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Lechlade is a small market town on the River Thames in Gloucestershire at the southern edge of the Cotswolds. It gets its name from the river Leach which joins the Thames nearby. Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, it is still within easy access to Swindon, Cirencester, Cheltenham, Burford and Oxford.
The church of St. Lawrence, which dates back to 1476, is a local landmark, and its spire is visible from many miles away. There are two bridges across the Thames at Lechlade, Halfpenny Bridge and St. John’s Bridge. Halfpenny Bridge was built in 1792 and got its name from the toll required. It is in the centre of town and carries the busy A361. On the eastern edge of the town is St. John’s Bridge, adjacent to St. John’s Lock, the highest lock on the Thames, where the statue of Father Thames is now situated.
The river Thames has always been at the heart of the town. Lechlade was on the salt way, when salt used to be brought by road from Droitwich and shipped down the Thames from Lechlade. Later, cheese, wool and coal were shipped down to London. The construction of the Thames and Severn Canal in 1789 meant Lechlade was on a busy trade route. The canal, now disused, joins the Thames at Inglesham, a few miles west of Lechlade and funds are being sought to restore the canal and the lock at Inglesham. Today, the river brings visitors to the town in narrow boats and cruisers. There are boats and fishing tackle for hire and there are river cruises during the summer.
At the centre of the town is the Market Place. Lechlade was granted a Market Charter in 1210 and celebrated the 800th anniversary by reinstating a monthly market for locally produced foods. Just off the market place is St. Lawrence Church, immortalised by Shelley’s poem “A Summer Evening Churchyard”. Lechlade has six pubs, a good sign of a thriving community. The Trout, alongside St. John’s Bridge is well known to river traffic and hosts many events during the year including an annual “Troutfest” music festival. The Crown Inn on the High Street is rapidly earning a good reputation for the beers brewed in their “Halfpenny” microbrewery at the back of the premises. The Christmas Shop, also on the High Street, is world-renowned for all things Christmassy.
The Thames Path goes past Lechlade on the south bank of the river. It runs for 184 miles from the source down as far as the Thames Barrier. It forms part of many of the local walks around the town. Much of the surrounding area is relatively flat which makes walking easier and is ideal for cyclists. Lechlade is in the eastern section of the Cotswold Water Park, formed by the old gravel pits in the area. Many of the lakes are a haven for wildlife and plant life, while some are devoted to leisure activities such as sailing and fishing.