Quintessential England - Coming to the Cotswolds

Saturday 4th July, 2015
Sunday 5th July, 2015
Monday 6th July, 2015
Tuesday 7th July, 2015
Wednesday 8th July, 2015
Thursday 9th July, 2015
Friday 10th July, 2015
Saturday 11th July, 2015

Saturday 4th July, 2015

Drop Cap grey start this morning with a short shower of rain, but by the time we stopped for morning tea at a services on the M4 it had cleared and became a lovely sunny day.

Stow Inn photograph
The Old Stocks Inn, Stow on the Wold

Drop Cap e made good time on motorways until we turned off for a lunch stop at Stow-on-the-Wold. Stow was en fete with a festival for the 4th July, celebrating the close links between the US and the Cotswolds over two world wars. We parked in a field and paid three pounds for all day, which seemed good value, and toddled off to find lunch and see what was happening.

American Cars at Stow photograph
American Cars at Stow

Drop Cap ots of stalls, games, music, exhibitions, some historic and modern American vehicles including Army trucks, all supporting charities. The parking fee supported a children's cancer support group called the Sam Pilcher Trust and there were other groups represented as well.

Mac at Stow photograph
Wandering in the Market Place, Stow on the Wold

Drop Cap e had a substantial lunch in a very nice teashop and walked for a bit around the town square, then decided to head for Witney, where a local guy had told Geoff there was a camera shop. We didn't find it, but did find a huge Sainsbury's Superstore, where we did our shopping. By this time it was nearly 1700, so we headed for Swerford, following the directions we had received from our hosts, Richard and Annabelle, arriving about 1730.

Swereview Cottage photograph
Swereview Cottage from the Garden

Exterior Swereview photograph
Entrance to Swereview Cottage

Drop Cap wereview Cottage is very pretty, tiny, but would be great for a couple. We have a lovely double, with a computer in the wardrobe, the kitchen is well equipped and the bathroom spacious.

Annabelle had left us a home-made cake, orange juice and milk in the kitchen. The fridge is tiny, same size as on the canal boat, no freezer, but other guests have left quite a range of condiments, cooking sauces, oil etc in the cupboards.

Stairs Swereview photograph
"Space Saver" Stairs in Swereview Cottage

Drop Cap nfortunately, Geoff's room is up what Annabelle calls a "space saver staircase' i.e. very steep with steps only half there, difficult to describe but it means each step is a sort of L-shape so Geoff is going to have to be very careful. Especially if he has to get up in the middle of the night (the bathroom, and all the other rooms, are downstairs). Mac is really feeling edgy about it and so am I, but trying not to spook Geoff.
Anyway we are here for two weeks, God help us all.

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Sunday 5th July, 2015

Drop Cap oday was one of those changeable days you get in England (or NZ or Tasmania, or Melbourne!) It started off cloudy, then fined up, then black clouds and thunder and heavy rain, then when we got home, sun again!

Garden at Swereview photograph
Garden at Swereview Cottage

Garden at Swereview photograph
Garden at Swereview Cottage

Drop Cap e got up late and had a lazy breakfast and a leisurely shower, then went for an explore. We first explored the beautiful gardens here on site. They are quite extensive and colourful, not overregimented but not overgrown either. Annabelle is a keen gardener but at the moment has one wrist in plaster and in a sling following surgery. There is a pond, barbecue and picnic tables. Quite lovely.

Swerford Church photograph
Swerford Church

Swerford Village photograph
Swerford Village

Drop Cap hen we went for a walk to explore the village of Swerford. It is tiny, no shops, not even a pub in walking distance. We walked up the main road to the church and war memorial on a little triangular green. The village houses are all built of the local golden Cotswold stone, dripping with roses and hanging baskets, so picturesque.

Alpacas at Manor Farm photograph
Alpacas at Grange Farm

Drop Cap e discovered Grange Farm which has a farm shop open on weekends with local produce and wonderful looking baked goods made by the lady in charge. I bought a very large roasting potato for tonight's baked dinner and a couple of magical light croissants to have with soup for lunch. They had a group of alpacas in the field beside the drive, they are always so cute. Then we walked back and had lunch.

Rollright Stones photograph
The Rollright Stones

Drop Cap e planned to go to the Rollright Stones, a megalithic stone circle quite close to here but then the Heavens opened. So we sat it out and sure enough the sun came out again so we went off to Rollright. We found the site quite easily, paid our pound to the Warden, a lady with a card table full of papers out in the middle of the field. She was attempting to keep them dry with a large plastic sheet but the wind was getting up too.

