Wool has been associated with the Cotswolds for centuries. During the Middle Ages the fleece of the Cotswold Lion breed was the most prized in all of Europe. Merchants from many countries despatched their agents to purchase it from the fairs and markets of the wold towns in the northern part of the region – most famously Northleach, Cirencester and Chipping Campden. Woven cloth eventually became a more important export and so the industry moved to the southern Cotswolds, whose valleys and fast-flowing streams were suited to powering woollen mills. The mechanisation of the mills The concentration of mills in the Stroud area was evident by the early 15th century. Indeed, its importance was such that when a 1557 Act of Parliament restricted cloth manufacture to towns, the villages of the Stroud area were exempted. By 1700 the lower Stroud Valley was producing about 4.5 million square metres of cloth every year. At this time the spinning and weaving was done in domestic dwellings or workhouses, the woven cloth then being returned to the mill for finishing. The Industrial Revolution was to bring rapid change. There was great opposition to the introduction of mechanical spinning and shearing machines. This was heightened in 1795 by the development of the improved broadloom with its flying shuttle. The expectation was that, as well as compelling weavers to work in the mills, it would bring mass unemployment. Progress marched on, however, and by the mid-19th century there were more than 1,000 looms at work in the Stroud Valley. They came with their share of political unrest too, and in 1825 and 1828 strikes and riots broke out. The industry went into decline as steam replaced water power, and it migrated northwards to the Pennines. By 1901 only 3,000 people were employed in the cloth industry, compared with 24,000 in the mid-17th century. Today, only one working mill remains. Graceful elevations This walk begins in Chalford, an attractive village built on the steep sides of the Stroud Valley. Its streets are lined with 18th- and 19th-century clothiers' terraces and weavers' cottages. On the canalside the shells of woollen mills are still plentiful. The 18th-century church contains fine examples of craftsmanship from the Arts and Crafts period of the late 19th century. Nether Lypiatt Manor is a handsome manor house formerly owned by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Known locally as 'the haunted house', it was built in 1702 for Judge Charles Coxe. Its classical features and estate railings, all unusual in the Cotswolds, inspired wealthy clothiers to spend their money on the addition of graceful elevations to their own houses.
Walk towards Chalford Church. Immediately before it, cross the road and locate a path going right, towards a canal roundhouse. Note the Belvedere Mill across to your left and follow the tow path alongside the Thames and Severn Canal on your right.
Cross a road at the junction with Belvedere Mews and descend steps. The path shortly passes under a railway line via a gloomy culvert so that the railway is now on your right, on the far side of the canal. Old mills and small factories, some being demolished, line the route, which continues for a further 2 miles (3.2km) to Brimscombe.
Shortly before arriving in Brimscombe, the tow path passes beneath the railway again and continues past a restored mill. Soon after, it becomes a road leading into an industrial estate. Opposite the old mill building in Brimscombe Port turn left to come to a junction. Cross the road and turn right. Immediately after The Ship Inn turn left along a road among offices and workshops. Continue straight on along a path with factory walls to your right. The canal reappears on your left. As you walk on into the country, you will pass beneath two brick bridges and a metal footbridge.
Go past Griffin Mill Lock and at the next bridge, with a hamlet seen above the slopes on your left, turn right to follow a track via a bridge to a road. Cross this and turn left. After passing a bus shelter turn right up a short path to meet Thrupp Lane. Turn right up to the first bend, then turn left. Just before Thrupp Farm turn left then right into Claypits Lane and climb steeply.
After a long climb, as the road levels out you will see Nether Lypiatt Manor in front of you. Turn right beside a sycamore tree and go over a stile into a field. Go diagonally to the far corner. Cross a stone stile and follow a narrow path ahead beside trees to a road, then descend a lane opposite. Where it appears to fork, go straight on to Mackhouse, then hairpin left to descend past the house. Continue on to a narrow track into woodland, forking right near the bottom of the hill. Keep a pond on your left and cross a road to climb Bussage Hill. After 75yds (69m) pass a lane on the left, and at the top, by a 30mph sign turn left opposite the church lychgate onto a path which becomes a lane. Keep on to a junction (The Ram Inn is a short distance down the road to the left) and turn right.
Where the road turns left to a junction, keep ahead to a telephone box and bus shelter. Turn left opposite the shelter to follow a path among houses into woodland. Go through a kissing gate and continue ahead until you meet a road. Turn left and immediately right down a path beside a cemetery. Keep left at a path junction. Descend to another road and turn right for 150yds (137m), walking with care on this short stretch of road. Bear left down a steep tarmac path among trees and continue on a lane descending into Chalford. Turn left at the bottom to return to the start of the walk.
Fields, lanes, canal path and tracks, several stiles
Canal, road and railway, valley and steep slopes, villages
Good, with few stiles and little livestock
OS Explorer 168 Stroud, Tetbury & Malmesbury
Lay-by east of Chalford church
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Gloucestershire is home to a variety of landscapes. The Cotswolds, a region of gentle hills, valleys and gem-like villages, roll through the county. To their west is the Severn Plain, watered by Britain’s longest river, and characterised by orchards and farms marked out by hedgerows that blaze with mayflower in the spring, and beyond the Severn are the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley.
Throughout the county you are never far away from the past. Neolithic burial chambers are widespread, and so too are the remains of Roman villas, many of which retain the fine mosaic work produced by Cirencester workshops. There are several examples of Saxon building, while in the Stroud valleys abandoned mills and canals are the mark left by the Industrial Revolution. Gloucestershire has always been known for its abbeys, but most of them have disappeared or lie in ruins. However, few counties can equal the churches that remain here. These are many and diverse, from the ‘wool’ churches in Chipping Campden and Northleach, to the cathedral at Gloucester, the abbey church at Tewkesbury or remote St Mary’s, standing alone near Dymock.