Stow-on-the-wold

Cotswold Life - - EDITOR’S COMMENT -

Tracy Spiers sends a post­card from the town with a warm com­mu­nity heart

It may be the high­est point of the Cotswolds and a few de­grees colder than its coun­ter­parts, but it has a warm com­mu­nity heart. Stow-on­the-wold the lives up to its fa­mous line “where a wind doth blow cold,” but it has ev­ery­thing visi­tor or lo­cal could wish for – great scenery, from fan­tas­tic in­di­vid­ual and spe­cial­ist shops and cof­fee, patis­series, an­tiques, art, choco­lates most fine din­ing and a fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory. But go out of of all the peo­ple here are friendly and much so their way to make you feel at home. So and I my mum Jan, 14-year-old daugh­ter Megan spent a few hours more than we had in­tended. TRACY SPIERS

We start our visit at St Ed­ward’s Hall, one of the most pho­tographed build­ings in Stow, home to the li­brary and the Visi­tor Information Cen­tre. It is the best place to be­gin. Staff here are won­der­fully help­ful and friendly and vis­i­tors will leave well-in­formed as to what they can do in the time they have to spend in Stow, whether it is a cou­ple of hours or more. It’s ex­actly four years since the VIC moved to the li­brary and thanks to the ded­i­ca­tion of the team in­clud­ing Sue John and Va­lerie God­dard, it is now buck­ing the trend in terms of num­bers of lo­cals and tourists vis­it­ing both li­brary and VICS. Other town and par­ish coun­cils are now look­ing at them as a shin­ing ex­am­ple. It’s a lovely li­brary too and be­ing an il­lus­tra­tor who loves chil­dren’s books, I am drawn to the chil­dren’s sec­tion, which colour­ful and at­trac­tive. On Satur­day April 7, 10-2pm, a Spring Craft Fair takes place and marks the first Satur­day of sum­mer open­ing hours, with the li­brary open un­til 4pm. St Ed­ward’s Hall, built in 1878 is also home to the Cap­tain Craw­furd Christie paint­ing col­lec­tion. Both Sue and Va­lerie ad­mit they love the sense of com­mu­nity in Stow and are proud to be a part of it.

As teenagers are al­ways hun­gry, Megan quickly eyes up the tea and cof­fee shops. There is a plethora of them – New Eng­land Cof­fee House, Coach House Cof­fee, Lucy’s Tea­room, In the Mood Tea­room which is 1940s style… to name but a few. I of­fer Megan food on con­di­tion she poses in Stow’s stocks for me. I ig­nore the “that’s so em­bar­rass­ing,” com­ments and pro­long the pic­ture-tak­ing on pur­pose. I leave her with Mum in Huf­fkins, an in­de­pen­dent fam­ily busi­ness which dates back to 1890. I am al­ways in­trigued by the up­per win­dows of this prop­erty as they lean heav­ily on one side. I am in­stead hun­gry to meet Stow’s traders and grab a de­li­cious take-away cof­fee from Coach House Cof­fee in Tal­bot Court and have a chat with owner Emily Hop­kins, who uses lo­cal hand-roasted Rave Cof­fee, and spe­cialises in gluten-free and ve­gan cakes which are

‘As well as pro­vid­ing ac­cess to houses at the rear of the an­cient ‘bur­gage’ strips, the ‘tures’ proved use­ful on fair days for count­ing sheep into the mar­kets’

home­made by lo­cal bak­ers and pro­duc­ers. On the menus there’s turmeric latte, cashew hot choco­late and Emily also of­fers six dif­fer­ent va­ri­ety of milk in­clud­ing tiger­nut, cashew and al­mond.

Next door is The Tal­bot, and to its left is a nar­row al­ley, known as a ‘ture’. There are three more of these lead­ing South from Sheep Street to Back Walls. As well as pro­vid­ing ac­cess to houses at the rear of the an­cient ‘bur­gage’ strips, these proved use­ful on fair days for count­ing sheep into the mar­kets. To­day, I en­joy dis­cov­er­ing the lit­tle shops and bou­tiques and pop into Ev­er­green Livres, spe­cial­is­ing in se­cond-hand and an­ti­quar­ian books. Here I meet Nick O’ke­effe who has been trad­ing for nine years. As well as stock­ing 8,500 ti­tles on an eclec­tic range of in­ter­ests, plus a se­lec­tion of O/S maps and sheet mu­sic, he says vis­i­tors en­joy the col­lec­tion of classic Pen­guin Green Crime edi­tions. “The rea­son we are here is due to the many vis­i­tors we get in Stow. We get about 150,000 vis­i­tors every year. Nor­mally a town this size would not be able to sup­port a se­cond-hand book shop. When we moved here there were three, now there is just ours. It is the tourists that keep us go­ing. The other day I was asked if I had a book on pre-stressed con­crete – that was a first for me,” Nick says. “How­ever, I love the peo­ple of Stow, they are so friendly and they have been very good to me. I will never for­get a com­ment the es­tate agent said to me when show­ing me around: ‘If Stow likes you, Stow will keep you.’ And it’s true, it’s kept me!”

Not far away in this same ture is The Stow Flower Shop, a rel­a­tively new busi­ness, which opened in June last year. This beau­ti­ful florist and gift shop is run by sis­ters So­phie and Melissa who are suc­cess­fully com­bin­ing their years of knowl­edge in floristry and re­tail. Their ethos is sim­ple: to pro­vide be­spoke flo­ral de­signs us­ing top qual­ity flow­ers to en­hance any oc­ca­sion. I watch So­phie, an award-win­ning florist, in ac­tion as she helps a cus­tomer choose her wed­ding flow­ers.

Some­thing unique to Stow is the French in­spired au­then­tic patis­serie in the town’s square. Pas­try chef Carl Asi­makopoulou hand-makes del­i­cate fan­cies and pas­tries each day and is a master at his art. Carl treats us to one of his mille-feuille, an ex­quis­ite melt-in-the-mouth three-lay­ered

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