Mac at Rollright photograph
Mac at Rollright Stones

Drop Cap nyway, we went in to see the "King's Men", which was a smallish stone circle with an indeterminate number of stones, some of which were truncated or flattened. They were extremely weathered limestone, the rain and wind of centuries had pitted and worn them and lichen was growing on many of them. There was the usual legend regarding counting the stones, apparently it is not possible to count them. Probably because many have gone the way of all silica and ground down. The circle was used as a set for Tom Baker's Doctor Who in "The Stones of Blood" many years ago.

Rollright Stones photograph
Rollright Stones

Drop Cap t is a very interesting group and I can't believe we missed them last time we were here in 1989. We saw the group called "The Whispering Knights" and "The King Stone" but completely missed the circle! While we were here the black clouds returned and thunder rolled. The rain came on very heavily so we returned to the car to sit it out. Sure enough, it stopped long enough to let us walk to the Knights and the King Stone before raining again.

Geoff at Whispering Knights photograph
Geoff at Whispering Knights

Drop Cap e decided to head for Wyatt's Farm Shop and Tearoom (as recommended by the Rollright Trust) and we had afternoon tea (over which I prefer to draw a veil - rather too pointy for words, very nice though). Then we came home in brilliant sun.

I will be cooking roast lamb tonight, but not yet.

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Monday 6th July, 2015

Drop Cap ostly fine today, even sunny quite a lot of the day. We headed first for Witney to find Geoff a camera shop. Which we did, and he bought a new polarising lens which he has been wanting since we arrived in Britain. Since Witney is a large town we took the opportunity to take our posting boxes to the Post Office, which is inside WH Smiths and post them off home.

Minster Lovell photograph
Minster Lovell Village

Drop Cap hen we headed off again, following a recommendation from janisj on Fodor's Travel Forum, to the picturesque village of Minster Lovell. This tiny place is absolutely beautiful, golden stone cottages, thatched roofs, the full olde Englishe idyll. We had a large lunch at the Old Swan and Minster Mill Pub, circa 1445, full of tiny rooms, low beams and uneven flagstone floors.

Old Swan Inn Minster Lovell photograph
Old Swan Inn Minster Lovell

Drop Cap he food was good, if pricy, but the atmosphere was worth it. I had a large beef burger, quite delicious, Mac had steak and ale pie and Geoff had fish and chips, his usual default. They both had dessert, but I was strong. I did have a glass of rose and Geoff had a cider. We finished with coffee and home made fudge, very nice.

Minster Lovell photograph
Minster Lovell Village

Drop Cap he pub was set in extensive gardens with ponds and running water. We met a large cat on the footpath from the carpark and passed its house, a large kennel with his name on a board outside. In the pond there was a pair of ducks, also with their own house with their names on. We decided we liked the place before we even got inside.

St Kenelm Church photograph
St Kenelm's Church, Minster Lovell

Minster Lovell Hall photograph
Minster Lovell Hall

Drop Cap fter lunch we walked out through the village (one street) until we found the old church of St. Kenelm. There were some incredibly old gravestones in the churchyard as one would expect of such an old place, and behind the church was Old Minster Lovell Hall, a ruin in the care of English Heritage. I don't suppose it gets much attention, there wasn't even an admission fee. But the grass is mown and there are quite good signs telling what the bits would originally have been like.

Minster Lovell Hall photograph
Minster Lovell Hall

Drop Cap ccording to what I have read, the original Lovell was a friend and supporter of Richard III but was brought down of course, when Richard was killed. There are various other legends attached to it and it is supposed to be haunted. Didn't freak us out at all!

Minster Lovell Dovecote photograph
Minster Lovell Dovecote

Drop Cap he nearby farm used to be part of the Lovell estate and contains a lovely medieval dovecote. However, the farmer has recently fenced off access - probably sick of irresponsible tourists (not us!) tramping all over his land and letting their dogs off lead. So many people seem to think if they carry the dog's lead it counts as being on lead. And of course their dog is so well-behaved! Huh!

