Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Gloucestershire

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Gloucestershire

Article excerpt

The heat was still sweltering as we headed off at dusk towards the hide to watch wildlife with our enthusiastic guide, Leonie. My wife and I were on our first ever safari -- or rather 'stayfari'. No, we weren't in deepest Africa, but in deepest Gloucestershire. And we weren't on the look out for lions and elephants, but beavers.

We were staying at Lower Mill Estate, near Cirencester. Consisting of 550 acres of beautiful lakes, fields and woodlands, it's been described as the most important private nature reserve in Europe. In Lower Mill, the houses fit around the wildlife, and not the other way round: all of them have bird boxes and bat-friendly roofs.

We arrived in our spacious lakeside apartment to find a welcome pack including a bottle of wine, milk, eggs, bacon and other provisions. We sat on our balcony and were immediately in 'the zone'.

On Saturday evening, Leonie called to take us beaver-watching. Beavers were native to Britain but became extinct around 500 years ago. Then in 2005, six from Bavaria were reintroduced into the wild at Lower Mill. We waited a good 45 minutes before we finally spotted some splashing at the far end of the lake and managed to get a sight of these commendably industrious but very shy creatures.

Next morning we headed off to the spa, sauna and outdoor swimming pool. In addition to outdoor and indoor swimming pools there was also a 'lily-filtered outdoor eco-pool'. My wife -- fearful of frogs, which as it turns out we didn't see -- decided to give this one a miss. …

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