Towns & Villages
© David Hall
With thirteen settlements of varying sizes across the Cotswold Water Park, it is no surprise that there are plenty of interesting places to visit and explore.
For example, the town of Fairford boasts the only complete set of medieval stained glass in a parish church anywhere in the country; Cricklade where the great Roman road, Ermin Street crosses the River Thames; Down Ampney, the birthplace of Ralph Vaughan Williams; Ashton Keynes, with more bridges over the infant river Thames than London.
© Bob Bewley
The first settlement on the infant River Thames, Ashton Keynes reputedly has more bridges over the Thames than London.
Offering a wonderful, picturesque Church Walk, and the river banks on the High Road are bedecked with hundreds of daffodils in the Spring. This friendly village is home to approximately 1500 people, with a vibrant primary school, a community run village shop, a Norman church and excellent pub, Ashton Keynes is certainly a lovely place to explore.
The first Town on the Thames, Cricklade is the southern gateway to the Cotswold Water Park with lots to offer visitors. Historical and pretty and somewhere everyone can be assured of a warm welcome.
Steeped in tradition with one of the country’s last remaining Manorial Court Leets, it boasts 112 listed buildings and all mainly on its attractive High Street. Cricklade is also designated as area of Special Archaeological Significance and described as the best preserved example of a Saxon new town.
Walkers are particularly well catered for with a range of options from a Heritage Trail around the town centre to the 184 mile Thames Path National Trail.
Just on the edge of the town is North Meadow, a National Nature Reserve and one of the finest examples of a lowland hay meadow in Europe with beautiful wildflowers and the rare snakeshead fritillaries – a focal point for many hundreds of visitors each Spring.
With a strong sense of community spirit, residents are rightly proud of their town and were delighted to have their efforts recognised in 2011 when Cricklade was named RHS Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions. It’s no wonder people return again and again.
Link to the online Cricklade Town Guide
© Bob Bewley
Fairford is a small market town in Gloucestershire situated on the River Coln between Cirencester and Lechlade. It is famed for St Mary’s Church and the most complete set of medieval stained glass windows in the world.
Fairford Mill and Oxpens, the River Coln walks, the Market Place and High Street, lined with beautiful Grade 2 listed buildings like the Community Centre are all part of the town’s attraction.
The name of the town is the modern version of its Anglo-Saxon name, Fagrinforda, which means fair, in the sense of being good, and ford, a place to cross a river. The River Coln flows rapidly from the Cotswold hills to the infant Thames, four miles away at Inglesham. There it almost doubles the size of the River Thames. At Fairford, however, in the past, it broadened out, became shallower and slower and was therefore easier to cross. Today there are two bridges and the river is channelled under them.
Recent excavations on the west of Fairford have revealed evidence of Iron Age, Roman and Saxon settlements which suggests that the site was occupied from 400 BC to 800 AD. As well as Iron Age buildings, a large Roman cemetery remains of a Roman farmstead and Saxon grubenhauser were found.
© David Hall
Lechlade gets its name from the River Leach which joins the Thames just east of the town.
From the earliest days, it was an ideal location for a settlement as the rivers were a source of food and an easy way to travel. There is evidence of a henge monument dating back to 2500BC and there are Bronze Age barrows dating back to 1800BC. By the early Iron Age, there was a large settlement with grain stores indicating a farming community.
During Roman times there was a substantial presence around Lechlade. An archaeological excavation of Butlers Field in 1985 revealed a Saxon burial ground dating to a period between 500 and 700AD. Many of the artefacts are now on display in the Corinium Museum in Cirencester and include beads, pins, brooches and rings.
© Bob Bewley
Lying very close to the river Thames, and the long distance Thames Path, the peaceful village of Somerford Keynes can trace its history back to a charter of 685 AD, but archaeological investigation in advance of gravel extraction has shown evidence of Iron Age and Roman occupation.
The manor house dates back to the 15th century, sited next to the All Saints Anglo Saxon Church which has the possible remains of an 8th century church revealed in a doorway.
© David Hall
South Cerney is a village and civil parish in the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, 3 miles south of Cirencester and close to the border with Wiltshire. Founded in 999 by Saxon settlers, with a charter by King Aethelred II, it now has a population of more than 3000.The River churn flows through the heart of the village, surrounded by small but thriving shops and pubs.
A delightful Cotswold village, South Cerney was winner of the best kept village award in 2001. Worth a visit are the narrow lanes around the oldest part of the village, such as Bow Wow, Church Lane and School Lane, with All Hallows Church, the Old Vicarage and the Manor House, along with some beautifully preserved 16th and 17th century buildings.