Lovely in Lavender - Cotswolds Two

Sunday 12th July, 2015
Monday 13th July, 2015
Tuesday 14th July, 2015
Wednesday 15th July, 2015
Thursday 16th July, 2015
Friday 17th July, 2015
Saturday 18th July, 2015
Sunday 19th July, 2015

Sunday 12th July, 2015

Drop Cap nother iffy day, raining one minute, hot sun the next. We spent it at Stratford-upon-Avon. It is about 20 miles or so from here and we went via Banbury, a rather nice town centre with a market cross and a statue of a fine lady upon a horse, with rings on her fingers etc. etc.

Stratford Canal Basin photograph
Canal Basin, Stratford on Avon

Drop Cap e thought Stratford might well be very busy so decided to try a Park and Ride, but after paying a pound for the parking we discovered the service doesn't run on Sundays! Not amused. So we went on into the town and found a parking station right in the centre of things and bought four hours of parking. We walked by the tourist info centre and got a map, then walked across the road to the canal basin. There was a Sunday market going on with lots of stalls selling arts and crafts (mostly jewellery - some lovely)

Stratford Baguette Barge photograph
Stratford Baguette Barge

Drop Cap e bought delicious salad baguettes from the Baguette Barge moored on the water and went for a cruise up the canal, through the lock and out on to the River and back.

Stratford Cruise Boat photograph
Cruise Boat, Stratford on Avon

Holy Trinity photograph
Holy Trinity Church in the Rain

Drop Cap uckily we were undercover because it poured rain for a while. But we passed the lovely Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was baptised and buried, and the new(ish) RSC Theatre which has a high tower beside it which you can go up for a panoramic view (when it is not raining). Mac and I made use of the facilities there before continuing.

RSC Theatre Tower photograph
RSC Theatre Tower, Stratford

Old Stratford on Avon photograph
Stratford on Avon

Drop Cap e walked up into the Old section of town, passed Hall's Croft, one of the Shakespeare Family homes, which is closed for an archaeological dig and up among the black and white buildings scattered liberally among the Georgian and Victorian ones.

Stratford on Avon photograph
Stratford on Avon

Old Stratford on Avon photograph
Stratford on Avon

Drop Cap he only one we could say was undoubtedly genuine was Shakespeare's birthplace. This ancient pile is not painted black and white but is kept in the original buff and cream. We have been in it before so did not bother this time. The town was seething with hordes of people, many from coach tours, surprise, surprise.

Geoff at Shakespeare's Birthplace photograph
Geoff at Shakespeare's Birthplace

Stratford Canal Lock photograph
Stratford Canal Lock

Drop Cap e strolled along the picturesque streets back to the canal basin. We are always attracted to canals and there were many boats moored up there. We went for a walk along the towpath to a flight of very narrow locks and then walked back to the car and headed out. We had intended to find afternoon tea somewhere but there were only pubs and the only one we tried said somewhat snootily that they did not serve afternoon tea, they were still serving Sunday lunch. This was at 1600! Sunday lunch seems to be a long ritual.

So we had afternoon coffee at home again and I watched the last set of the men's final at Wimbledon (Djokovic beat Federer - boo)

Drop Cap omorrow we are thinking of returning to Blenheim, maybe. See what the weather brings.

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Monday 13th July, 2015

Drop Cap t was raining gently this morning so we decided to go back to Blenheim as the helpful staff member had told us that they usually didn't get so many visitors when it rained.

Blenheim Gate photograph
Gate to Blenheim Palace

Drop Cap he carpark was, however, quite full when we arrived at about 1130. Flashing our cards we went into the palace and quickly moved through the Winston Churchill exhibit, having seen it on Friday. Then we joined a guided tour of the State Apartments at 1145 and wandered through , past the Great Hall with its columns and painted dome ceiling, past collections of Chinese porcelain from the 16th C, into the lovely Drawing Rooms, the massive and impressive Dining Saloon and the well-named Long Library. This last, a wonderful two storied library, ending with a large pipe organ, was originally intended to be the standard Long Gallery or Picture Gallery where the ladies could walk for exercise on inclement days but was turned into a library by the 7th or 8th Duke.

M and R at Blenheim photograph
Mac and Rosemary at Blenheim

Drop Cap e had lunch in the Water Terrace Cafe; all the outside tables were closed because of the rain but we got the last table vacant inside (seated eight, oh well) and shared it with another friendly couple. Mac and I had tomato and paprika soup with a square of "rustic" bread and Geoff had fishcakes, chips and garlic bread.

