Radio Presenter Sybil Ruscoe
PUBLISHED: 23:34 28 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013
Despite the noisy presence of middle-aged men on motorbikes, radio presenter Sybil Ruscoe wouldn't be anywhere other than Stow. Words by Katie Jarvis. Photography by Mark Fairhurst
Broadcaster and journalist Sybil Ruscoe moved to Stow-on-the-Wold three years ago, when she married fellow Daily Telegraph writer, Tom Knight. And then she fell in love all over again - with Stow itself. "The instant I arrived, I felt at home," she says. "I think it's because I'm from a small country town in Shropshire where people talk to each other and are friendly, and Stow is exactly the same. It's a real community."
Sybil's has been a career and a half so far: she presented the Radio 1 Breakfast Show with Simon Mayo and hosted Top of the Pops; she was the first broadcaster hired by Radio 5 Live and the first woman to present cricket on television. A familiar voice on Radios Gloucestershire and Oxford, she's just finished writing a novel based on her life in broadcasting. "You see mad things when you work in that kind of environment. This is an anti-celebrity novel," she says.
She's also recently launched her own company, Ruscoe Media, with sister Hazel, and they're currently working with the Geoff Thomas Foundation. "Geoff is a former England and Crystal Palace footballer who had leukaemia. He's now trying to raise money to fund trials into new drugs to help others.
"For years, I've worked in entertainment. To use my skills for something like this, for someone who is such an inspiration, feels like putting something back. It's incredibly rewarding," she says.
I live in Back Walls, Stow-on-the-Wold, and the reason is simple: I fell in love! My husband Tom Knight, who's athletics correspondent on the Daily Telegraph, already lived here and I moved in to his house. The instant I came to Stow, I felt at home. It's a real town with a great community and not at all 'chocolate box'. Really, it would be good for the town if we could attract a few more people. Tourists tend to go to Bourton for a whole afternoon and just nip into Stow. I think it's one of the great secret towns of the Cotswolds.
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
For three years, which is when we got married - the day our friends thought they would never see! Tom and I were both confirmed single people but, when we met, there was a kind of recognition: we share exactly the same view of life.
What's your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
First of all, a really good walk: I'd go down the hill through the Unicorn Trust Equestrian Centre, along the Dikler to the Slaughters, then on to Bourton-on-the-Water, where I'd phone for Tom to come and pick me up. Then I'd spend time on my allotment. London friends find it hilarious that this person who used to live in fashionable Primrose Hill now gets excited about vegetables she's grown herself. But there's something about planting seeds, nurturing your patch of ground, and then harvesting and eating what you've grown. We were never meant to go to supermarkets.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
I think Tom would like to live at the seaside one day but, as I keep telling him, I wouldn't live anywhere else but Stow. If money were no object, I'd like one of the houses overlooking Stow cricket pitch. I grew up watching cricket with my dad, and when Channel 4 got the rights to the cricket, I just knew that was a job I wanted. There were a few men who would write to the papers saying that I should stay at home in the kitchen, but most people who were sceptical were brought round. And the cricketing community were fantastic: they knew we were trying to make the game more inclusive and update its image. For me, that was the absolute dream job.
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
Anywhere outside the magic Stow triangle: Swell, the Slaughters and Broadwell. But really I want to be in the hub. It's a great place to mooch.
Where's the best pub in the area?
Without a doubt, the Queen's Head in the square in Stow. It's the pub I've looked for all my life - there's always someone you know and a good atmosphere.
And the best place to eat?
I like the Talbot in the square. On Monday nights, they do this amazing double-baked cheese souffl and chips.
Have you a favourite tearoom?
It's got to be Ann Willows tea shop, run by a great character called Ed Simpson. In fact, he's just got married, so the two of them are now known as Edward and Mrs Simpson.
What would you do for a special occasion?
I'd go to the newly-refurbished Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter. It's really nice inside and the food is fantastic.
What's the best thing about the Cotswolds?
The friendliness of the Gloucestershire people. We've made some fantastic friends here, and there's also great camaraderie on the allotments, though I do get teased. Some of the guys have been working their patch for 20 years and more, and I'll often wander over and ask, "Frank, what do I do with this?" Frank said to me one day, "You want to put some bonemeal on those carrots." I asked, all keen and naively enthusiastic, "Oh Frank, where do you get that from then?" And he pointed to the cemetery!
