The Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the country and is characterised by gently rolling hills, wild flower rich grasslands, ancient beechwoods, pretty limestone villages and historic market towns. It is a landscape of contrasts where some of the rarest species in the country thrive on hilltops perched above bustling market towns, a place where locals sit on internationally important limestone grasslands to eat ice cream whilst nearby a herd of cattle stroll calmly along the road.
During this trip we will be spending 2 ½ days exploring this fascinating historic landscape and experiencing some of the wildlife highlights as well as enjoying a little local food culture. We will visit some of the best limestone grasslands in the country where highlights will be orchids, the rare large blue butterfly and glow worms. We will climb Painswick Beacon and, if the weather is clear, enjoy spectacular views across to the Black Mountains in Wales. Other elements of the trip will include a visit to Bibury to look for water voles and a tour of Woodchester Mansion, a fascinating Grade I listed Gothic mansion which is now home to a
thriving population of greater horseshoe bats.
The Cotswolds: Gloucestershire, UK
Moderate. Whilst we will explore on foot for most of each day, all of the walks will be at a steady pace. The ground may be uneven in places and will involve going up and down hills that may be steep in places. Please contact us if you need more details.
Arrive in Stroud late afternoon in time for an evening meal. If you are arriving by car you can drive straight to the accommodation at Frocester. For guests travelling by rail we will provide a collection service from Stroud station. After our evening meal at a local pub
we will have an evening stroll across Minchinhampton Common
We will begin the day with a visit to Rudge Hill Common, a wonderful grassland tucked away above the picturesque Painswick Valley. Here we will enjoy fantastic displays of pyramidal orchids whilst looking for some of the rarities that may be in flower such as musk orchid and green-flowered helleborine. We will then move onto Painswick Beacon which has an Iron-Age hillfort and spectacular views across the Severn Vale to the Welsh hills beyond. After lunch in the pretty town of Painswick we will pay a quick visit to Sheepscombe Common where we will look for any bee orchids that may still be flowering as well as the rare and unusual yellow birds nest. There is also a chance of finding slow worm, common lizard and possibly grass snake.
We will end the day with a walk around Rodborough Common and possibly a refreshment stop at the local artisan ice cream factory. The limestone grassland here is of such international significance that it has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation. We will enjoy beautiful displays of wild flowers and have a look for any orchids that may be flowering.
Evening meal at the Weighbridge Inn, a local culinary institution where we will have an opportunity to sample their famous 2 in 1 pies.
After breakfast we will travel to Daneway Banks where we will spend the morning looking for large blue butterflies as well as some of the other species including marbled white and dark green fritillary.
After a cafe lunch we will travel to Bibury, one of the most photographed villages in England. The River Coln flows through the middle of the village and we will spend time looking for water voles and enjoying the sight of trout moving through the crystal clear waters.
After dinner we will return to Rudge Hill which is one of the best sites in the area to see glow worms. We will set a moth trap on our arrival and then go for a walk around the common looking for glow worms and hopefully bats too.
After a leisurely start following a late night’s moth trapping we will check out of the hotel and head off to Woodchester Mansion, an imposing National Trust owned gothic mansion on which building began in 1857. By the early 1860s the original owners had run out of money so the workers downed tools and the mansion has remained frozen in time to this day. Fireplaces hang halfway up walls that never had the floors fitted, 19th century ladders remain leaning against walls that were never plastered and unfinished bosses can be seen alongside the many beautiful completed stone carvings that adorn the house. As an added bonus lesser and greater horseshoe bats use the cellars as a maternity roost and it is possible to watch them on live CCTV.
After lunch in the café we will return to the hotel to collect cars and drop guests off at Stroud station for your journey home.
Jo Horbury & Tim Coleshaw
Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age archaeological sites, private museum of local archaeological artefacts
Chalk downland flowers and butterflies, turtle dove