The pretty village of Bisley, four miles from Stroud, has all the charm of its Cotswold neighbours while enjoying a quiet existence away from the traditional tourist trail. Set on a plateau in a picturesque landscape of streams, woodland and valleys, it is dotted with traditional Cotswold stone houses dating from the 16th century onwards. Cheltenham, Gloucester and Cirencester are all approximately 20 minutes’ drive away along with rail links to London, Cardiff and Birmingham. Bath, Bristol and Oxford all lie roughly an hour away.
Bisley is situated in a Conservation Area and is part of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The village’s origins lie in agriculture and the wool industry with a history steeped in the rich natural resources of the area. Roman artefacts have been found here and two Roman altars excavated near to All Saints Church are now housed in the British Museum.
For a small village, Bisley packs a lot in including two pubs, two churches, a primary school, a post office and a shop along with a host of community activities and clubs:
Bisley Blue Coat C of E Primary School, founded in 1732, continues to serve the village, welcoming children aged 4 to 11. Thomas Keble School is the nearest secondary school two miles away in Eastcombe, while a number of top grammar schools are within easy reach including Pate’s Grammar School in Cheltenham, Stroud High School and Marling School in Stroud and Sir Thomas Rich’s School in Gloucester.
Busy Bees Toddler Group meets weekly in the WI Village Hall with refreshments, toys, craft activities and song time for parents and under fives.
All Saints Church dates from Saxon times and was restored under the guidance of Thomas Keble, vicar of Bisley from 1827-1873, who worked to improve the lives of his parishioners and who pioneered the return to a daily service in English churches. He gives his name to the local secondary school. The church bells ring out every Sunday and for special occasions by the Bisley Bellringers who practice every Thursday.
Bisley also has a Roman Catholic church, St Mary of the Angels, a small and beautiful chapel designed in the Arts and Crafts style.
The Stirrup Cup (originally known as The New Inn) is outwardly largely unchanged from the 18th century. Inside, however, the pub has definitely moved with the times: pop in for a pint or a coffee, and food including vegan and vegetarian options, Sunday roasts and fish and chips. It’s dog-friendly and has a beer garden. There are lots of community events held here including quizzes, a children’s Christmas party, wreath making workshops, a Halloween party and live music.
The Bear Inn has been a pub since 1631 and is reportedly haunted. It was originally the village courthouse and assembly room and has a priest hole hidden above the fireplace. These days you can enjoy an altogether less stressful visit. Families and dogs are warmly welcomed, there is a beer garden and a menu featuring English and Italian food and afternoon tea. It also offers vegan and gluten-free food and even v and gf beers.
A real asset to the village is George Stores and Post Office which comprises a well-stocked shop, off-licence and Post Office and even offers a drop-off dry cleaning, alterations and laundry service.
Every year a well dressing ceremony takes place in the village, a custom dating from pagan times to give thanks for clean water. Children carry floral tributes through the village, accompanied by a silver band, to dress Bisley’s seven wells.
The Annual Flower Show and Fete marks August Bank Holiday with the quintessential English village experience complete with competitions for flowers, vegetables (including the classic misshaped vegetable category), baking, jams and chutneys, a beer tent and a Pimm’s stall.
The Bisley WI Village Hall is a focal point of the village where all kinds of social gatherings take place. Bisley Amateur Theatrical Society welcomes all to join in the annual pantomime which plays to sell-out audiences in the village hall. If cinema is more your thing, Flicks in the Sticks runs a rural cinema service also in the village hall, showing around 10 films a year from current blockbusters to indies complete with teas and coffees and a bar. There is a thriving Women’s Institute which welcomes new members and has a full programme of speakers at their monthly meetings.
In addition, there is also a Bisley Local History Group, allotments, a Community Composting Scheme and plans to start up a Cycling Club.
This is inspirational walking country with the Wysis Way (which runs from Offa’s Dyke Path in Monmouth to the start of the Thames Path in Kemble) passing right through the village and the Cotswold Way passing nearby.
For more information on all things Bisley, the village has its own magazine The Bisley News and its own excellent website: www.bisleyvillage.com with up-to-date information and ways to get involved in village life.