Drop Cap fter lunch we went back to the Palace and joined the group waiting to view "The Untold Story" of Blenheim (patently untrue) which was told with figures and holograms and generally interesting vignettes of the lives of several generations of the family, joined by the "ghost" of Grace Ridley, maid of honour to the first Duchess, who got more and more upset by the time passing and making Blenheim unfamiliar. It was really very well done.

Blenheim Gates photograph
Blenheim Gates

Drop Cap hen we left we drove through Bladon to try and see the grave of Sir Winston Churchill which we did eventually after missing it on the first pass. I am assuming the large white monument in the churchyard was it.

Came home for afternoon coffee. We are going out for dinner at "The Masons Arms", a local gastro-pub about half a mile away. I will report later.


Drop Cap inner at the Masons' Arms was very good indeed. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Being a Monday there were not many people eating but we had three courses each. Mac and I started with baked brie parcels in filo, yummy. Geoff had tempura battered tiger prawns. I had cajun chicken, spicy and sizzly, Mac had braised beef cobbler and Geoff had a beef burger. Then I had raspberry and white chocolate creme brulee, Mac had bakewell tart with poached pear and Geoff had a selection of sorbets and ice cream. With a bottle of Italian rose and coffee with homemade fudge it came to eighty seven pounds with a ten pound tip. A good meal and not too expensive either.

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Tuesday 14th July, 2015

Sudeley Castle photograph
First Sight of Sudeley Castle

Drop Cap nother mizzly day, on and off. After a morning of chores, washing, packing a post box, shopping etc we headed off after lunch at home to Sudeley Castle.

Sudeley Castle Water Garden photograph
Sudeley Castle Water Garden

Drop Cap udeley Castle was the home of Catherine (Kateryn) Parr, surviving wife of Henry VIII. It was also home to the Earls of Chandos and was held for the king and besieged by the Roundheads during the Civil War. It was "slighted" by Cromwell, meaning so ruinous that it could no longer be viable to fight. You can still see holes made by cannon balls in some walls.

Richard III Range at Sudeley photograph
Richard III's Banqueting Hall, Sudeley Castle

Drop Cap owever, at least part of it has been restored and is lived in by the owners. Funnily enough, when we visited Herry Lawford on the following day and mentioned we had been to Sudeley, it turned out that he knew the current owners - "delightful people" . There are several ranges of ruins, the most picturesque (in my opinion) being King Richard III's banqueting hall. Yes, he lived there too. Or owned it at any rate.

Sudeley Castle photograph
Sudeley Castle

Drop Cap here is a very interesting exhibition in the castle, showing Sudeley from prehistoric times, through the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Medieval etc. It had a good exhibit about Richard III and another about the wives of Henry VIII. And first and second world wartimes and how they affected the family and the local district as well.

788 St Marys Church photograph
St Marys Church at Sudeley Castle

Drop Cap he gardens were particularly beautiful with thick yew hedges and fountains, a large pool with waterlilies and huge carp and the Victorian restored church which holds the tomb of Catherine Parr which was discovered in the mid 1700s.

Interior St Marys photograph
Gothic Interior of St Marys Church, Sudeley Castle

Drop Cap he story is quite interesting. The church, along with most of the castle was in considerable disrepair but the ruins were visited by tourists, as it is today. One afternoon some ladies, poking about the church found what seemed to be a casket. They asked the local farmer to excavate it and found a labelled coffin containing the remains of Queen Catherine Parr.

Tomb of Catherine Parr photograph
Tomb of Queen Catherine Parr at Sudeley

Drop Cap he Victorians always liked to improve on what they found, so the church was rebuilt in Victorian Gothic Style and an elaborate tomb for Queen Catherine was included.

Mac and Geoff at Sudeley photograph
Mac and Geoff at Sudeley Castle

Drop Cap ll in all it was a pleasant afternoon. We had afternoon tea in the Terrace Cafe and it was an enjoyable excursion.

Tomorrow we venture to Stockbridge in Hampshire to have lunch with Herry Lawford, Neil's ex-father-in-law. It will be interesting to catch up, we haven't seen him in five years.

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Wednesday, 15th July, 2015

Drop Cap oday we trekked seventy miles into Hampshire to visit Herry Lawford.

