OVER THE coming weeks, The Gazette will be previewing the many wonderful places to visit, sights to see and activities to try as part of the new Discover Series.
This week we take a look at the vibrant and colourful Thornbury...
A CHARMING market town in the heart of the West Country, Thornbury is situated mid-way between Bristol and Gloucester in a relaxed suburb surrounded by countryside and beautiful views of the Severn Valley.
A multiple Britain in Bloom award winning town, Thornbury is a vibrant and colourful place throughout the year, having established its own competition and encouraging residents and organisations to get involved.
The town has become popular with all kinds of visitors over the years, from newlyweds and long weekenders with its beautiful castle and wide array of restaurants, to ramblers and historians, lying at the heart of an amazing variety of country trails, as well as the unique streamside walk that runs through the town.
Thornbury offers a range of great events for residents and visitors alike, with Thornbury Carnival taking over the High Street and the nearby Mundy Playing Fields for a whole day in the summer, offering spectators a fantastic parade, which leads into a festival of performers, music, rides and stalls.
Recently the town has extended the festival experience with local businesses coming together for the fringe event leading up to the big day.
But the fun is not exclusive to the summer, with crowds flooding to the town for the popular Victorian Fair in November and the Boxing Day meet of the Berkeley Hunt.
The town’s very active culture of music and theatre also means that there is always some alternative entertainment on offer, with the Thornbury arts club also hosting the annual Thornbury Arts Festival and the Severn Vale arts trail around the town.
“We have a great calendar of events through the year and it is always fun to see so many people, both visitors and residents, get involved and enjoy a day out with friends and family.
“Thornbury’s community spirit is truly remarkable, and is really inclusive for all ages. We try to make sure we as are welcoming for new faces as we can, and you see this more and more when you attend these big events.
The rural atmosphere we have on our immediate doorstep is special to us as, while we have easy access to places like Bristol, Gloucester and over the road to Wales, we are a breath of fresh air for these venues and offer a lot on our own for visitors to the region.”
Arguably the most notable feature of the town is its fantastic Tudor castle. An unfinished but architecturally significant building, Thornbury Castle began in 1511 as a home for Edward Stafford, the Third Duke of Buckingham.
Some believe that the castle, which overlooks the River Severn, was being built as a fortress for a potential rebellion against Henry VIII, who himself stayed in the castle with Anne Boleyn in 1535, but it was not to be as he had the duke beheaded before it was ever completed.
Today the Castle is a lavish 27-room hotel, with luxurious rooms, fine dining and traditional gardens surrounded by atmospheric ruins of incomplete walls, all watched over by the castle’s striking intricately built redbrick chimneys.
Much of the town’s rich history can be found in its own museum, whether you are interested in the Iron Age and Roman settlements that pre-date the first records of the town, back in Anglo-Saxon times, or the fact that the Armstrong Hall complex over the road was named after the man who invented Ribena!
An impressive selection of pubs and eateries await Thornbury’s visitors, with particular highlights being the multiple AA rosette winning Ronnie’s in Thornbury, authentic Indian cuisine at Romi’s Kitchen and Hawkes House.
But if you are keen to make it yourself, Thornbury also holds a weekly farmer’s market in St Mary Centre, with the produce from a wealth of local traders on offer.
“Thornbury has a very active community based ethos and there are usually events going on in the town most months of the year to suit all age groups,” said Thornbury Chamber of Commerce chairman Rowena Moncrieffe.
“The town and its pretty high street have now become a definite 'stop off' destination for many visitors because of the excellent choice of restaurants, cafes and pubs we now have.
“Our numerous independent traders have an incredible passion and knowledge for their products that is sometimes lacking in the bigger shopping centres, and visitors regularly say they feel very comfortable wandering around the town."
The academic status of the town is well supported with a great selection of schools, led by the two secondary schools - The Castle School and Marlwood School - which have both excelled in Ofsted inspections, as well as GCSE and A-level results in recent years, having joined forces as part of the Castle School Education Trust.
A surprisingly strong sporting profile has come from the two schools in recent years with England Rugby stars Billy and Mako Vunipola having made their names in the sport, playing for both Thornbury RFC and the Castle School in their youth.
Olympic bronze medal winner judoka Sally Conway also hails from the town, having picked up the sport while at Marlwood School.
There are plenty of sporting options on offer to those not quite at international level too, with thriving rugby, football, tennis, cricket and running clubs, as well as an impressive leisure centre.
Thornbury also boasts an impressive golf club with two beautifully kept 18-hole courses, as well as an impressive driving range, function rooms and an 11-bedroom lodge.
Hundreds of runners flock to nearby Oldbury-on-Severn each year for the 6km Oldbury Fun Run, the largest of its kind in the region, an event which starts and finishes at the Anchor Inn, which in itself is a great reason to attend, even if you aren’t racing.
Thornbury is not hard to find, just off the A38 and close to junction 14 of the M5, on a good day it is half an hour from Bristol, 45 minutes from Gloucester and a 15 minute drive from the M48 Severn Crossing.
With a wonderfully authentic atmosphere, welcoming community and with plenty to see and do, in its own charming way, Thornbury is hard to beat.