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Return to “Neddyshire” (Cotswolds)

Return to Neddyshire

I have recently been spending time with my parents in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire.  On a bright sunny Sunday morning I explored some of the winding tracks of a near by village called Chalford and Chalford Hill. Where is that? In the South West-ish of the English Midlands ( see map below). The Parish of Chalford is contained in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Beauty

map of Wales and west of England
Location of Chalford/Stroud in England


Parish of Chalford
Parish of Chalford (see pdf at bottom of blog for link)

Chalford Parish stretches a fair way over this part of the Cotswolds. Chalford Hill is a steep valley within the parish. There are  four other historic settlements in the parish. The villages are Chalford Hill (1 on map above),  France Lynch (2),  Brownshill (3),  Old Bussage (4),  Chalford Vale (5) and  Manor Village (aka Bussage) (6). Much of my information comes from a publication by the Chalford Parish Council (see the last link at the bottom of the blog)

Map of Chalford
Map of Chalford
Donkey track along the top of the valley - photo: Emma Cownie
Donkey track along the top of the valley – photo: Emma Cownie

The original villages of Chalford, Chalford Hill, France Lynch, Bussage and Brownshill were squatter settlements for handloom  weavers and other cloth workers as a result of the expansion of the woollen industry in the early Middle Ages and later. The valley  road through Chalford was first developed in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. From the later 18th century, when the valley bottom offered no further sites, cottages were built on the hillsides above, an area sometimes referred to as Little Switzerland.

View of Chalford Hill from Canal path:photo credit Emma Cownie
View of Chalford Hill from Canal path:photo credit Emma Cownie


As the wool trade ebbed and flowed, so did the population and prosperity of the area, though the opening of the Thames and Severn Canal in 1789 helped to create further, if different, jobs, at least for a time. The next important change was the opening of the Great Western Railway line in 1845, built along the valley beside the canal. A station was opened in Chalford village in 1897 and there was also a halt west of the village. Both stations closed in 1964. Today the next station stop is Stroud.

The Parish is renowned for its steep hillsides and scarp edges as well as it’s narrow roads and footpaths many of which have a gradient between 10% and 25% Behind many of the honey-coloured houses are narrow paths that stretch over an incredible 28 km within the parish. These tracks lead up some very steep hillsides.  In the past the narrow mud tracks allowed workers to quickly reach the mills in the valley by foot – a majority of the paths leading straight down hill.  Although you might be forgiven for thinking this is mountain goat country it was donkeys that did all the heavy carrying in the past. Today this is 4×4 country.

Donkey track along the top of the valley - photo: Emma Cownie
Donkey track leading down the hillside- photo: Emma Cownie

These tracks enabled goods (food and coal) to be transported up and down the hill by donkey. These days alpacas are  becoming a common sight in Britain and Ireland but back in the day Chalford was the domain of the donkey aka “Neddy” or “Ned”.

The Chalford Donkey back in the day
The Chalford Donkey back in the day: Photo from The Stroud News


Donkeys were used until the 1930s to deliver bread, coal and other household items to people’s doorsteps (Jennie being the name of one of the donkeys). In fact, many front doors can still only be accessed by a winding network of ‘donkey paths’. In those times Chalford was known as ‘Neddyshire’ which derives its name from the use of donkeys.

Chalford_donkey_1935 (1)
Chalford_donkey from 1935


A Road Through Chalford_Emma Cownie
A Road Through Chalford_Emma Cownie


I am looking forward to exploring more of these tracks when I return as well as the path along the canal at the bottom of the valley.

Bridge across the canal, Chalford: Photo credit Emma Cownie
Bridge across the canal, Chalford: Photo credit Emma Cownie


Find out more:-

Chalford Hill

Click to access Design-Statement-low-resolution-for-web.pdf

21 thoughts on “Return to “Neddyshire” (Cotswolds)

  1. The Cotswolds are really interesting. So many paths in Chalford? Not so far from me so maybe I’ll get there someday And more gorgeous painting too, of course.

    1. People have been living here ever since people where living in this part of the world. All these villages are in Domesday Book which was complied over a thousand years ago. All those paths are all over the parish, not just Chalford Hill. It’s a fair area.

  2. I love watching the show Escape to the Country. They often visit Gloucestershire

    1. The Cotswolds is very very picturesque! The fact that almost all the houses old and new are built in Cotswold stone gives it a lovely unity.

    2. My parents love that programme too. Those people often have massive budgets to spend on houses. Most ordinary mortals (me) can only dream of living in one.

      1. I know, I don’t watch a lot of shows on HGTV that focus on wealthy clients. Ridiculous

      2. Yes, I prefer Location, Location, Location where they have a fixed budget and presenters actually help them put in bids and buy the property.

      3. I have to look up that show. Thanks for the referral

  3. What a fantastic post Emma. I am familiar with the Cotswolds but was not familiar with ‘Neddyshire’….but oh how I love the idea of having donkeys carrying groceries to the door:). I must go there and do some exploring…such a fascinating history on many levels. Thank you:)

    1. Thank you Janet. You have been all over the place. I am impressed. There’s a lot to the Cotswolds. There is a lot of it in Oxfordshire too. I am mostly familar with this bit around Stroud and Gloucester where I lived as a teenager.

  4. What an enchanting place and a great subject for your art. Both so lovely.

    1. It is like a Cotswolds fairyland!

    1. It is delightful. I have seen this area from the train many times as it crosses the viaduct and travels into Stroud. I was delighted to be able to visit it and see it close up.

      1. yes, such a different perspective when you step closer

  5. Such an interesting history and great painting inspiration!

    1. Thank you Katherine

  6. What a pretty place! Looks so inviting to the explorer. And your painting is just gorgeous!

    1. Thank you so much. I am hink I am seeing the Cotswolds after being away in Ireland for a couple of years.

  7. Lots of potential paintings here! Will be waiting to see them.

    1. So many Alli, I cant choose what to do next!

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