The Cotswolds around Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire

The countryside in and around the Cotswold Hills is thought by many to be amongst the best, offering pretty scenery and good caravanning facilities throughout much of the year.
Surrounding the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire is a region that can loosely be defined by the coming together of two rivers - the Avon and the Severn. Here is a combination of gently rolling countryside and small riverside towns, of walled fields and houses in mellow, warm-looking Cotswold Stone. Old England as many imagine it to be!
Tewkesbury is a busy little town at the point where the Avon and Severn meet. There is a pleasant (but not outstanding) riverside with facilities for boating and walking. Timber-framed buildings are interspersed with several narrow alleyways leading to courtyards or, in at least one case, an old burial ground (which was a little untidy and overgrown at the time of our visit). For the visitor the town is dominated largely by Tewkesbury Abbey. It was here, in the meadows alongside, that the Battle of Tewkesbury was fought in 1471. This penultimate, and decisive, battle of the Wars of the Roses ended when the Yorkists beat the Lancastrians decisively; many of the defeated took refuge in the Abbey only to be slaughtered inside. After a tour of the Abbey head for the old Abbey Mill opposite and to the river (known here as the Mill Avon).

Abbey Mill was built originally in 1190, and operated by the Benedictine Monks from the monastery who milled flour for the local inhabitants. There was a complete rebuild in 1793, and the mill continued in operation until 1920 when it was displaced by a larger, more modern mill a short distance upstream. This is an area long affected by flooding, and a sluice was installed alongside the mill building in 1935 to help control the floodwater. This was later replaced by the system - known as a fish belly sluice - which can be seen today, installed in the 1990s.
Winchcombe has narrow side streets and is surrounded by pretty countryside - an ideal place for afternoon tea! Sudely Castle lies at the edge of the village. Bredon has a pretty country church and Bredon Tithe Barn - owned by the National Trust and said by some to be the oldest surviving tithe barn in the country. Broadway has many houses built in the typical Cotswold stone, but may be a little too 'pretty' for some people. Just outside the village Broadway Tower sits on top of a hill overlooking the countryside below; the top of the tower is said to be the highest point in the Cotswolds.
There are numerous other attractive villages and small towns throughout the area. Upton upon Severn has a number of old-fashioned shops, together with a riverside (which we found to be a little disappointing). During the summer months a Heritage Centre is open in the Old Bell Tower, known locally as the Pepper Pot because of its shape. Said to be the oldest surviving building in the town, it houses an interesting display illustrating some of the key events of the town's past, including its role as the site of two battles at the time of the English Civil War.
A few miles away, Pershore is an appealing town on the River Avon with another Abbey, a good selection of shops and a pleasant riverside walk where colourful narrowboats tie up overnight. Half a mile outside the town is Pershore Old Bridge; monks built the original bridge on this site around 1413, supposedly after their abbot had been drowned falling from stepping-stones. A later bridge was damaged (almost destroyed) during the Civil War in 1644, and over the years the bridge was maintained using stones from nearby Elmley Castle and Pershore Abbey. The bridge was taken out of service for road traffic in 1926 and is now used only as a footbridge. Alongside it there is a small picnic area and parking from which to enjoy a walk along the riverbank.
Across the river, the towpath upstream passes through a site of special scientific interest known as the Severn Ham, a haven for wildlife. There are a number of moorings where narrowboats can often be seen. The path skirts the current mill before crossing a lock where the narrowboats pass between the Severn and the Avon. During the summer months this can be a rewarding place to stand for a moment to watch the boats negotiate the entrance to the lock, an awkward right-angle turn. Not all the crews are fully experienced!
There are numerous touring sites in this part of the Cotswolds, some open throughout the year. We stayed at the Caravan Club site at Tewkesbury Abbey  a good base with the advantage of an easy walk into Tewkesbury town with its shops, pubs and restaurants. The region is easily accessed from the M5.

© GDS 2003

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Old buildings in Tewksbury, and the Abbey Mill
Broadway Tower
A narrow-boat passes through the lock at Tewkesbury
Pershore Abbey and the old bridge
Narrow-boats moored on the River Avon at Pershore