Published On: Sat, Mar 2nd, 2024

The beautiful little town that looks just like UK’s Cotswolds but is 5.6k miles away | Travel News | Travel

A beautiful little town that mirrors the UK’s Cotswolds has everything you would expect to see in a typical English village but is located 5.6k miles away from Britain.

Thames Town in China is home to pretty Victorian houses, red telephone boxes, Georgian townhouses, and cobbled streets, all of which are classical features of a British town.

Located 40 minutes away from Shanghai’s downtown, this little town was completed in 2006 and offered low-density housing to 10,000 members of Shanghai’s elite, who could afford the above-average property prices.

In early 2001, the Shanghai Planning Commission started an experiment. They wanted to attract half a million people away from the busy streets of the world’s largest city and improve its less popular outskirts.

They planned nine new suburban communities as part of the “One City, Nine Towns” project. Each suburb was designed to look and feel like a Western city. Songjiang District, southwest of Shanghai, became “Thames Town”.

Over three years, two billion yuan (approximately £260 million) was invested to transform rice paddies into Merrie Olde England.

Every detail was meticulously attended to, including the importation of authentic lampposts from Britain.

Additionally, a true-to-scale replica of Christ Church, a charming Gothic parish church in Bristol, was constructed in the town square.

Middle-class newlyweds in China often choose Thames Town as the backdrop for their English-themed wedding photos.

The names of the roads in the town have also been kept to make it feel like Britain. The road names, such as Oxford Street, Soho Street and Chelsea Street, sound appropriately English.

British engineering firm Atkins modelled many of the designs after buildings near its offices in Bristol, located in the southwest of England.

Atkins reportedly won an international competition to plan and design the development on farmland 25 miles southwest of central Shanghai, while a local firm was responsible for construction.

Houses in Thames Town sold quickly, but the middle class didn’t move in as expected. Due to a real estate bubble in China, the homes became too expensive for many Shanghai residents, and instead, wealthy Chinese bought them as investments or second homes.

Most of the international “Nine Towns” project was never finished. In Thames Town, replica storefronts and pubs with authentic signage remain empty, making it a ghost town.

Many travellers who have been to the town have shared their experiences on Trip Advisor. While some were impressed with the model town, others were left disappointed.

One user wrote: “I decided to visit Thames Town on a Saturday. It wasn’t very busy, but still busy enough.

“The town is very nice! It really does feel like I’ve stepped back into the UK! Lovely little town to just walk around and escape Shanghai.

“I found a cute little cafe called The Elephant House (just round the corner from Starbucks) which I recommend.”

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