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Cotswolds Tracks and the Chalford Donkeys

Stroud from the Train
Stroud From the Train

My parents live near Stroud in the Cotswolds. The best thing about the Cotswolds, like South Wales, is the hills. It provides many higgle piggedly vistas and views. Their house is part of a modern estate in the village of Bussage at the top of a very steep hill.

EASTCOMBE ARTFINDER
Eastcombe

I enjoy exploring the donkey tracks behind the houses. The village of Eastcombe is a 10 minute walk from their house. This is 4×4 territory, especially in winter when the steep lane are unpassable for regular car and quite treachorous for walkers too.

Chalford_donkey_1935 (1)
Chalford Donkey 1935

The other side of Bussage runs into the top (and flatter) end of Chalford. Chalford Hill and Chalford have an extraordinary number of paths (28 km within the parish as a whole), winding up the steep hillsides. They allowed workers to quickly reach the mills in the valley – a majority of the paths leading straight down. They also enabled goods to be transported up and down the hill by donkey. They 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.

There was a modern version of this donkey delivery that ran for 5 years from 2008 to 2013. Sadly it seems to have stopped now. The donkey delivery service was run by to Anna Usbourne and her four and eight-year-olds, Chester and Teddy. They did run the Chalford Community Store’s weekly delivery service. You can watch a video about it here. If they had ranged as far away as Bussage (one and a half miles aay up a very steep hill), I know for a fact that my mother would have been ordering her groceries from the Chalford Village shop so she could have got a visit from Chester and Teddy the donkeys! Here’s a film about them delivering the groceries in the snow in 2011.

Donkey Delivery

220px-Jamie_Dornan_January_2013
Jamie Doran

The Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan, who starred in Fifty Shades of Grey and The Fall, also lives in Chalford near Stroud and my mother says he’s been spotted in the local tiny Tescos Express with Eddie Redmayne. He has to shop somewhere. Anyway, sad to say that I have never seen either of them in there!

Country Lane
Country Lane

There’s a track that leads down the hill from my parents’ house to the Ram pub. You can also drive to it as there is a single track road to it. In the field beyond the pub there lives a black horse and a donkey. I don’t think the donkey there was ever a delivery donkey.

Back of Ram Bussage
Back of the Ram