Stream at ML photograph
Riverside at Minster Lovell

Drop Cap here was a walk beside the river back to the Old Swan so we took it instead of the road and walked back to the car. Mac and Geoff went to look at the Mill for which the pub is named, which apparently generates all the power for Minster Lovell from the river. Mac says it is an Archimedes Screw, not a mill wheel. There seems to be a lot of alternate energy used in this country, also in Europe, where we saw whole roofs full of solar panels and many wind farms. Very good, we could take a leaf from that book here.

Drop Cap hen we drove home, Geoff had his afternoon snack, (not before time, he was sliding off) and we have decided just to have sandwiches for tea, having had a main meal already today. It has been another quite interesting day.

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Tuesday 7th July, 2015

Drop Cap his morning it rained, quite heavily, for the morning so we sat it out. By recent standards we thought it would clear, and sure enough, it did.

When the sky started showing patches of blue, we went out and headed for Broadway Tower. We arrived at Broadway Tower Country Park around midday and parked by the Morris and Brown Cafe and Gift Shop. We paid two pounds for parking which was refunded when we bought the tickets. We decided to have lunch first, so went to the café. Mac had a beef pasty with salad, I had a tuna and red onion roll with salad and Geoff had pate and toast and a sausage roll.

Broadway Tower photograph
Broadway Tower

Drop Cap hen we walked up to the Tower. This is an incredible artefact, a folly built in the late 17th Century just to add interest to the family landscape. It has had a chequered career since , being used as a signal beacon, a home to an eccentric schoolmaster, a holiday place for William Morris and the pre-Raphaelites, and an observation post during both world wars. There is even a nuclear bunker which housed observers during the cold war whose job it was to monitor fallout if the bomb was dropped.

View from Tower photograph
View from Broadway Tower

Drop Cap e climbed up the spiral staircase, stopping at every floor for an exhibition of some kind, from William Morris to the Royal Observers etc, then went out on to the roof in the howling gale for the quite incredible view in all directions. There was a field just below the tower, which is set in a country park, with quite a herd of deer strolling around. The place was beautiful and intriguing and well worth the visit. Mac bought me a very pretty ceramic box with a William Morris design while we were there.

Broadway photograph

Drop Cap hen we left we drove on to the lovely little town of Broadway, glowing golden in the afternoon sun. Broadway of course is one of the "honeypots" of the Cotswolds, being overrun with coach loads of tourists all summer, but it was not too crowded in the afternoon.

Lygon Arms Broadway photograph
Lygon Arms Hotel, Broadway

Drop Cap e found a parking area, paid and displayed, then wandered off, up and down the main drag, window shopping and taking photos of the old shops and pubs, and the Lygon Arms Hotel (much more than just a pub) antique and gift shops, galleries and teashops.

Broadway photograph

Drop Cap e have been here before but the charm of Broadway certainly still pervades. I love these little towns, somewhat more than villages like Swerford. They give the impression of a bygone age, a stereotypical ideal of England which is probably nothing like the reality. People would not really like to live in a museum.

Broadway Deli photograph
Broadway Deli

Drop Cap suppose there is somewhere Broadway residents buy necessities, but we only passed a very upmarket fruit and veg shop calling itself a Deli, no supermarkets or even ordinary groceries and meat. They probably have to go further afield to Stow-on-the Wold or somewhere like it.

We had a cream tea here, very nice, then headed home. It turned into a good, if very windy, day.

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Wednesday 8th July, 2015

Bewdley Bridge photograph
Bewdley Bridge

Drop Cap nother changeable day, but it ended up mostly fine. We headed off early for our longest trip so far, to Bewdley in the Midlands. Bewdley is where Mac and his parents had a weekender "bungalow" in a field by the Severn River and he wanted to see Bewdley again.

Bewdley Sweetshop photograph
Mac at Bewdley Sweetshop

Drop Cap e arrived at about midday and found a park in a long-term parking area for a couple of hours. Mac rediscovered the Sweet Shop which had been there when he was a child, although in deference to Weightwatchers we did not explore the interior!

Bewdley Museum photograph
Bewdley Museum

Drop Cap hen we found a café for lunch in the Bewdley Museum. This museum was fantastic. I have never seen a provincial museum so well laid out. It was set in a series of craft workshops (remnants of previous incarnations) all of which had people working and demonstrating in them. There was just so much variety.

Bewdley Museum photograph
Bewdley Museum Garden

Bewdley Museum photograph
Bewdley Museum Air Raid Shelter

Drop Cap t even included an air-raid shelter from WWII which was purpose built to shelter post office workers on site and an historic timeline display of the town itself. A very good museum.

