I think this chapter is fairly self explanatory.
So instead, I’m going to tell you a bit about Gloucestershire, the area where I live, because I don’t think I’ve ever described it here at all.
First, the name: Gloucestershire. It’s pronounced “Gloss-ter-sher”. I’m not sure why it’s spelt that way, but then the same is true of a lot of English place names.
Gloucestershire is in the West Country, in South West England. As such, it’s quite rural, and contains a lot of farmland. In fact, it’s one of those counties that often gets stereotyped on television as being backwards and old fashioned, and inhabited by people who say “ooh-arr” a lot, although this isn’t really accurate, since there are also a lot of posh and wealthy people around here, and the house prices tend to be very high. It can be quite surreal, because sometimes you’ll see Keith Allen in a local post office or something like that.
Anyway, the only times I’ve heard a real Gloucestershire person say “ooh-arr” is when they’re making fun of the way people talk in Somerset, where they talk with an even slower accent and stress their “r”s more than we do, although to the rest of the world we probably sound the same.
Gloucestershire is divided into several districts, each with its own distinct characteristics. They are as follows:
Gloucester, Cheltenham, Cotswold District, the Forest of Dean, Tewkesbury Borough and Stroud (& the Five Valleys).
Gloucester is currently Gloucestershire’s only city. It brings with it a “city” reputation: the stereotype of a Gloucester person tends to be physically strong, but a bit dim, and it’s generally held that wandering around there after dark will get you knifed. There’s probably a bit of classism there, since Gloucester has a high working class population. Gloucester has some very pretty old buildings, most notably the majestic Gloucester Cathedral, which was used in the Harry Potter movies. Gloucester also gave the world Double Gloucester cheese, while Cooper’s Hill, on the outskirts of Gloucester, gave the world the noble sport of cheese rolling, which basically consists of legging it down the hill after a round of Double Gloucester. It’s more dangerous than it sounds. The Gloucester military uniform is also pretty iconic. If you see a soldier in British uniform in an American movie, there’s a good chance it’ll be Gloucester Regiment.
Cheltenham is the second smallest district after Gloucester, and the best place in the county to go shopping. Cheltenham is a very scenic town, with lots of regency architecture. Nowhere is this exemplified more than the Pittville Pump Room, which is all marble columns and flowery designs. Cheltenham also has a lot of statues and hosts a very famous horseracing event called the Cheltenham Gold Cup. As one may surmise, Cheltenham is very posh.
Cotswold District is the largest district, and is so-called because it’s in the Cotswolds, a group of hills that stretches all the way through Gloucestershire from Oxfordshire, and down into Somerset and up into Warwickshire. The Cotswolds are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and are made from a golden yellow oolitic limestone, which is very popular for building around here. Cotswold District contains a lot of Roman ruins, and their largest town, Cirencester, is very old, and used to be named Corinium. There’s a very interesting museum there. In the south of the Cotswold District there’s Westonbirt Arboretum, which is very beautiful.
The Forest of Dean
The Forest of Dean, or just the Forest, is kind of the black sheep of Gloucestershire districts. As the name implies, it’s a large, wooded region, and it borders on Wales. The towns there tend to be pretty small and isolated, and locally the Forest is generally considered to be a bit backwards; the usual joke is that you can tell a Forest inhabitant by checking for extra fingers (or limbs). Internationally, the region is probably better known for the prominent role it plays in the last Harry Potter book, which should come as no surprise since J.K. Rowling spent some of her childhood in the town of Tutshill in the Forest (in the books, Cho Chang supports the Tutshill Tornados, and they’re top of the Quidditch league). The Forest is also important in Primeval, a series I would recommend checking out if you haven’t already, and is the setting of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills. Special mention should probably be made of the Severn Bore, a dangerous phenomenon which comes hurtling down the river here from time to time, to the delight of surfers and the dismay of harbour trustees.
Tewkesbury Borough is located in the north of the county. It’s very old, and contains a lot of Tudor architecture. Tewkesbury was also the area of the county which was worst affected by the flooding in 2007 (which I managed to largely avoid by going to Scotland during the worst of the flooding). I don’t really know much about Tewkesbury; I’ve never had much reason to go there.
Stroud and the Five Valleys
Stroud is a relatively modern town which sprung up during the Industrial Revolution. Along with the surrounding valleys of Slad, Toadsmoor, Nailsworth, Painswick and the Golden Valley, Stroud was a key producer of cloth in the 19th century. Slad was immortalised in Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie. Stroud itself is best described as “alternative”; the inhabitants are typically pro-environment and green living. Oh, and a lot of them are on drugs.
There’s also South Gloucestershire, but I don’t know much about that either, and in any case, it’s a unitary authority, which means it’s not part of Gloucestershire proper. It’s only really notable because Banksy might be from there, anyway. South of that you have the city of Bristol, which used to be in Gloucestershire, but is now a county unto itself. It’s a good deal rougher than Gloucester.
So anyway, that’s Gloucestershire. It’s home.