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Bourton on the Water, in the Cotswolds, and River Football

Updated on December 30, 2016
SheilaMilne profile image

I always try to look out for lesser known, interesting, or quirky attractions in any area I visit. It's different, and it avoids the crowds.

A Picturesque Village

Bourton on the Water is a particularly charming Cotswold village, and some would say it's the prettiest village in England. It lies in an area, the Cotswolds, that has its own characteristic architectural style with houses and cottages dating back 300 or even 400 years.

It is an enchanting place, peaceful and captivating.

Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water | Source

Where and What are the Cotswolds

The Cotswold Hills lie in an area of southern central England, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, an AONB for short. An AONB is protected, a conservation area, in this case because of the rural landscape and villages built from the warm Cotswold stone. The underlying stone was not only used as building material for about 6000 years but it shaped the countryside around by governing where settlements grew up.

Within the AONB, there are Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest. All in all, it's a very special place.

Cotswold Cottage Architecture and History

Most of what are now considered to be typical of Cotswold cottages date from the late 16th or early 17th century. Before that, the costs of quarrying the honey coloured limestone were great so that only people who could afford grand buildings, such as those in Bath, could use it.

The area depended on the wool trade for its wealth and the weavers and other agricultural workers lived in wooden hovels. When limestone became more affordable, it was used to replace the wooden cottages. They weren't built by the master builders but by apprentices and this led to the less "polished" look of the limestone. The blocks were rough-hewn and these give the cottages their typical look.

These were modest properties, not the highly desirable dwellings they are now. First of all they were single storey but later a second storey would have been added with dormer windows in the gable ends, and ladders to reach the upper floor. Several households would have lived in one building.

The transition from workers' dwellings to desirable properties came much later, especially after a visit to the area by William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, when he described Bilbury as the most beautiful village in England. (Sorry about that, Bourton!)

Typical Cotswold Cottages
Typical Cotswold Cottages | Source

The Water of Bourton on the Water

The River Windrush
The River Windrush | Source

The river that runs through the village is the River Windrush. It looks calm enough.

It is fed by many springs along its route through the Gloucestershire countryside and the heart of England. In Bourton it passes under some beautiful bridges, some of which date back to the 17th century. It then carries on through a number of other villages, including Windrush itself, and shortly after that it joins the Thames.

The river is very shallow
The river is very shallow | Source

Children very rapidly realise how shallow it is. The river averages only around 10 inches in depth, and this is the key to one of the big events of the year.

The Model Village

The model village
The model village | Source

One of the attractions in Bourton on the Water is the Model Village which you can find behind the Old New Inn. It is an accurate model of the village, including a running river, as it was in the 1930s. It took five years to build and was officially opened in 1937 by the then King and Queen.

It is thought to be the oldest model village in England and has been listed Grade II by Historic England. It is an accurate 1:9 scale model of the village as it was in 1940, built in what was once the vegetable garden of the (Old) New Inn.

If you'd like to visit, here are details of the Model Village.

The model of the model village
The model of the model village | Source

The model village is so accurate, it contains a model village of its own. And if you look carefully to the bottom left you will see that the model within a model has a model village of its own....

It puts me in mind of the rhyme written by the mathematician Augustus de Morgan as an illustration of recursion:

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

Then the Peace is Shattered - River Football!

Football in the river
Football in the river | Source

On August Bank Holiday, the last Monday in August every year - 31 August in 2015, a game of football is played IN the river. The goal posts are in the river, the players are in the river. Sometimes one or two of the spectators are in the river too. Look at the people standing in the water to the left of the picture, perilously close to the action.

The game that is played bears little resemblance to any form of football normally played. There are six on each side and it's a match of two 15 minute halves. There don't appear to be too many rules.

See For Yourselves

This video shows the match from 2008. The weather forecast for the 2012 match was rain. I don't think anyone noticed.

Bourton on the Water and Some Places of Local Interest

show route and directions
A markerBourton on the Water -
Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54, UK
get directions

B markerStow on the Wold -
Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, UK
get directions

C markerChipping Norton -
Chipping Norton, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX7, UK
get directions

D markerMoreton in the marsh -
Moreton-in-Marsh, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire GL56, UK
get directions

E markerChipping Campden -
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, UK
get directions

F markerCirencester -
Cirencester, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7, UK
get directions

G markerBilbury -
Bibury, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7, UK
get directions

Other places you might like to visit if you're in the area:

  • Stow on the Wold, once a famous market place, dating from 1107, because of its position at a major junction of roads.
  • Chipping Norton, another market town, this with its own stone circle. the market itself dates from the 13th century.
  • Moreton in Marsh also grew up in the 13th century but the oldest building is the 16th century bell tower.
  • Chipping Campden, the birthplace of the Arts and Crafts movement, and also the Cotswold Olimpick Games.
  • Cirencester, home to the oldest agricultural college in the English speaking world, and to a museum with a considerable collection of Roman remains.
  • Bilbury, William Morris's "most beautiful village in England" (see text above)

Stay a moment and say hello!

