Why the Spirit of Stow is one of Adam Henson’s Christmas highlights

Adam Henson

Adam Henson - Credit: Archant

The brilliant Spirit of Stow event will be one of my highlights, and if the Second Shepherd at our Living Crib looks a bit familiar, well you never know...

It’s a delight to see people’s faces as they watch our Living Nativity

It’s a delight to see people’s faces as they watch our Living Nativity - Credit: Archant

The Cotswolds is a special place to live and work, but at Christmas time the area takes on an almost magical quality. On a starlit December night when there’s a dusting of snow on the ground and you can see the twinkling lights of a distant hamlet, it’s a winter wonderland right here on our doorstep.

Down the centuries Cotswold men and women have created all sorts of festive traditions too, including the Campden Carol, the Gloucestershire wassail, Cotswold Mummers plays and stories of Christmases long, long ago. They’re all part of our local heritage and they’ve all been revived in recent years, I’m delighted to say.

To add to the special atmosphere, local businesses and tourist attractions are working extra hard to put on a whole array of seasonal events this year. Things get off to an early start with Bourton’s Victorian Evening. Now if that doesn’t get you in the yuletide mood then nothing will. It’s become an annual favourite with carol singing, street entertainment, a fairground organ, late night shopping and the festive Farmers’ Market. But the highlight has to be the enormous tree sitting in the River Windrush with its Christmas lights reflected in the water below. I’ve never come across anything quite like it.

Cirencester always puts on a good show at this time of year. The last Farmers’ Market before Christmas takes place, as usual, in the shadow of that wonderful church tower. It’s a great place to pick up Cotswold produce, delicious meats, local cheeses and preserves for the festive table. The Advent Festival and the switching on of the Christmas Lights guarantees another big crowd in the historic market place.

Down the road at Westonbirt there’s not much that can top the spectacular autumn colour, but the Arboretum’s illuminated trail comes pretty close. The Enchanted Christmas is a mile-long network of paths through the most famous tree collection in England as coloured lights and spot lamps project a rainbow effect against the winter night sky.

Broadway, Winchcombe, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, Bath and lots of other communities the entire length of the Cotswolds are staging festivities of their own. Every event differs from the next, with its own traditions and customs. Some go back decades but this year I’ll be going along to one of the newest. The Spirit of Stow event is a really impressive showcase for local shops and business which also raises thousands of pounds for charity. After last year’s brilliant launch, it’s being held for a second time on Saturday, December 7. I’ll be taking along some of the most popular animals from the Cotswold Farm Park as well as judging the children’s Best Decorated Welly competition. I’ll be in good company, because the TV antiques expert Thomas Plant and the nation’s funniest poet, Pam Ayres, will also be taking part. It’ll be one of the highlights of a busy month for me and the team at the Farm Park. We’re open for 11 months of the year now and we’ll be entertaining visitors right up until December 22. It’s such a special time of year that it doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s a delight to see people’s faces as they watch our Living Nativity with real cattle, sheep and goats. Some of the staff take on the roles of Mary and Joseph while members of the audience also get involved. Well, the willing ones at least. I come from a theatrical family so there are even one or two occasions when I won’t be able to resist getting in to costume and taking part.

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Whether you’ll be enjoying the festive season in the Cotswolds or spending the big day with friends and family somewhere else, have a happy and peaceful Christmas.