City EscapesEngland

A weekend in Cheltenham, the heart of the Cotswolds

Paloma, our motorhome is resting her wheels as we take in a mini city break, we have stopped at the rather excellent adults only, caravan site ‘Briarfields‘ a member of the Tranquil Parks group it offers up a safe and peaceful stop for the next couple of days.

Michel next to the briarfield caravan park sign in Cheltenham

The site has been well designed that you easily forget that your less than a mile from the M5; 6 miles into Gloucester and 3 miles into Cheltenham, our destination for the weekend .

We are surrounded by trees and green space, a real unexpected surprise when your this close to the motorway!

Beautiful green views from the best caravan and campsite in Cheltenham

Ok I know, with Bristol, Bath and Gloucester as near neighbours, you might be thinking why but, the beautiful city of Cheltenham gets overshadowed and easily forgotten.

But there’s much more here than meets the eye, and whilst it might be smaller than some of the surrounding cities it punches well above it’s weight.

One of the main attractions of this site is location, location with the bus stop to Cheltenham right outside ! – you can also get to Gloucester and Oxford from here.

Cheltenham is a place that really has to be explored on foot to discover all of its secrets and eccentricities.

From the moment you enter the town of Cheltenham you are struck by the number of Georgian and Regency buildings , there are literally hundreds of them dating back to the late 1700’s.

Fact number one of the day , the town has one of the largest concentrations of listed buildings in the country.

The style of building is as pleasing to the eye today as it was 250 years ago: clean, fresh lines, mostly built of local, cream coloured stone.

Our leap of faith _ From the moment you enter the town of Cheltenham you are struck by the number of Georgian and Regency buildings , there are literally hundreds of them dating back to the late 1700's.

So a joy of a bus ride, we hope off in probably the most prestigious street in the town situated in its heart, of the area known as Montpelier, now a busy mix of designer shops, offices, bistros, sculpture, flower bedding and fountains.

Montpelier district came into existence in 1808 when a new well was discovered there. A hundred years before that, salt springs were discovered and, after George III visited in 1788 to ‘take the waters’, the town became even more popular.

The Montpellier district of Cheltenham takes its name from the fashionable French town, which was renown at the time for being a pleasant place to live, The shops and bars along Montpellier Walk are separated by 32 individual stone busts based on the classical models on the Erechtheion in Athens.

Motorhome stops in Cheltenham- Montpellier Walk are separated by 32 individual stone busts

Quite literally in the centre of all of this you won’t be able to miss Imperial Square and Gardens , Flanked on three sides by more picture-perfect symmetrical townhouses, this formal garden might not be much more than an expanse of green with immaculate flower beds around, But it’s an excellent partner to the classic architecture, and gives that feel of open countryside in the city.

Almost hidden away, and for once no hordes of Chinese selfie takers we come across the statue of Cheltenham born composer Gustav Holst.

Cheltenham born composer Gustav Holst, a true stopover in the motorhome

Renowned sculptor Anthony Stones, created the statue. The plinth of the statue is decorated with plaques depicting the individual planets which Gustav Holst used as an inspiration for his work.

From Imperial Square we meander onto the Promenade.  This wide boulevard heads towards Cheltenham’s main shopping area and is lined with some of it’s most upmarket shops and more grand houses and todays it houses the Saturday market.

But it’s not just the grand buildings and streets that contain architectural gems.

Some of the best examples are the houses and flats that can be found down many of the side streets. These original buildings have inspired the many new buildings that are built in the same style and blend in so well.

Meandering on down towards the promanade, we come across another overlooked master piece, the Neptune Fountain.

Purported to have been modelled on the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy, The Neptune Fountain sits outside the Municipal Buildings on The Promenade.

Other sources place its inspiration as Bartolomeo Ammannati and his fountain in Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, although again, this has been disputed!

It depicting Greek god Neptune in a shell-chariot, being drawn by four sea-horses and heralded by conch-shell blowing merman. Neptune sits proudly, clothed in a mantle while clasping a Trident as a symbolic representation of his dominion over the seas, while the horses are depicted in motion, and the entire fountain is enclosed by sculpted balusters and vases filled with flowers.

And not an overpaid and extremely over zealous Italian ‘don’t touch the water’ man in sight or any other tourist for that matter !

A little further along the Promenade you will find, sitting companionably together on an oversized bench and in huge scale, A Lady-Hare and A Minotaur.

Sophie Ryder, created the sculpture for a temporary exhibition at the Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery in 1995. The overwhelming public response to the exhibition saw a campaign to retain this particular sculpture.

Not your usual sight whilst out shopping and taking in the regency style beauty of a gorgeous City such as Cheltenham!

Possibly nievely, we stumbled across something I’d never heard of and was blow away, hidden in the pretty but unassuming Regent shopping arcade is the most stunning piece of engineering around, the imfamous Wishing Fish Clock,

Created by Kit Williams (famous for the book ‘Masquerade’), the clock has been devised to delight the public, particularly children, by its concept, design and action. The working and structural parts of the clock were built by Michael Harding a world famous local clock maker

Cheltenham amazing wishing fish clock

At more than 45 feet tall it is believed to be the tallest mechanical clock in the world!

The clock features an illusion with a goose seemingly laying a never-ending stream of golden eggs and includes a family of mice that are continually trying to evade the snake sitting on top of the clock. Hanging from the base of the clock is a large wooden fish handmade by the artist that blows bubbles ever half-hour along to the tune of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.

Ok, so not a normal tourist thing but it would be rude to not visit, when it only opened 3 days ago.

Set over two floors, John Lewis Cheltenham,replace an entire shopping centre, reportable 115,000 sq feet and stocking over 40k products this flag ship store will provide the latest and best products in fashion, beauty, home, electricals and technology.

John Lewis Cheltenham, opening Saturday, all of the Cotswolds shopping in one place

And to confirm yep it’s massive !


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