At the February meeting of the Society Dr Steven Blake gave a truly eye-opening presentation on the wealth of interest along the Cotswold Way. Taking a thematic approach he covered the rich heritage of ancient monuments to be seen such as Belas Knap, four and a half thousand years old and still retaining some original stonework, and Hetty Peglars Tump at Uley. Then on to those representing the Iron Age hillforts, such as Crickley Hill and Old Sodbury, and on to the Roman occupation represented by villas and large farmsteads, Witcombe Villa being a superb example.
Winchcombe was a very important town in Mercia during the Anglo-Saxon period. Its magnificent Benedictine abbey has gone but together with  Hailes Abbey was probably on the route trodden by medieval pilgrims. Some wonderful smaller medieval churches such as that close to Hailes are by contrast in excellent condition. In fact, the church, especially from the 12th and the 16th centuries is a continuous feature along the Way as is the manor, for example that at Stanway. The two are often juxtaposed, perhaps the most spectacular example being at Dyrham.
The Black Death, the Reformation, the Civil War etc are evident in one form or another along the 100 mile route as are famous men and women  often represented by monuments such as Broadway Tower, Tyndale monument at North Nibley and Sudeley Castle (the Tudors). Closer in time, the agricultural and industrial revolutions are evident especially in the Stroud area with its mills and railway.
And finally, there are many WW2 features and the nuclear bunkers at Broadway. Three seasonal events not to be missed along the Way – Clipping at Painswick, Cheese Rolling on Coopers Hill and the Cotswold Olympic Games at Camden.
Members agreed – a walk along the Cotswold Way will be a richer visual experience fromnow on!


The Saxons did reach Gloucestershire!

Little physical evidence of Anglo-Saxon Gloucestershire was known until the 19th century when archaeologists began excavating. Whilst many early finds were of pagan burials Gloucestershire in fact appears to have been largely Christian and more Celtic. Carolyn Heighway explained to members at the February meeting that, despite this, several interesting Saxon finds have been made in parts of the county.

By the early 7th century the area mainly comprised scattered farming communities and most people were thus occupied. It was a society dependent entirely on memorising everything from rules, systems, precise boundaries etc. Peasant houses were simple and only recently have archaeologists been able to describe what they may have looked like. The great halls and thegns’ houses by contrast were grand and sophisticated.

Anglo-Saxon minsters were monasteries founded by and for aristocrats as economic and arts centres. Evidence, in particular sculpture, from some of these in Gloucestershire is to be found in several places. Bisley, which was the centre of Bisley Hundred of which Painswick was one village, Lypiatt, Deerhurst and Berkeley all had minsters and still contain examples of Saxon sculpture.

By the 11th century estate sizes had decreased and certainly by the time of the Domesday survey many places had changed. Painswick was clearly established as a market centre, though still very agricultural, and, with a priest listed, probably had a church. Gloucester by this time had become very important with a large population and ten churches.