Bewdley High Street photograph
Bewdley High Street

Drop Cap fter lunch we walked around this beautiful little town. It is mostly a Georgian market town but has quite a few medieval and Tudor areas, the town is much older than Georgian. The town is picturesquely set on the Severn with an historic bridge spanning it.

Bewdley photograph
Bewdley Across the Bridge

Bewdley Station photograph
Bewdley Railway Station

Drop Cap n the other side of the bridge we found the Station of the Severn Valley Railway which, to our good luck, was having a special running day in steam. The day took the form of a celebration of the end of the Second World War with bunting, exhibitions, posters of the appropriate vintage "Is Your Journey Strictly Necessary?" and so on. Geoff even saw a sign which said "Danger - Unexploded Bomb".

Severn Valley photograph
Severn Valley Railway Engine

Drop Cap e bought tickets to Bridgnorth and return which were really day rover tickets and quite expensive. The ticket seller said we didn't have much time left (to enjoy it, I suppose) but we had enough time left to get to Bridgnorth, via Northwood Halt (Mac's old stop near the bungalow) Arley, Highley and Hampton Loade. It was a great chug through the scenery and there was even a guy with a trolley of goodies.

Drop Cap hen we got back it was nearly 1700 but Mac wanted to drive along to see if his old weekender was still there. It was - fifty years on and it is still there, not quite the same, but still - fifty years!

Drop Cap rove home, arrived about 1930. I cooked pasta and turkey meatballs. Thanks Papa Dolmio!

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Thursday 9th July, 2015

Drop Cap oday I thought we should have a rest day so of course it was a lovely fine day. So I did a load of washing and drying and while it was going Mac and I walked off on a marked Public Footpath in the direction, allegedly, of Hook Norton, a village somewhat larger than Swerford which has a shop.

Drop Cap e walked a couple of miles over paddocks, with and without cows, fields with or without standing crops of very healthy looking wheat, spangled with red poppies and (maybe) blue cornflowers, lots of willowherb and other wild flowers, over stiles with and without electric fencing (!) until we ended up in a farmyard where a tractor driver told us we had gone wrong (we guessed that!) and gave us directions.

Drop Cap e decided just to retrace our steps and go home, which we did. We found Geoff and Annabelle at the front gate discussing the damage just done to the gatepost by a delivery driver who had left bits of his red light glass among the debris but had not bothered to stop (and apologise if nothing else!) We decided to drive to Wyatt's Farm Shop where we had afternoon tea on Sunday, and buy what we could and have lunch there. So we did that, good crusty baguettes and salad. I bought some quite expensive meat and some bake at home rolls, crisps etc.

Drop Cap e put them in our home made chiller box and drove off to find Hook Norton by road. This is how we found out it is quite large, having a dentist, a library and two shops. The one called The Village Shop is quite an Aladdin's Cave as it extends way past the confines of the small village shopfront and has extensions with flowers, booze and all sorts of veg. I was able to buy Greek yoghurt and various other things which I didn't expect.

Drop Cap eoff left us here and said he would walk home. It is supposed to be two miles but I suspect they are "country miles". We said to phone if he got into trouble or lost but when we got home we could not get a signal. I don't understand how they can sell you access to something which just does not exist in the majority of the country! Cities yes, but we tend to get places which aren't! Oh well, I guess he will survive.

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Friday 10th July, 2015

Blenheim Palace photograph
Entrance to Blenheim Palace

Drop Cap oday was another lovely day. The sun shone and the air sparkled as we drove east to Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.

The Palace is in Woodstock and we arrived there and got Geoff some morning tea before going to the fancy arched gateway leading to the extensive grounds of the Palace and drove in. We bought our tickets at the gate (53 pounds!) and drove on to the parking lot.

Blenheim Palace photograph
Blenheim Palace Terrace Facade

Drop Cap e decided to look at the house itself before anything else and maybe take a tour of the State Apartments. However, by the time we had gone through the exhibit devoted to Winston Churchill it was 1145 and the crowds were building up to the point where it was getting claustrophobic.

Blenheim Palace Water Garden photograph
Water Garden at Blenheim Palace

Drop Cap o we dipped out and went to have an early lunch. While having lunch we decided to take the offered option of upgrading our one day ticket to a twelve month pass. This was a free upgrade and although we know we won't be back soon we felt that if we had a free day next week, especially if it rains, we can return and see the house. So we did this and now are proud possessors of photo ID cards entitling us to free entry to Blenheim.

