be minimal; in fact, for those interested in the restoration process, Stroud will offer a prime view.

It was a desperate need for coal that prompted the building of the Stroudwater Canal in the latter half of the 18th century, linking the woollen mills to the River Severn. The scheme was so successful, it was decided to build a link that would take traffic all the way to London. And so, 10 years later, the Thames & Severn Canal was opened, connecting the Stroudwater to the Thames at Inglesham.

There will be some exciting changes in Stroud in 2010 because work will be taking place to open up the stretch of Cotswold Canal that runs next to the town centre, says Strouds town centre manager, Vicky Hancock. Whilst this work may add a few minutes to journey times, Stroud will be very much open for business, and we anticipate that our award-winning farmers market, independent shops and festivals will continue to draw the crowds.

Too right! As far as the festivals are concerned, Stroud has some first-class events taking place. Get out your diaries now to note the dates of the International Textile Festival, attracting people round the world, from May 1-21; the Site 10 contemporary arts festival runs throughout the whole of June; Stroud Festival of Nature, built around conservation, wildlife, walking and food, takes place on July 17. And the fantastic Stroud Festival Fortnight is planned for September 3-19. This combination of a walking and a food festival (how better to justify the calorie intake?) means you can explore the surrounding countryside in the best way possible on foot and then taste the view via the towns dedicated restaurants, food producers and other outlets.

Stroud is full of surprises, says Carole Garfield, chair of the towns chamber of trade. Many of our traders have been here for years; they know their customers, they know what they like, and they offer good value. Its a working town it holds services such as dentists and opticians; but it also has real niche areas, like Mills Cafe in Withys Yard, with its continental feel. There are traders such as Tonys Butchers, so committed to building up business in Stroud. And Oeno, the wine shop, and Stroud Deli both opened in the last year: surveys talk about the death of the market town, but Stroud is certainly holding its own.

As a business adviser who runs the Pink Square consultancy, what advice does she have for local traders for the coming year? Stroud has a reputation thats built on good service, she says, and thats what it should and will continue to give: this is what people want. Its always been a vital element but, as we go into 2010, giving first-class service is more important than ever.

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