Cummings’ goings: Droning on and on

Aerial filming by Rogue State Media

Aerial filming by Rogue State Media - Credit: Archant

BBC Gloucestershire’s Mark Cummings shares news and stories from the county, from drones taking ‘Harry Potteresque’ aerial views in Cirencester to our very own editor Mike Lowe ranting in a van.

Broadway Tower

Broadway Tower - Credit: Archant

Have you got an aerial photo of your house proudly displayed somewhere on your wall? Can you remember the knock on the door and the salesman persuading you that this unique view of your roof tiles was a must-have addition to your artwork?

Ben Kenobi

Ben Kenobi - Credit: Archant

Maybe it no longer has pride of place and is now stashed away in the draw marked ‘embarrassing stuff not ready to part with yet’. We have a very unflattering snapshot of our place tucked for some reason behind the telly. I remember bartering the poor man down from £25 to a fiver as I knew he couldn’t sell it to anyone else and I quite fancied the frame. The joy at this bit of canny business was quadrupled when I discovered the nosey fellow next door had paid full price for his!

The A38. Picture taken by Elvin Young in April 1968

The A38. Picture taken by Elvin Young in April 1968 - Credit: Archant

Whatever you think of these aerial offerings, there is something slightly fascinating about viewing your normal world from above and thankfully technology has now provided us with a bit of kit that has transformed this experience. Not long ago I went out filming with Ben Kenobi from Amberley who recently packed in his life working in the health service in London and bought himself a drone. This wonderful aircraft can be dispatched high into the sky to capture the Cotswolds as you’ve never seen them before.

Mike Lowe is a 'Ranty Man in a Van'

Mike Lowe is a 'Ranty Man in a Van' - Credit: Archant

We asked our audience where they’d like us to film and one intriguing suggestion was to capture the work being done in Stroud by the Canal Restoration Trust. This is the perfect use of the drone as we managed to capture and share a unique insight into how the work is progressing which is virtually impossible to appreciate from the ground. We also did some ‘Harry Potteresque’ filming above the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester with a cameo from Clive the Camper Van, some delicious shots over Broadway Tower, some dreamy spring-like visions of Batsford Arboretum and by magic managed to get around Cheltenham racecourse as if jumping the fences ourselves. You can see some of the fun we had at and on Ben’s website:


Those were the days

Last month I wrote about our travelogue along the A38 and the myriad stories the road has provided. We heard about the policeman on Gloucester Cross directing the traffic, the tug of war competitions across The River Cam and the family who lived in a double-decker bus at Moreton Valance. I promised some pictures and the image below is for all of you who spend your morning commute at the Cole Avenue traffic lights near Quedgeley. This is the Gloucester ring road in 1968 and the quiet, genteel Cole Avenue roundabout.

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Please don’t break down!

I thought long and hard before introducing a new feature to the breakfast airwaves and I’m still not sure whether I’ve made a career ending decision or not. The idea is to put the editor of this magazine into my camper van and give him free rein to rant about whatever topical subjects he likes for as long as it takes to get from the bottom of Nailsworth to Minchinhampton Common. The jeopardy for me is that the road linking the start and finishing line is the infamous Nailsworth W that zig-zags at acute angles and at a ridiculously steep trajectory.

The deal is that if I break down or the van can’t manage the corners, Mr Lowe gets to jabber on until the RAC turn up. I can assure you however much you might enjoy his editorial you really wouldn’t want to be stuck with him in VW Camper for more than a few minutes. Well folks, the first ‘Ranty Man in a Camper Van’ has been broadcast and to my dismay has gone down rather well with the audience and the powers that be, so we will be returning to record our next instalment very soon. This little gem goes at out 7:50 and tends to last about 2 minutes. If you tune in and it’s still running past 9 o’clock you know which piece of green metal has let me down.


Anyone for tennis?

Two years ago I was taken apart on a tennis court in Cheltenham by a woman called Felicity. She represents Great Britain at senior tennis, is in her 70s and competes all around the world. Having lost 6-2, 6-2 I went off, licked my wounds, and came back the following year having played a full summer of regular tennis and promptly lost 6-1, 6-0. So this year I’ve accepted an invitation to play regularly at Gloucester Wotton Lawn Tennis Club. This wonderful club was formed in 1881 and I’m hoping a little of their magic and know how will rub off on me. So Felicity, I’m going for broke this year - a new racket, a stone lighter and the help of the great and good of Gloucester. However, it seems the harder I try the fewer games I win, so why do I have a feeling in September I’ll be confessing to a 6-0, 6-0 drubbing.


In the Skill zone...

The most unlikely TV hit of the past two years must be the show that follows a group of planners, protesters and councillors around for hours on end and slaps it all together with a cunning cliffhanger right at the denouement of each episode. Series 1 was simply called The Planners, then for Series 2 they sexed it up with the title Permission Impossible. Stroud and Cheltenham have featured heavily and have made stars out of local councillor Barbara Driver and head planner Phil Skill. Barbara is a wonderful woman who shoots from the hip, tells it as it is and it makes for great telly when she is having her say in Cheltenham. Phil Skill has the unenviable task of finding places for the thousands of homes needed around Stroud and has the responsibility of recommending decisions ranging from the controversial Rodborough fields to the future use of the Spa Inn at Stonehouse. At this stage I must declare an interest as planning stories do occasionally feature on the airwaves creating a mixture of tension, drama, good guys and bad guys and endless debate. You have no idea of the joy I have when I get into work at 4.30am with my bloodshot eyes screaming and my kindly producer has left me a 300-page document with the latest amendments of the Joint Core Strategy document to digest before the big interview with the council leader later that morning. Utter, unbridled, flipping joy.


Dr Newton... what a lovely man

Talking about well-known roads and the morning commute, I was on Dr Newton’s Way in Stroud the other day and on this occasion decided the time had come when I should find out who the heck he was and why he had a road named after him. He was simply a very popular doctor in the town and many of my listeners were treated by him and loved him to bits. He started off in the Locking Hill Practice in the 30s and was a big part of Stroud life for the next 40 years.

Meanwhile those commuters listening to this story stuck on Black Dog Way in Gloucester now wanted to know all about their stretch of teasing tarmac. The Black Dog pub was a well known hostelry in the city and was located at the end of London road where the ring road now intersects. It dates back to 1722 and was known for the sculpture of a big black dog that sat on the parapet. This sculpture is now in the Folk Museum. I thought we had sated the appetites of our curious commuters but oh no, those trundling up Kidnappers Lane in Cheltenham wanted their bite at the cherry. So here goes. This has nothing to do with being taken hostage. The kid refers to a baby goat and in this area they used to graze on ‘nap’ land which wasn’t very tasty or full of nourishment. Even so, the goats could cope with it, hence Kidnappers Lane.


A special Father’s Day...

As the rugby season grinds to its conclusion I sincerely hope the raft of new signings at Gloucester signals a more consistent and successful campaign next season. My one abiding rugby memory came after the England v Wales rugby international when I got to speak to the dads of the opposing wingers. Alex Cuthbert grew up in Minsterworth and got to know Swindon-born Johnny May when they were learning their trade at Hartbury College. Both dads are called Peter and know each other really well. Despite the rivalry and the fact their lads would be knocking lumps out of each other, they were fascinating when talking about the agony and ecstasy of watching their offspring perform on the world stage. Thankfully this year it was Johnny’s old man who was slightly the happier.


This article by Mark Cummings is from the May 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.

Mark can be heard on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s morning show 6am-9am

104.7FM and 1413AM, Stroud 95FM and Cirencester 95.8FM

Follow Mark on Twitter: @cummingsradio