Gloucestershire, the county which is at the heart of the Cotswolds, is almost unique in its rich and varied farming heritage with agricultural practices slowly evolving over the centuries. West Gloucestershire was characterized by forestry and small mixed farms. The gently rolling arable land and grazing land for sheep in the Cotswolds and in the Stroud Valleys gained a worldwide reputation. The Vales of Gloucester and Berkeley were renowned for their milk and cheese and for pig production, while the orchards of the Leadon Valley provided the fruit for finer ciders and perrys. Today, farming is less specifically geographical. Big estates running into thousands of acres exist cheek by jowl with small, often organic producers that are exploiting the revival in interest in local food production and in traditional ‘rare’ breeds. The Gloucester Old Spot pig, being fattier and thus providing more flavorsome meat, has made a comeback. Gloucester cattle are an ancient breed, numerous in the Severn Vale and throughout Gloucestershire as early as the 13th century. They were valued for their meat and milk (producing cheese) and as strong draught oxen – they too, are enjoying a surge in popularity. Double Gloucester is a classic British cheese made by several producers including the Smart family. Other cheese producers include Charles Martell (Stinking Bishop and Pear Spirit), Gorsehill Abbey (St. Eadburgha), and Godsells (Leonard Stanley and others) to name a few of the better-known ones – there are others. Apart from ciders and Perrys, there are several small breweries producing fine beers, among them Donnington’s, Stanway, Hook Norton, Prescott, Uley, and Battledown. Farmers markets have made a comeback: the Saturday market at Stroud is one of the best in the country but there are many others in all the major towns of the region.
Country pubs offer good snack food and, in some case, excellent dining. Good restaurants abound, with a couple boasting Michelin stars.