Cotswolds hit by poverty and drugs, says novelist Trollope

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The novelist Joanna Trollope, who once said beautiful Gloucestershire was in her bones, has outraged her Cotswold neighbours by claiming "knickerless youngsters" scavenge through bins.

The novelist Joanna Trollope, who once said beautiful Gloucestershire was in her bones, has outraged her Cotswold neighbours by claiming "knickerless youngsters" scavenge through bins.

In a recent interview, the "Aga saga" author said that children in the Cotswolds' honey-coloured villages go to school with no underclothes, and claimed that up-market Cheltenham had a drugs problem.

"Teachers in the beautiful Cotswolds find pupils scavenging through bins," Ms Trollope told the Radio Times magazine. "I am certain we have teenage prostitutes. Gloucester is a rough city, Cheltenham has an appalling drugs record and the Forest of Dean is a peculiar area."

The comments contrast with the novelist's foreword to The Romantic Road, a guidebook to the Cotswolds and Cheltenham. In the book she described the area as beautiful. "I was born here, spent the most memorable times of my childhood and adolescence here, and 14 years ago, returned to live here for good."

She added that she had never set a novel in the county for the very good reason that she wished to continue to live there with a clear conscience.

However, Ms Trollope's recent about-face has angered Gloucestershire Tourist Board. Chris Dee, a tourist officer, said: "I live in Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds and I have never seen anything like that. If it was as bleak as that we would not have had tourists coming back. There is rural poverty and every area has its problems, but the feedback we get from visitors is fantastic."

Rachel Lewis, tourism officer for Forest of Dean District Council, agreed. "I have never seen anyone knickerless in the Cotswolds, and while she refers to the Forest of Dean as peculiar, it is an ordinary, close-knit community."

Ms Trollope was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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