... and the worst?
The impression that it's populated by ex-rock stars and models living in mansions, making cheese, doing organic farming, and shopping at Daylesford and Highgrove. That's pretend Cotswolds. True Gloucestershire people have a down-to-earth, humorous attitude to life.
Which shop could you not live without?
Lambournes butcher's in Digbeth Street, run by Robert and Karen Preston.
What's the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
On his latest album, Steve Winwood describes the North Cotswolds as the mid-Highlands of Britain. Isn't that a great phrase? People tend to think of the Cotswolds as the villages. The underrated thing is the remote upland pasture - the area between here and Winchcombe; around Guiting Woods and beyond - where you're in the middle of nowhere.
What would be a three course Cotswold meal?
Soup made with leeks from my allotment; Gloucester Old Spot sausages from Lambournes; and a bowl of Susie and Keith's raspberries from the next allotment. I can't believe how I used to be a boil-in-the-bag fish for one person when I lived in London. I couldn't face a ready meal now - unless it was fish and chips from Greedy's.
What's your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
St Edward's, where we got married: a beautiful but plain Cotswold church. I'm obsessed with the first world war, and I think it's fantastic that there's a book by Susan Brattin in the church, which tells all the stories of the Stow men killed in the wars. When it was the 80th anniversary of the armistice, I went to see my great uncle's grave near Albert and took some soil from his garden at home. He was 21 when he died, and all his mother ever had was a picture: a wooden cross with an oak sapling behind it. When I went, that sapling had grown into a huge oak tree, so I brought some acorns back.
What's your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
I hesitate to say it because it's so obvious, but it's got to be Upper Slaughter. It's known as a 'thankful' village because it's one of the few places in the country where everybody came back from the first world war. There's no war memorial in the village, though there is a memorial to those who served.
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds..
The alleys of Stow-on-the-Wold, through which sheep were brought into the square;
The stony but rich soil of the allotments
And the howling wind in winter - there's nothing between here and the Urals. When you live in a little cottage like this, you see why the walls were thick and the windows small!
What's your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
I have to mention St Edward's church again. On my wedding day, dad and I walked down Fleece Alley to the church; and then we walked from the church to the Grapevine for our reception. We had people stopping and cheering as we walked down Digbeth Street, and other people coming up and giving us hugs. It was a real country wedding.
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
I would never read anything by AA Gill, whose insult to our town was unforgiveable. I hate that kind of London superiority. We did invite him to come down but we didn't even get a reply.
Starter homes or executive properties?
It's essential to build some small homes. We've lots of nice new big properties but very little social housing. There's got to be some proactive thought about where young families will live in the future.
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
Chipping Campden in the north; Cheltenham in the west; Cirencester in the south; and Chipping Norton in the east.
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
A piece of Cotswold stone and a photograph taken from the cricket pitch looking towards Abbotswood. The cricket and football pitches in Stow must be the sports grounds with the best views in the country.
What would you change about the Cotswolds or banish from the area?
The middle-aged men who come riding round here on motorbikes at the weekend, reliving their youth and driving like Barry Sheene.
What's the first piece of advice you'd give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Go to the pub and get to know the people who've lived here all their lives.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
Moreton Show. I like agricultural shows because of the way you get the townspeople meeting the people who've worked on the land all their lives; the racing community with that lovely display of racehorses; and the livestock. I love all that.
If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
I would like to come back to Stow-on-the-Wold in the 1840s to see who was living in our house then. I'd love to see the town pre the car and pre aeroplanes, when people came to the square to sell their produce and drove their sheep down the alleys.
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
You know the Angel of the North, and the Wicker Man on the M5? I'd like a massive wicker sheep on a hillside so people would know this is a place that was built on wool.
The Cotswolds - aspic or asphalt?
We can look after the heritage and modernise as well. One thing I would do is to clear all of the cars out of Stow town centre and have a shuttle bus to the square.
With whom would you most like to have a cider?
The regulars of the Queen's Head in Stow. But if I could go back to the past, I'd like to have a cider with Wilfred Owen, who's from my home county of Shropshire. His poetry is as relevant to the conflicts of today as it was to the first world war.
For more information on Geoff Thomas and his work, log onto www