grapes It’s a place where eagles soar, wine, get turned into award-winning wild tears are shed over onions and The daffodils grow in abundance. may timeless market town of Newent is known be small in size, but its name has its all over the world – and it
Amongst the daffodils, onions and grapes
Set off early morning for the International Centre for Birds of Prey, the world’s oldest dedicated bird of prey centre which celebrates its 50th anniversary year – an amazing achievement. Meet curator Holly Cale who introduces me to Lambrusco, a 20-yearold yellow-billed kite. I’ve never been up close and personal with such a majestic bird, wow. Set up as a family business by falconer Philip Glasier in 1967, the centre was just one of two in the world at the time. Entrance for children was then 7p and 12.5p for adults! Over time and under his daughter Jemima Parry-jones’ direction, the emphasis is now on conservation of all birds of prey. The centre promises a fantastic day out with more than 200 incredible birds of prey – from African pygmy falcons to Andean condors – and 12 acres of enclosures, glorious gardens, field and woods to explore. Holly shows us adorable baby yellow-billed kites, harris hawks and great grey owls, as well as eagles, owls, falcons, hawks and vultures. Now a charity, the ICBP provides spectacular photographic opportunities and daily flying demonstrations. We leave wishing we could fly.
Our spirits soaring, we drive to nearby award-winning Three Choirs Vineyard, where spirits of a different kind are made: the best of English wine whether light fruity reds, off dry rosé, aromatic soft floral whites or traditionally made sparkling wines. Watch as people arrive for the daily guided tour and wine tasting. Since 1975, some of England’s finest single estate wines have been produced here. We sample an ice cold rosé and enjoy the picturesque setting of 70 acres of vine on the terrace of the vineyard restaurant where chefs use best local, fresh seasonal ingredients. Visitors are encouraged to explore the vineyard trail which shows the harmony between growing
‘13th-century St Mary’s Church features the country’s largest unsupported wooden ceiling’
grapes and rare, wild ducks, buzzards, green woodpeckers and other wildlife. We spot the lodges, where people can stay. It’s easy to be transported to holiday mode here. “We want to promote a good way of life, good wine and good food,” assistant manager Bart Wrzyszczynski tells us, “and as we are set off from the main road, we hope to provide a little escape for people, where they can relax for a few days.” Three Choirs, the country’s second largest vineyard became proud owners of Wickham Vineyard in Hampshire in 2014. An event worth supporting is Live music at Three Choirs on Sunday 27th August and dine to luxury live music courtesy of ‘The Cocktail Hour’. Simply book a table online.
Venture into Newent and enjoy a refreshing 20-minute walk around Newent
Lake and Park. Formerly fish ponds constructed by medieval monks, Newent Lake formed part of former Newent Court, and is stocked with the likes of carp, roach, bream and perch. One of the town’s hidden treasures, the lake and park provides a relaxing circular walk and I can’t resist trying out the park gym before leaving. Incidentally Bream Silver Band will be playing on the park’s open air stage on August 13.
Explore Newent itself and take note of 17th century Newent Market House
and Heritage Museum on the town’s original crossroad. On show, an exhibition tells Newent’s own story from prehistoric and Roman days including iron/coal mining and modern agriculture.
Read about Newent Market Square’s most famous resident, pioneering 1960s record producer Joe Meek, born in the townhouse. A pioneer of studio sound technology, Meek’s recordings sold over 20 million copies. It’s worth studying the town’s information boards to find out more about Meek and other well-known names including Dick Whittington and Rutland Boughton. We’re impressed by the town’s halftimbered buildings, including one occupied by Gooch Sports. Mum buys some multicoloured laces and we meet Bernard and Julie Gooch, who have been trading 31 years. “We love the community feel Newent has and we always enjoy hearing how all our local teams are doing whether it is rugby, hockey, football and cricket and they’re all doing well,” says Bernard. A Park Run every Saturday morning at Newent Comprehensive School encourages 80-100 locals to stay active. Cyclists can also enjoy Newent Cycling Loop, a 28-mile circular cycle ride exploring lanes of north west Gloucestershire.
Encouraged to see traditional shops still thriving. Meet a friendly bunch in awardwinning Andy Creese Butchers in Broad Street before popping into All Seasons
Deli where Glenn and Norma Hurrell sell Charles Martell’s famous Stinking Bishop, Hereford Hop and Slack Ma Girdle cheeses; Newent honey, Bentleys’ plum sauces and other delicious treats from local producers. Walk past St Mary’s Church, dating back
to 13th century which features the country’s largest unsupported wooden ceiling.
Must mention daffodils. The ‘golden tides’ of wild daffodils surround Newent at spring-time are mentioned in Richard Mabey’s huge Flora Britannica. You can find them by following some easy-going routes detailed in two Newent Walks books, available from local shops. Wild daffodils grew in such profusion school children picked flowers to be sent to London hospitals and The Great Western railway used to put on special trains to Newent for people to come and pick the daffodils. Today, picking is not encouraged – it’s strictly viewing only!
Enjoy exploring The Shambles,a collection of Victorian buildings where we find a lovely quirky new gallery, The
Secret Gallery, set up a few weeks ago by artist Hannah Ferguson, who will use it as her studio and showcase work by other artists. Currently on show are paintings by Hannah and Newent artist Kip Kavallares, who features in August’s House and Garden magazine. Kip, a self-taught artist, recently won in the American Art Awards and his vibrant, up-lifting paintings are a joy to look at.
Daffodils are not the only bulb Newent is well-known for so I venture into one of the town’s greengrocers to find a gigantic onion to put my teeth into. I don’t cry when peeling onions so I could be a prime candidate for
Newent Onion Fayre on Saturday, September 9, the world’s only event of its kind dedicated to the onion family. The fayre’s history can be traced back a staggering 800 years to the 13th century and was revived in 1996. Attracting around 15,000 visitors, it includes the world-famous onion-eating contest.
Before leaving Newent, Jan and I enjoy bathing in the sun at The Good News Centre, one of the south-west’s most comprehensive Christian bookshops and café and recap on what we have seen and experienced in this historic market town.
Friendly employees of awardwinning Andy Creese Butchers
went artist Kip Kavallares at The Secret Gallery, The Shambles, Newent
Timber buildings, Newent
Award-winning Andy Creese Butchers, Newent Newent Market House
Newent Park Inspired by birds, Tracy takes off at
Joel Cox holds a white-tailed sea eagle Jan Baker enjoys a glass of wine at Three Choirs Vineyard, Newent
A golden eagle for 50 golden years
The Shambles, Newent
Tracy goes onion mad in Newent