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Gloucester is a tapestry of the old and the new, with timber-framed buildings and their modern next-door neighbours vying for the attention of an increasing number of tourists.
What started life as a small settlement in the Iron Age on an important crossing point of the mighty River Severn is now a commercial heartland complete with shopping complexes and urban entertainment. Yet still it clings valiantly to an historic heritage thanks in large part to its remarkable cathedral and a dockside that has been carefully developed to seduce an army of knowledge-hungry visitors.
In addition, the area has an extra ingredient - surroundings that involved unchanging tracts of sumptuous countryside harking back to the days of shire horses, flower-filled meadows and fiery Sunday sermons.
To the north lie the rolling hills of the Cotswolds while southwest is the wild, isolated Forest of Dean, a one-time royal hunting ground that became England's first National Forest Park as far back as 1938.
The Romans were the first 'modern' people to understand the importance of Gloucester's location, creating a garrison town from which they could mount attacks on Wales. Over time the Severn became a busy trade route and transformed Gloucester into a prosperous port until it was overshadowed by the growth of nearby Bristol.
The city's once-busy Victorian dockyards house some of the region's leading museums, notably the National Waterways Museum and the Regiments of Gloucester Museum. Gloucester's stunning cathedral began as a Saxon abbey before Benedictine monks built a church in the 11th century.
Other attractions include a number of historic churches, including the medieval parish church of St. Mary de Crypt.
A few miles north of the city is Tewkesbury, which boasts a fine collection of medieval, timber-framed houses, picturesque Georgian properties and an 11th century abbey famous for its huge Norman tower and vaulted ceiling.
South of Gloucester, between the rivers Wye and Severn, lie the 35 square miles of the Forest of Dean. During the Middle Ages it was used by royal hunting parties in pursuit of deer and wild boar. Steeped in tradition, it is still governed by a Verderer's Court which meets every 40 days in the town of Coleford.
The area has been subjected to mining since prehistory and still contains deposits of iron and coal beneath its fertile soil. Nevertheless, it boasts thousands of paths and a number of tourist hotspots, chief of which are the dramatic Clearwell Cave.
The forest's history is fully illustrated at Soudley's The Dean Heritage Museum. A big draw hereabouts is the Dean Forest Railway based at the Norchard Steam Centre where a museum and a complete railway station pulls in the crowds.
Across the Severn Estuary is the famous Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust. Set by the naturalist Sir Peter Scott in 1946 it is one of Britain's leading bird centres.Read More