Wednesday, November 20, 2013

UK2013: Stroud and Bisley

On my penultimate day in Gloucestershire, our gang all met in Stroud, in order to get a coffee and visit the market. Stroud is the focal point of the local area, and the point at which all of the Five Valleys meet. The hills peter out into lowlands; west of Stroud lies the floodplain of the River Severn.

On the way to Stroud, it was a cold morning and there was snow on the hills. The roads were clear, at least.

We arrived, parked, and got that coffee, before wandering around a little. There's a few nice buildings in town, and (being honest) a lot of very ordinary ones. This first nice one is the Subscription Rooms, which is basically the Town Hall. Known locally as the 'Sub rooms', it was built in 1833 by public subscription and is used for theatre, art exhibitions and dances in the ballroom upstairs.

This is the side of what is now the TSB Bank. It has the same Regency architecture as the Sub rooms.

Facing the TSB is the Nat West Bank. Stroud is a town of banks and shoe shops, for some reason.

This clock tower stands almost opposite the Sub rooms and splits the road into a one-way system around the core of the town. Just beyond it you can see some rare beasties - red phone boxes!

We took a wander around Stroud market. My visit was during the height of the horse meat scandal; it was found that certain processed meat products such as burgers had high percentages of horse meat in them. Here's the sign by the troutmonger's stall.

We repaired for lunch in a pub on the edge of town, before heading into the Stroud Museum. Somehow I have managed to grow up in this town without having once ever visited the place, so it was time to rectify the situation. It's located next to the leisure centre in some nice parkland, and houses a collection that showcases the history of the local area, with a large emphasis on how local people used to live.

Here's a cooking range with various pots and pans.

There was a large section about brewing. These are some of the tools and vessels used by the breweries to make and distribute their wares.

Stroud itself was founded on the woollen industry in older times. The town's coat of arms features red squares on a green background, with a white wavy line running diagonally through the middle. The squares represent the red cloth laid onto the green hillsides to dry, while the wavy line represents the rivers. The red cloth was used to make soldiers' uniforms and later on was used on pool tables. The Museum has some examples of the uniforms and various clothworking tools.

Here is a lawnmower of the design created by Edwin Budding, a Stroud engineer. Next to it is a cloth mill. Budding saw the blade on the cloth mill that sheared off the fuzzy bits, making the cloth smooth, and realised it could be used on grass. He also invented the adjustable spanner.

After our visit to Stroud, we went back via the village of Bisley. It lies on the hilltops, about five miles from Brownshill, and was a frequent haunt for me on my bicycle as a child. One of my favourite places in the area is the Bisley Wells. They are situated on a side street in the middle of the village. At the top of the street, there is this monument to the local blacksmith.

Walking past this, we find the wells. Water springs from the hillside into these troughs, at first.

The troughs channel the water further down the hill.

These are the wells proper. Aren't they beautiful? They have been here since forever. They get decorated with flowers on Ascension Day in a Well Dressing ceremony. If you climb the hill behind the wells here, you'll find there is a church on top.

Another view, showing the permanently-wet ground. That iron grate has been there since I was a kid; I wonder how many things have been lost down it...

A close up of one of the well heads. The ancient Cotswold stone shows plenty of moss and lichen growth.

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