Drop Cap e started early, circumnavigating Oxford, and arrived much too early in Stockbridge at about 1100. So we went up the road a bit and spent some time at Danebury Ring Hillfort, an archaeological site outside Stockbridge. It looked an interesting place, very spread out but I was dressed up and did not want to dirty my white pants and sandals.

Drop Cap o we returned to Stockbridge and lucked a parking place right outside Herry's house but it was still a bit early so we had a stroll along the main street of Stockbridge, an attractive High Street with many interesting shops, tea rooms, pubs but none of the usual chain stores.

Visiting Herry photograph
Visiting Herry Lawford in Hampshire

Drop Cap eturning to Herry's, we met him on the street. He said he would have had difficulty recognising me and also Mac, but that Geoff had not changed. He took us into his lovely Grade II* listed Old Swan House. It is fairly unprepossessing from the outside but lovely inside. Herry had added an extension for kitchen, dining room and garden room and there was a surprisingly large and beautiful garden with a pond.

Herry's Garden photograph
Herry's Garden

Drop Cap erry gave us lunch, cold coronation chicken with salad and new potatoes. And a glass of rose wine. All very good. We had coffee and conversation in the garden and left about 1515. After a very good run home we arrived about 1640, in time for Geoff's afternoon tea. It has been a pleasant day

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Thursday 16th July, 2015

Drop Cap nother very pleasant day, today. We drove to the Slaughters, Upper and Lower, and Bourton on the Water, Cotswold icons all and well deserving.

Bridge at Lower Slaughter photograph
Bridge at Lower Slaughter

Drop Cap pper Slaughter was charming but there was nowhere to park so we continued on to Lower Slaughter. This is the most beautiful village. We found somewhere to park and went for a stroll. We walked beside the little shallow stream, punctuated by little clapper bridges beside the lovely golden stone cottages.

Repurposed Horse Trough photograph
Repurposed Horse Trough at Lower Slaughter

Drop Cap ower Slaughter - the name incidentally has nothing to do with blood and violence, it is old English for a swampy or marshy place, like Slaughter Bay on Norfolk Island - is the most idyllic of the many idyllic villages we have seen, there were no shops, so very little traffic, just a hotel, a beautiful church and other old features like a Victorian horse trough, filled with flowers.

Old Mill LS photograph
The Old Mill at Lower Slaughter

Drop Cap s we went we discovered the Old Mill Museum with its ancient water wheel and substantial millpond. We went into the Mill Museum and looked around. Not very much remains but it is picturesque. There is a gift and craft shop at the mill which sells some really quirky stuff, like stone gargoyles and grotesques. What you would do with them I can't think!

Grotesque photograph
Grotesque in the Mill Shop


Peaceful Scene Lower Slaughter photograph
Peaceful Lower Slaughter

Drop Cap n exiting the Museum we found ourselves in the Waterside Cafe, so stopped for coffee and scones. Yum. We fell into conversation with a couple of elderly ladies while there, then headed off for Bourton.

Bourton photograph
Bourton on the Water

Drop Cap hinking there would be traffic chaos in Bourton, which is a centre for tourism by the sackload, we parked in a pay and display just outside the town centre and walked in. We found it was not actually too bad, we might have been able to get a park if we had tried.

Bourton photograph
Bourton on the Water

Drop Cap e explored this pretty town ("The Venice of the Cotswolds") with its little humped bridges and mazes of lanes and alleys. The TIO gave us a map and pointed out the high spots.

Bourton photograph
Bourton on the Water

Drop Cap e had lunch in the Rose Tree Restaurant on the riverside. It was charming and we ate outside, in the sunshine, watching the antics of some kids who were playing in the river. It can't have been very deep but they needed more of an eye kept on them, we thought. We decided on quite a substantial lunch because we don't have much food left and don't want to buy any more.

Old New Inn photograph
The Old New Inn, Bourton on the Water

Bourton Model Village photograph
Model Village Bourton on the Water

Drop Cap hen we walked up the High Street, past the Old New Inn to the Model Village. This is a 1/9th scale model of the central streets and buildings, all built in the same Cotswold stone as the real thing and surrounded by bonsai trees and shrubs , so it looks very realistic.

Giant Geoff photograph
Giant Geoff at the Model Village

Model Model Village Model Village photograph
Model Model Village, Model Village Bourton on the Water

Drop Cap e really enjoyed it. It is bigger at 1/9th scale than the other model villages we have seen and, like the village on the Isle of Wight, has its own model village incorporated. Such fun!

