Bourton on the Water, with its bridges across the River Windrush, is regularly voted one of the prettiest villages in England, but does get very busy and overrun with tourists.
The area has been inhabited for over 6000 years, and there is an iron age fort on the edge of the village. The town is on the Fosse Way, the Roman Road linking Exeter and Lincoln. The Romans had a settlement west of the present village and it was a strategic crossing point over the River Windrush.
The Saxons had a town here and the name is Saxon meaning ‘settlement beside the camp’. They built a wooden church which was later replaced by a stone in the C12th.
The economy was based on wool and in the C17th, the river was diverted through the centre of the village to power three woollen mills (one is now the Motor Museum). Many of the buildings date from the C17th and C18th.
The village had a station on the Cheltenham to Oxford railway line which brought in visitors.
The main attraction for visitors is the River which is lined by grass and willow trees, with its five bridges.
The oldest bridge is the Mill Bridge near the war memorial and Motor Museum which was built in 1654 and still carries traffic. High Bridge dates from 1756 and is only wide enough for pedestrians traffic. Next down is Paynes Bridge, dating from 1776 . New Bridge was built in 1911 and again is wide enough for vehicles to use. vehicles across the river. The last bridge is the Coronation Footbridge, built in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It replaced an earlier wooden structure that had been on this site since the eighteenth century but collapsed whilst being crossed by some unsuspecting day visitor! The ford alongside the bridge is still in use today
The Bourton on the Water football match is held on August Bank Holiday. The match is a local tradition going back over 100 years. Two teams of six from Bourton Rovers Football Club play a 30 minute football match in the river. Goalposts are set up in the river and players attempt to score as many goals as possible, whilst getting everyone as wet as possible in the process.
Bourton on the Water is an attractive village to walk around with a mix of mainly stone houses but with a few timber frame buildings. It has a good range of small independently owned shops, mainly catering to the tourists. There are several pubs and a lot of eateries. There are two very good bakers but with equally long queues.
Some of the old houses are quintessentially English with creepers growing up the walls and roses round the door.
Away from the river, it is possible to lose the visitors.
The War memorial is at the end of the village over looking the river. It was built to commemorate the dead of the First World War, with the names from the Second world War added later.
St Lawrence’s Church (#2) is at the far end of the village and the tower with unusual dome can be seen peeping above the houses
There are plenty of activities in the village to amuse the visitors. The Cotswold Motoring Museum is in one of the old mill buildings and has a display of cars, motor bikes, bicycles, enamel signs and other memorabilia.
At the other end of the High Street behind the Old New Inn, is the Model Village. The one ninth scale replica was built in the 1930s using same materials as the buildings in the village. It took five years to finish and even includes itself. As new shops open, they are added to the model.
Birdland is found on Rissington Road and contains over 500 species of birds including penguins, flamingos, macaws, emus and birds of prey. Threre are talks and feeding displays
Near it is Dragonfly Maze. This is a traditional clipped yew hedge maze, with half a mile winding paths with 14 questions to answer along the way to find the golden dragonfly.
Cotswold Perfumery is on Victoria Street behind the river. As well as selling its range of specially made perfumes, it also creates bespoke perfumes and used to make perfume for Queen Elizabeth.
Hawkstone Brewery is based in College farm on the outskirts of Bourton on the Water . It produces a range of traditionally brewed beers and has a taproom bar and shop. It also runs brewery tours and tasting sessions.
Greystones Farm Nature Reserve is a ten minute walk from centre village. It is a site of Scientific Interest with wildflower meadows, a working organic farm and otters and water voles inhabiting the ponds. It also includes Salmonsbury Iron Age Camp complete with a replica Iron Age round house.