A Day Out With Elspeth in Tewkesbury

My favourite small town so far

Tewkesbury sketch

Tewkesbury’s status as such comes from having an abbey in cathedral league, for alleys and attractive main streets – one which looks like a village, the other a small town. There’s a mill and meadows, a brilliant arts centre – the Roses, and a large for a town of its size library. The bookshop is also big for an independent, two storeys and with a good range. Tewkesbury’s got cheapies and chains next to Marks and Spencer’s (not a favour easily bestowed, and after their workfare use, not one I reciprocate with my custom) and small shops and cafes: some feel upmarket, some long term local.

The image many of us may still have is of when this little town was waterlogged. I have an aerial postcard of that. So I did some Christmas shopping here that year to help with their economy. I wish I’d had a camera to capture that gorgeous lazy sunset that day – and the morning I awoke in the Hop Pole hotel to hear and see the Abbey, again in a haze. The Hop has a corridor made out of a medieval hall house, an era well represented in Tewkesbury.

Although in Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury looks more like Worcestershire than the Cotswolds, being of the red brick and black and white timbered school rather than golden stone. Some of those timbers house museums, and for a little town, Tewkesbury again is excellent. It has a local free one, one about wildlife conservation (though the touching table was rather small, I was looking forward to that part especially), and Out of the Hat, which is the expensive and modern one. And there’s a disguised old Baptist Chapel to visit too. So along with the abbey and the arts centre, and those little shops and alleys to browse, there’s quite a bit to see here.

The issue though is if you don’t drive. I’d recommend buses as they go from the centre of town and drop you off likewise in Cheltenham or Gloucester. The station was right near the Roses, but now it’s at a church with an industrial estate called Ashchurch. One can be alone a long time here, especially at night, and there is NOTHING here – only a vending machine for company and even taxis are of the prebooked variety. During the day, there’s a bus service. It’s not a road you’d really want to walk as it’s a main one without a proper pavement. So one can feel stranded and island like even without floods at Tewkesbury. So it’s a good thing it’s so attractive and with so much to do, because you will need it.