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A few hours in Painswick, The Cotswolds Review

A few hours in Painswick, The Cotswolds Review

Painswick was the third town we visited after Burford and Bibury and by far the largest. Thankfully this still didn’t mean paid parking and we easily found a free space to park for our visit.

Painswick Town

The buildings were made of traditional Cotswold stone and were, as expected, very pretty. But being a larger town the buildings were neater and of a bigger scale. It didn’t have the charmingly rundown look of smaller villages.

I’d planned to eat lunch at the Painswick Pooch cafe but unfortunately it was closed without notice so we could only stare inside the dog themed cafe. In fact many restaurants appeared to be closed whilst we were there and this may to attributed to the non-tourist season or just the short opening hours in small towns.

After finally locating a spot to eat we wandered around the golden buildings a bit more and popped into a few small shops dotted around town. Everything being sold was small scale and felt homemade.

St Mary’s church

We visited Painswick’s most famous sight: The grade I listed St Mary’s church and its 99 yew trees. Like most historical buildings in the UK the church standing today is a Frankenstein of parts from different eras; with the oldest being St Peter’s Chapel built in about 1377 and the newest being the Rood Loft installed in 1938. 

The church exterior looked picture perfect in the sunshine with the blue sky in the background. It almost looked like illustrations or paintings of a church scene rather than photographs.

A few hours in Painswick

The yew trees date from the beginning of the 18th century and stood out for their Tim Burton aesthetic and carefully trimmed edges. According to legend, 99 trees grow in this churchyard and the Devil would pull out the 100th yew tree if it were ever planted. 

Note that there are over 100 yew trees growing on the grounds, so take what you will from that. 

The interior was quite handsome as well with red tile patterned flooring, whitewashed walls and ceiling with dark wood furniture and beams. It felt very European and unfortunately didn’t quite compare to the exterior.

If St Mary’s Church is Painswick’s most famous sight, then the local Rococo garden is its most famous attraction.

Rococo Garden

But what is ‘rococo’? This is an artistic style popular in the 1700s that is characterised by pastel colours, asymmetry and ornamental decoration.

Benjamin Hyett designed Painswick Rococo garden in the 1740s and it was abandoned in the 1950s. It began its restoration to its former glory in the 1980s with guidance given by a single 18th century painting. Today the Painswick Rococo Garden Trust cares for the garden and it’s now the UK’s only surviving Rococo garden.

We drove a short way from the centre of town to reach Rococo garden’s car park, which was free and particularly empty as we had arrived around an hour before closing time. 

The tickets were purchased from the ticket office/cafe/shop housed in a white brick building.

A few hours in Painswick

The shop was full of tiny trinkets that wouldn’t be out of place in my local garden centre. 

There were no locked gates or ticket officers at the entrance to the garden, so Rococo garden appeared to function on a honour system.

A few hours in Painswick

We entered a very structured and carefully manufactured garden which was fine and had some nice flowers.

However the garden didn’t end here and via exiting the gate at the back we entered the impressive grounds of the wider garden space and were treated to a view of a sweeping valley and dizzying number of paths.

There were several follies in the garden and the first one we saw was the dusty red Eagle house which also served as a mini bookshop.

There was a small area reserved for bees which looked empty which is understandable for such cold weather.

A few hours in Painswick

We walked towards the fish pond and up a vaguely steep slope along the charmingly named Beech Walk. There were slippery parts in the mud so I can’t recommend this area for the walking impaired.

There was a beautiful view of the sunset when we arrived at the gothic alcove.

There was a little play area up an even steeper slope near the gothic alcove, however this was under construction whilst we were there and we headed back to the fish pond and through a not very green garden arch path. 

We passed the plunge pool, the bowling green and the kitchen garden.

The most impressive structure in Rococo garden was definitely the Exedra folly which took the form of a curved screen This stood out because of the pretty reflective pool and the striking image of the white structure surrounded by relatively flat land.

The maze could be accessed from higher ground and consisted of two mazes with the aim of reaching the centre of each one; one route was harder than the other and there were little plaques and items to indicate significant spots. When viewed from afar the maze spelt out 250 to represent the 250th anniversary of the garden.

We reached the Red House which was the principal folly building in the garden and available for a very intimate wedding. It was charming but extremely small and quite cold, so I couldn’t imagine staying there long. It was very pretty though and had charming details in the windows. 

A few hours in Painswick

With a last look over the valley we made our way to the exit as the sun started setting.

The Rococo garden was less structured and more wild and free than expected. There was plenty of nature to see and to get lost in and would have been more amazing to visit outside of Winter. At many points the area felt so large it was as if we were the only ones around for miles. It was a very special experience that didn’t feel like a tourist attraction as all and definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Summary

Painswick stood out to me and was my favourite stop on the first day of my Cotswold trip. Small enough to keep the village charm and large enough with enough sights to occupy a good half day exploring the town. I don’t think you will do wrong to include Painswick within your Cotswold itinerary.

Details

Painswick

Website: http://www.painswick.co.uk/

Address: Painswick

St Mary’s Church

Website: https://www.stmaryspainswick.org.uk/

Address: St Mary’s Church, New St, Painswick, Stroud GL6 6UT

Opening hours: Oct – Mar: 9:30 – 16:00, Apr – Sep: 9:30 – 18:00

Painswick Rococo Gardens

Website: https://www.rococogarden.org.uk/

Address: Painswick Rococo Gardens, Gloucester Rd, Painswick, Stroud GL6 6TH

Opening hours: 11 Jan – 31 Oct: 10:30 to 17:00, 1 – 29 Nov: 10:30 – 16:00

Cost: 

Adult – £9.00

Seniors (60+) – £8.00

Student (NUS) – £5.60

Children (4 to 16) – £4.10

Family (2ad + 4ch) – £22.95

Painswick Rococo Garden season ticket holders – FREE

Historic Houses Association (HHA) members – FREE

Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) members (1 Mar – 30 Nov) – FREE

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