You know that feeling when you take a detour through the countryside, taking the second or third option on the sat nav just because you're bored with motorways and dual carriageways? That's how we chanced upon the most stunning view while heading to Stroud in Gloucestershire via Minchinhampton. At one point, just before you reach The Bear (a brilliant inn with the added attraction of an ACTUAL BEAR in reception), something magical happens. The view drops away in all directions. The sun hits the common. You feel like you're on top of the world, or at least an Icelandic glacier. Stroud looms up at you from one side. Cattle and golfers wander across your path. You hit junctions where bewildered drivers all stare at each other, unsure of who has right of way and why you'd ever want to drive on anyway. You just feel like pulling over, cancelling everything and living there forever.
This is Minchinhampton Common, one of only a handful of grazed commons still left in the country. Now managed by the National Trust, it's both an advert for sustainable farming and a vital link back to our rural past – not to mention the concept of green spaces to be enjoyed by all. There's a rambling 19th-century golf course, prehistoric field systems, burial mounds and the remains of a defensive earthwork. The locals have even revived the the custom of ‘beating the bounds’, whereby villagers walk the boundary of the common reciting tales of ghostly riders and devils drinking from the springs. They call it The Golden Valley here. It's actually three valleys converging at Minchinhampton Common. If you've never been there – re-program your satnav. It's the best view in England.