Appreciate our Local Landscape

In the first of a new series of diaries, Heart presenter Russ Wilcox reveals some of the hidden gems of the Cotswolds...

It’s fairly common knowledge to those that know me that I’m not naturally a native of these parts. Even though I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life in Gloucestershire, I spent the previous 30-odd in Birmingham and since arriving here in 1999 I’ve set up home in Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and now Stroud. So in a short space of time I’ve worked my way around the county and poked my nose in some interesting places.

So, what has swapping the sprawling metropolis that is Birmingham for the lush green landscape of Gloucestershire brought me? Well, at the risk of sounding like Mr Scrooge it’s actually saved me money. Don’t get me wrong, I’d happily shell out for my recreational time, I love a day at the Races or match day at Kingsholm as much as anybody else, but surely one of the great benefits of living somewhere like Gloucestershire is the sheer wealth of free entertainment that surrounds us. Those
hills, forests, fields, rivers and commons are all there every day just waiting for our attention. If we can drag ourselves away
from the ‘oh so entertaining experiences’ of the malls and multiplexes we might actually get to enjoy ourselves during the credit crunch!

Now, appreciating our beautiful landscape makes even more sense if you have children. You know how sometimes a child can be presented with an amazing gift, and then seem to derive more pleasure from the box it came because it can become anything that the child wants it to be? Well, that’s exactly how I’ve started thinking. If we all think like a three-year old, the world around us becomes an abundance of wonder that we can so easily neglect. This is probably something you only really truly understand once you become a parent, and in the process of enriching the life of Sophie my three-year old daughter, I’ve started seeing the world with fresh eyes again. I’m discovering things I’ve previously taken for granted. For example, I live near Rodborough Common and at the moment it’s becoming the number one place for Sophie to visit.

Now I’m pretty sure she’s not impressed by the fact that it’s cared for by the National Trust and is home to the rare pasque flower and 13 species of orchid. I also imagine that the fact she can get amazing views of the Severn Estuary and Stroud Valleys is probably lost on her too. However, I do know she likes to see the big fluffy white cotton wool clouds in the gloriously panoramic sky because from high up on the common they appear to almost be in touching distance. And I also know that she likes to sit and listen to those ‘funny noises’ as she calls them, which to you and I is the sound of birds singing. She also likes how Stroud looks like a little toy town from up there. And be honest, when did you actually last run like crazy trying to catch a butterfly in your hands. Well we did all that last Sunday; priceless fun that didn’t cost us a penny.

I’d recommend a visit, even if you don’t have a young child - just think like one and you’ll be amazed at what you notice (and