Minchinhampton is a small and attractive Cotswold market town with a long history situated on a high tongue of land about 6km south east of Stroud and 2km north east of Nailsworth. (The only reasonably level routes out of town head eastish towards Avening, Aston Down and Cirencester - something we are all very aware of in icy weather.) It still retains a small shoping centre including a butchers, chemist, post office, a small general store, a coffee shop. We also have a doctor's surgury and a library supported by volunteers.
For those who are interested in walking and wildlife, the town is excellently situated on the edge of Minchinhampton Common, 580 acres of common land managed by the National Trust. In summer, the Common is grazed by free roaming cows and horses, which are an essential part of the land management - they make the Common what it is.Take care when driving on the unfenced roads, because the cows have absolutely no road sense. They are likely to step out in front of a car at any time, and at night can be very difficult to see until it is too late. (The 40mph legal upper speed limit is too fast on a dark and rainy night! Locals learn to slow down to walking pace when passing cows by the side of the road. You must also learn that cow-jams caused by a leisurely migration of a herd across the main road just have to be accepted and enjoyed as part of the local colour.)
Five roads meet at the centre of the Common at Tom Long's Post - a well known local landmark. The history of the name Tom Long is entirely unclear and there is no entry in local records giving any connection. Unfortunately, this means that there is almost certainly no truth in the local romantic legend that it marks the spot where a local highway man of that name was either hung or buried. An alternative legend - again undocumented - suggests that it marks the burial of a suicide who could not be laid in consecrated ground. More plausibly, perhaps, it has been pointed out that "Tom Long" was an 17th/18th century generic name for carriers (like Jack Tar for sailors) and the post may have marked a standard putting-down and picking-up point for those who wanted to take advantage of the service. Some sources even suggest that the name Tom Long's Post is more properly applied to the standing stone.
The Common is also a golf course, so it usually makes sense to avoid crossing fairways unless it is clear that you are in no danger from flying golf balls. In practice, however, the most attractive walking routes do not generally conflict with the golf fairways.
Part of the Common are also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) both because of unimproved limestone grassland is an increasinly rare habitat which hosts a number of rare species and also because of the geological interest of some of the old quarry exposures. (I have found fossils collected on Minchinhampton Common in Cambridge University's "Sedgwick" Geological Museum.)
If that is not enough the make you think that this place is special, large parts of the area are also a Scheduled Ancient Momument, with multi-period sites dating back to the Iron Age. See, for example:
- Multi-period site on Minchinhampton Common
- Whitfield's Tump
- British History Online - Minchinhampton Earthworks".
You are committing an offence if you dig in the designated area without permission. (Yes, I have seen the occasional "detectorist" chancing his arm.)