Mac and Geoff at Blenheim Palace  photograph
Mac and Geoff at Blenheim Palace

Drop Cap his in hand we went to see the formal gardens. These are really beautiful, the Water Terrace has fountains and statues, we followed signs to the Italian Garden which is private , and the "Secret Garden" which was lovely. It was like a maze with paths going off in all directions, a little waterfall and a pond with waterlilies.

Blenheim Palace Rose Garden photograph
Rose Garden at Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace Cascade photograph
Blenheim Palace Cascade

Drop Cap ollowing the Lakeside Walk we visited the beautiful Rose Garden, blooming magnificently and perfuming the air, then we walked through the Arboretum to the Cascade. This was designed by Capability Brown (who always knew better than nature herself) and was very picturesque. The lake itself was formed by damming the river - these aristocrats knew no restraints because nobody told them they couldn't, as would surely happen today. I can hear the shouts of Ecological Vandalism!

Blenheim Temple photograph
Temple of Diana at Blenheim Palace

Drop Cap e passed the Temple of Diana, another folly in the grounds, where Winston Churchill proposed to his Clementine. According to papers in the exhibit on Churchill, she was getting impatient with his long drawn out courtship and had determined that if he did not pop the question on that weekend she would give him up. But he did - hard to think of Churchill being scared to put himself to the test!

Blenheim Palace Lakeside photograph
Blenheim Palace Lakeside

Drop Cap he Lakeside Walk continued through charming woodland and waterlilied sweeps of lake before returning back to the Water Terrace. We went into the Water Terrace Cafe for afternoon tea but had to procrastinate until 1530 when they started serving it. Only lunch available until then! So Mac and I had an ice cream while Geoff had tea with scone, jam and cream.

Blenheim Palace Victory Column photograph
Blenheim Palace Victory Column

Drop Cap fter this we went through the gift shop where I bought a guide book and Geoff as usual bought out the place. Then we went outside to walk across the bridge to the Victory Column (for the battle of Blenheim) and maybe get a photo of the bridge itself - not easy. We ended up by driving up the wrong road for a view of the bridge before turning around and leaving by the correct road.

Drop Cap t has been a very enjoyable day, even if we didn't see much of the Palace in detail but hopefully we will get the chance to go back next week.

All up we have walked over ten kilometers today!

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Saturday 11th July, 2015

Drop Cap e had a non-stressful day today. We went to the Cotswolds Falconry Centre at Batsford Arboretum near Moreton-in-Marsh.

Eagle Owl at CFC photograph
Eagle Owl at Cotswolds Falconry Centre

Drop Cap his was the strangest of the many falconry places we have visited. The object was more education than entertainment, showing audiences how birds actually behave and what influences their behaviour. There was an element of a comedy sketch in some of the setups as the keeper hared off into the surrounding fields trying to get the birds interested in doing anything!

Golden Eagle at CFC photograph
Golden Eagle at Cotswolds Falconry Centre

Drop Cap ll the other falconry shows we have seen had basically trained birds doing things to entertain. At the Cotswolds Falconry Centre the people proudly proclaimed that the birds were not performing animals.
Therefore, since it was a day without much wind, the larger birds found it difficult to get airborne and some of the smaller ones just flew away! and sat in a tree ignoring the ever-more desperate calls and lures and bits of chicken brandished by the keeper.

Geoff Owling at CFC photograph
Face Off at Cotswolds Falconry Centre

Drop Cap e saw three of these demonstrations, pausing to have lunch at the café in the Arboretum and all up saw owls (the most co-operative) falcons, a golden eagle, another south American eagle which flew away and refused to come back and some really large vultures which needed a lot more wind to really become airborne. Geoff, as usual, took the opportunity to handle an owl. He has had staring contests with several in various places.

Bald Eagle at CFC photograph
Bald Eagle at Cotswolds Falconry Centre

Drop Cap uring the day we saw up to six gliders (aircraft) circling in the thermals and the birds' keeper was trying to encourage the birds to go and do likewise. Our host at our cottage, Richard, is a glider pilot with his own aircraft, I must ask him if he was one of the pilots up there today.

( He was flying today, but he was not one of the gliders we saw. )

Cotswold Falconry Centre photograph
Cotswolds Falconry Centre

Drop Cap nyway we came home via Hook Norton for some shopping and had afternoon tea at home. A restful day.

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