The towns of Stroud and Nailsworth are in steep river valleys. Two hundred years ago this was an industrial area with many mills on the rivers. They made cloth, walking sticks, umbrellas. The mills used the rivers for power. Villages formed on the steep hillsides above the mills.
Part of the Cotswold Canals runs down the Stroud valley, at one time connecting the River Severn and the River Thames. The canal was a main transporation link for this industrial area. It is being restored, but British Waterways just pulled their funding, so the restoration which was planed to be completed in ten years will take longer. There is a canal tunnel that runs from Sapperton to Coates for over two miles (3817 yards, 2.16 miles). The tunnel has collapsed in parts, but each end of it has been restored. There are good pubs at each end (The Bell in Sapperton and Tunnel House Inn near Coates) and good trails along the canal. Perfect for a hike and then a pub lunch.
But how did I get onto canals? This post is about donkeys!
Many of the mills are still here, but now they are apartments, offices, workshops. The steep river valleys still have steep walking paths connecting the villages with the valley floor.
Tonight on the BBC news there was a story about people in Chalford, a small town just up the valley from Stroud, where the hill is so steep that many residents can only get to their houses by a walking path – Shoppers seek donkey for bag help.
Residents of Chalford on Rack Hill have to carry their groceries on foot up the 100 meter path (that does not sound that long to me, but I guess if it is steep and you are carrying stuff, it is a hike). They have decided to get a donkey from a donkey sanctuary and use it for village transport.
In Bradford-on-Avon, on the River Avon a few miles from Bath, the weavers’ cottages are on a hillside overlooking the town. Small pedestrial lanes connect the rows of cottages. When Steve and I first saw this area – we were having lunch in the tea room and the man at the next table told us about the weavers’ cottages and how to find them – we decided we had to live in Bradford-on-Avon, in a weavers cottage. I watched the Bradford rental listings for a year and never saw one of them for rent.
Since then we have found similar hillside weavers’ cottages in other areas. There is a small area in Nailsworth, on the hillside above Egypt Mill. And I guess there is one in Chalford (we will go check it out and report back).
In other news, there is a cycle/walking path connecting Bristol and Bath, but the city council wants to run busses on part of it. There was a big protest recently because people feel this will drastically change the nature of this path. Walkers and bikers will have to dodge buses. But the traffic is very thick and the council sees this as a way of making the bus system work.
Maybe they could take a lesson from Chalford and try carts pulled by donkeys?