Stroud, Gloucestershire

Discover why Stroud was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Stroud likes to celebrate everything local — it was one of the many reasons that the old-fashioned, new-age town was named the overall Best Place to Live winner in 2021. A few locals might have treated themselves to a Plant Power vegan pizza (£11) with a pint of Big Cat stout — all organic and “very Stroud” at the Stroud Brewery Taproom — others liked to point out the fact that Extinction Rebellion was founded here as grounds for disqualification.

As a mill town in the Cotswolds, Stroud means different things to different people. For some, it’s Barbours and bridles, muddy wellies and yomps on the commons with the labradors; for others it’s mung beans and beanies, changing the world one sustainable soya latte at a time. Most Stroudies fall somewhere in between, but whichever camp you’re in everyone comes together at the Saturday morning farmers’ market — one of the best in the land. 

There’s also serious culture at the Stroud Valleys Artspace, Stroud Books prides itself on its “festival-like vibe”, and even the local football team, Forest Green Rovers, is riding high, both in the league and as the world’s first fully vegan, carbon-neutral club. The thoughtful revamp of the Five Valleys shopping centre is progressing nicely with the arrival of Sandersons — a “boutique department store” — and evening openings on Fridays with food and music. 

In the past 12 months many more new arrivals have joined long-term residents to sing Stroud’s (often alternative) praises. The town and its surrounding valleys are crowd-pleasers for families looking for good schools, commuters working in London or Bristol, retirees looking for a thoroughly grounded Cotswolds neighbourhood or anyone who wants a daily dose of wonderful countryside surrounded by people who believe in keeping it real.

It is one of the reasons that Ry Gerbrands, 36, who grew up in Stroud, returned home. He lives  a 20-minute walk from Made in Stroud, the gallery and shop set up by his parents in 2000 which he now runs. The shop is a local landmark, initially an offshoot of Stroud’s famous farmers’ market, and a community interest company that shows the work of 180 local makers, artisans and artists.

“Stroud has improved massively since my early teens,” Gerbrands says. “There’s a much wider choice of good restaurants and pubs and plenty of independent shops — only chain shops closed during lockdown — and also greater diversity in the people here. The Sub Rooms puts on events, educational plays for children, and music, and the markets are a big draw. It’s not great for people aged 18 to 23 - there’s no nightclub - but past that it’s wonderful.”

Jackie Waldock and Hugh Williams, who both work in documentary film-making, moved here from London with their son Jesse when lockdown made them rethink their lifestyle. “We wanted real life, just with more space and natural beauty. We found that in Stroud,” Jackie says. The family bought a three-storey grade II* listed stone house in a village to the south of the town. 

“Stroud has its social challenges, just like any town, but I think it’s fabulous. It has great facilities, a leisure centre, arts centre, cinema, bowling alley and a wonderful farmers’ market, but it also has a social conscience. It’s an ecological town, it votes green, it’s where Extinction Rebellion started and there’s a strong sense of social justice. People here care about the things we care about.” 

High Street

Barclays Bank closed its branch this year, adding to the empty shop fronts in a town centre that could be more inspiring. But who needs shops when you can get everything you need at the Saturday farmers’ market? Favourite indie shops include Sunshine Health Shop (established 1927); Made in Stroud, a showcase for local arts, crafts, food and more; and Moonflower for homewares, beauty and Birkenstocks.

Salt Bakehouse serves some of the best sourdough in the land. For entertainment, there’s a Vue cinema, all manner of interesting talks and exhibitions at the Stroud Valleys Artspace, and gigs, films and comedy at the Sub Rooms, with Nick Lowe, Roni Size and Stereo MC’s coming up soon. 

Connections

There are direct trains to Cheltenham (from 31 minutes), Swindon (from 28 minutes) and London Paddington (from 1 hour 28 minutes). By car it’s a 30-minute drive north to Cheltenham or Gloucester and 20 minutes west to the M5, then 45 minutes south to Bristol and the airport. Stroud is 1 hour 30 minutes from Birmingham airport and 1 hour 40 minutes from London Heathrow.

Broadband

Avoid the very centre of Stroud where speeds will be very 2005. While there is good superfast coverage, if you want full-fibre you need to look at properties outside Stroud where a good many have access to Gigaclear FTTP.

Schools

Rodborough Community Primary School (rated good by Ofsted in 2012) and Foxmoor Primary School (good, 2020) made The Sunday Times Parent Power guide at 74th and 305th nationally respectively, while Woodchester Endowed C of E (2017), Uplands Primary (2014) and Randwick C of E Primary (2014) are all rated outstanding by Ofsted.

Selective grammar secondaries rated outstanding are Stroud High School (2010) and Marling School (2013), which finished third and 15th respectively in the Parent Power guide’s top 20 schools in the Southwest and 45th and 139th nationally. Independent Wycliffe College, for children 3-18, is three miles west of Stroud (fees from £3,400 a term).

Best Address

Property here offers better value than in the honeypots of the north Cotswolds. It’s one of the contradictions of Stroud that many of the people who say they love it choose to live in a village in one of the valleys or on one of the commons, rather than in the town itself. Core areas outside the town include Minchinhampton, Chalford and Rodborough.

A top-of-the-range property (unless you want land) is about £1.5 million. Part-time commuters are eyeing homes in the older streets five or ten minutes’ walk from the train station, where three and four-storey houses, once divided into flats, are now being renovated back into larger family homes. Some of the nicest are around Middle Street and Nelson Street — £700,000 could get you something large and full of character. 

Property prices

Average house price: £412,000 
Growth since 2020: 16% 
Source: Halifax using Land Registry Data

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Prices are correct as of April 2022.

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