Adam Ed­wards

‘Tele­vi­sion re­cep­tion in many vil­lages was er­ratic at best, the In­ter­net didn’t ex­ist and it was im­pos­si­ble any­where in these hills to get a mo­bile sig­nal’

Cotswold Life - - EDITOR’S COMMENT - contact adampotlick­ @cotswold­hack

Twenty years on and I still can’t get a phone sig­nal

Twenty years ago this April I moved from Lon­don to the Cotswolds. I was re­minded of this fact while ne­go­ti­at­ing pot­holes on the B4425. There are, I con­cluded, more pot­holes and fewer dead bad­gers on the twist­ing road be­tween Bibury and Cirences­ter than there were two decades ago. I am not sure why this should be so, my mind may have been play­ing tricks, but what is cer­tain is that much has changed in my cor­ner of Glouces­ter­shire since the end of the last cen­tury.

When I first ar­rived here, for ex­am­ple, scores of the old Cotswold thresh­ing barns stood empty and unloved (and barn owls were fre­quently caught in one’s head­lights at night). A de­cent smat­ter­ing of small, un­con­verted cot­tages were still lived in by agri­cul­tural work­ers, and one never saw a big house with locked gates or a field with a chain and pad­lock. The age­ing Subaru was the four-wheel drive car of choice for the gen­try, the bray­ing Hooray from the Agri­cul­tural Col­lege was the drink­ing face of the district and hunt­ing was le­gal and dom­i­nated so­cial life (you were an out­cast if you even voiced let alone agreed with an ‘anti’ ar­gu­ment). The pub in my near­est vil­lage was called The Grey­hound (it was gen­tri­fied early in the mil­len­nium and re-named The Vil­lage Pub) and served gam­mon, egg and chips while muddy boots and muddy dogs were en­cour­aged.

The Wimpy was my near­est, and only, fast food joint. It was in Cirences­ter, which also boasted (per­haps that’s not quite the right word) a weekly cat­tle mar­ket, a cin­e­matic fleapit called The Re­gal, a Slug and Let­tuce pub, a to­bac­conist, an Ice­land su­per­mar­ket and the small­est and most use­less Curry’s elec­tri­cal shop in Bri­tain. The town also man­aged with­out a green­gro­cer or a del­i­catessen.

Mean­while tele­vi­sion re­cep­tion in many vil­lages was er­ratic at best, the In­ter­net didn’t ex­ist and it was im­pos­si­ble any­where in these hills to get a de­cent mo­bile phone sig­nal.

And so what has changed? I sup­pose the sin­gle most im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment has been the up­grad­ing at the end of the Nineties of the A417, the road be­tween the M4 and the M5, from sin­gle car­riage­way to – al­most – dual car­riage­way. It helped (along with the In­ter­net) re­vive Cirences­ter and to a lesser ex­tent Chel­tenham and it made the heart of the Cotswolds ac­ces­si­ble to Lon­don money. It ush­ered in the City slick­ers, me­dia pro­fes­sion­als and the celebri­ties (Fin­daprop­ re­cently re­ported that there are more celebri­ties per acre in the Cotswolds than any­where out­side the Cap­i­tal). It in­tro­duced fleets of Chelsea trac­tors, in par­tic­u­lar the black Range Rover, and the gas­tropub (who can for­get the smoked trout pate, chicken liv­ers, pi­geon breasts and stovies all washed down with Napa Val­ley plonk?). Farm­ers’ Mar­kets ar­rived in the small towns sell­ing 10 dif­fer­ent types of olive and 20 dif­fer­ent English cheeses while or­ganic farms shops sell­ing scraggy home-grown vegeta­bles opened in the coun­try­side. And then there was Dayles­ford, which has and is spawn­ing copy­cat ru­ral em­po­ri­ums.

In Cirences­ter, The Re­gal was de­mol­ished (its last fea­ture was Cal­en­dar Girls) and re­placed by a block of flats. The cat­tle mar­ket moved out of town and the Agri­cul­tural Col­lege be­came a Uni. Wool­worths went bust, Waitrose and Tesco built su­per­stores (fol­lowed by Lidl and Aldi) and Macdon­ald’s, Burger King, Sub­way and KFC filled the gap left by the hap­pily for­got­ten Wimpy Bar.

A score of cof­fee shops – I am sure there was only a sin­gle cafe in the town in the Nineties – re­placed the dated small stores, build­ing so­ci­eties and post of­fice. Mean­while Chel­tenham, which when I ar­rived here was faded and achingly pro­vin­cial, has mor­phed into a smart me­trop­o­lis (thanks in part to GCHQ, which in turn is much more im­por­tant to­day thanks to ter­ror­ism). Now the town has more fes­ti­vals and more cof­fee shops per head of pop­u­la­tion than any­where else in the coun­try.

In the coun­try­side no barn re­mains un­con­verted and every cot­tage has been trans­mo­gri­fied into a mini-gent’s manor house. The lo­cal buses have all but dis­ap­peared and so too have the lo­cals that used them. The old fash­ioned farmer’s shoot has be­come cor­po­rate while the hunts, which ap­par­ently don’t hunt any­more, have blos­somed. as have the rap­tors, in par­tic­u­lar the Red Kite which was un­known in the nineties.

I have no par­tic­u­lar axe to grind about these shift­ing sands be­cause what hasn’t changed for me is that 20 years on the Cotswolds still re­tains its spe­cial magic. Oh, ex­cept for one gripe – I still can’t get a de­cent mo­bile phone sig­nal in my ham­let.

When I first ar­rived here, scores of the old Cotswold barns stood empty and unloved

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