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    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 3 years ago from Kent, UK

      I'll go and Google it! :)

    • Siclone profile image

      Simon 3 years ago from NSW, Australia

      The place in Canberra is called 'Cockington Green Gardens' in case you want to look it up. In my mind it was very similar, although it has been many years since I visited Bourton!

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 3 years ago from Kent, UK

      Hello! Thank you for your visit.

      Yes, Bourton is beautiful, isn't it? I would love to see the Canberra equivalent but I suspect it's unlikely I'll ever get to your part of the world.

    • Siclone profile image

      Simon 3 years ago from NSW, Australia

      I visit Bourton a few times when I was younger, before I moved to Australia. A beautiful place. I really liked the model village there. Interestingly found a similar place in Canberra, Australia last year, and the small villages were very similar and based on places in England.

    • webgrafter lm profile image

      webgrafter lm 5 years ago

      Bourton or Broadway are my favourite Cotswold villages

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      Looks like a beautiful and fun place! :)

    • EbooksFreeWeekl1 profile image

      EbooksFreeWeekl1 5 years ago

      You have a very nice lens with great pictures.

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 5 years ago from Mobile, AL

      Gorgeous! I want to travel more.


    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What a beautiful place, so peaceful. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You set us up perfectly with the peace and beauty of Bourton...some say the loveliest in England and then they break out the crazy and wild fun of of River Football...wild fun that certainly would not notice if it were raining! Thank you for sharing this fun!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 5 years ago from California

      Interesting place this Bourton on the Water, and I laughed at the model in the model and the flea on the flea. Charming, and if I ever get to England would love to look it up.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I think playing a football game in the water is a great idea - not a bit unlike water polo? Maybe they will turn it into an Olympic Sport? This is a fun lens - thank you so much - blessed!

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 5 years ago

      I actually laughed at that! I love that the English can be so crazy!! That's why I fit in here!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love the model village - wish I could visit!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      So great. We have a chapter in our English course book about the model village. I'm glad you wrote about it.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Beautiful places and your pictures are great. Thanks so much. Blessings!

    • thememorybooksh1 profile image

      thememorybooksh1 5 years ago

      Great lens, i like the match video..

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 5 years ago

      I LOVE the Cotswolds. Spent a lovely week outside Cirecester at Glebe Cottage. Drove past Bourton on the Water on our way to/from Oxford. It's a cozy and inviting town, truly a whimsical beauty. Lovely to see your writing and photos!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      The Cotswolds have always fascinated me. A childhood friend visited the place and at that time, it was quite an adventure from our faraway place.

    • Flowerchild1946 profile image

      Carol Brooks 5 years ago from Florida

      Lovely lens. Beautiful photos too!

    • chas65 profile image

      chas65 5 years ago

      I miss seeing the beauty of the Cotswolds so much, it was one of my favorite parts of England.

    • neotony profile image

      neotony 5 years ago

      magical looking place.

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 5 years ago

      Wonderful village! So lovely and the model village is a marvel. The water football looks like ca blast. Very nice lens.

    • awesomedealz4u profile image

      awesomedealz4u 5 years ago

      Super cool! Very nice lens!

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 5 years ago

      My parents went to visit Bourton on the Water many, many years ago and talked about it for a long time after. Having seen your pictures, I now know why - it looks lovely. They mustn't have been there at the time the water football was played.

    • Tobint44 LM profile image

      Tobint44 LM 5 years ago

      That is awesome!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

      The only thing i can say is ... oh my goodness! This is such a beautiful lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Looks like a beautiful village - from another time - I love that about European countries - they preserve their history.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      That river football really looks like fun. Those lads really got soaked .. good thing the river is so low. Excellent lens. Angel blessings!

    • Expat Mamasita profile image

      Expat Mamasita 5 years ago from Slovakia

      A lovely lens. i haven't been to Bourton on the Water since I was a child in the 70's!

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 5 years ago

      Very beautiful area. Thanks for sharing! Looks like lots of fun.

    • katesawyer profile image

      Kate Sawyer 5 years ago from Nashville

      Very nice lens. Quite a lovely place.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      I used to live not so far from there when I was a kid. We always took visiting relatives to Bourton on the Water. You've taken me back in time. I'm glad the model village is still there.

    • Kae Yo profile image

      Kae Yo 5 years ago

      I loved the Cotswolds, but I never got the opportunity to go to Bourton on the Water. Now, I would love to go back and see it. :) Congrats on making the front page :)

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      It looks wonderful and I love the idea of the model village with a model village with a model village...........

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      What a neat location! I love the model of the model of the town, and the game in the river. Cool traditions.