Drop Cap e walked back down the High Street to the Model Railway built in the back of a toyshop. This had three extensive layouts, two HO and one N gauge. They were excellent. The first one changed from day to night and back again with the lights on the stations and trains appropriately lit and the building lights coming on.

Drop Cap he second and third layouts had buttons you could push to change the signals etc and make the trains stop and go. It was really good, even including trucks and buses on the roads beside the tracks as well as the trains. It was great.

Black Violas photograph
Black Violas at Swereview Cottage

Drop Cap fter this we walked back to the car and came home for afternoon tea. We met Annabelle as we came in and I took the opportunity to ask her about the black flowers in one of the hanging baskets. I have never seen genuinely black flowers before. She says they are Violas, but I didn't catch the specific name. Amazing.

Drop Cap want to finish as much of my packing as I can tonight. Only one more day here, then Saturday and Sunday near Heathrow, probably Windsor way, then fly out on Sunday night.

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Friday 17th July, 2015

Snowshill Dovecote photograph
Dovecote at Snowshill Manor

Drop Cap ur last day! After doing a bit of housework, vacuuming the floors and cleaning the bathroom, we headed off to Snowshill Manor. This National Trust property near Broadway is a Tudor mansion with lovely gardens but there the resemblance to all the other lovely NT mansions ends!

Snowshill Exhibit photograph
Exhibited Armour at Snowshill Manor

Drop Cap he manor was owned by an eccentric collector whose eclectic collections included everything from tiny toys and intricate ornaments made of pieces of bone by French prisoners of war in Napoleonic times to several full suits of Samurai armour. Other, European style armour too, helmets and masks, model sailing ships and Chinese cabinets, musical instruments of all ages, pictures, bicycles from the earliest models, and household objects of all kinds. All were collected, not because of the rarity or value of the item, but because it was hand made with design integrity.

Snowshill Interior photograph
Snowshill Interior

Drop Cap e filled the manor from top to bottom and lived himself in the tiny "Priest's House" of the estate. To be honest, I didn't see the worth of a lot of the things, they were not logically laid out, just that every room had an eclectic mix of, frankly, dust-gathering junk! (Just my opinion!)

Snowshill Garden photograph
Snowshill Garden

Drop Cap e enjoyed the gardens much more. They were laid out as rooms, with a different theme for each. There was a fabulous view from the hilltop gardens over the surrounding rolling hills and a very pleasant walk to and from the Visitor Centre entrance and tea room.

Snowshill Lavender Fields photograph
Snowshill Lavender Fields

Drop Cap e had lunch in the tea room and afterwards decided to visit the Cotswold Lavender Farm, just down the road. This was an amazing place, fields and fields of different species of lavender in colours from white to vivid purple. The lavender must have been just about ready to harvest, it now being high summer and the sight and perfume was magical.

Snowshill Lavender photograph
Snowshill Lavender Fields

Drop Cap e went for a walk around some of the fields then repaired to their gift shop and tea room for afternoon coffee, scone and teacakes and a slice of lavender shortbread. An interesting flavour, Mac said it was like eating soap!

Snowshill Lavender Fields photograph
Snowshill Lavender Fields

Drop Cap nyway, that was our last day in the beautiful Cotswolds. Tomorrow we start the trek for home. We have enjoyed our stay in the quintessential England of the Cotswolds, we have had generally good weather and the chocolate box beauty of the area is everyone's dream of "Escaping to the Country". Back to the real world now!

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Saturday 18th July, 2015

Drop Cap e set off at about 0900 with final farewells to our hosts, Richard and Annabelle, and good wishes all round. We have really enjoyed our two weeks in Swerford, the cottage was comfortable, just the worry of Geoff maybe having a hypo and falling down the rather inadequate staircase. However, he survived with no problems.

Windsor Castle Wall photograph
Windsor Castle Wall

Drop Cap e headed towards London, but since we had lots of time, we went off to Windsor, getting there about 1145. It was a traffic and pedestrian madhouse but we got the very last place in a Riverside carpark in easy walking distance of the Castle. Unfortunately Mac backed into the brick wall behind us because the damned car, a VW Passat, has an electronic handbrake which disengages before the clutch engages and jerked backwards. It has happened a few times, but this is the first crunch.

Windsor Castle photograph
Windsor Castle Gates

Drop Cap nyway, we paid ten pounds for four hours parking and walked out and up Castle Hill. We decided to have lunch at a Wetherspoon's Pub, which was OK, then we walked up to the Castle. We had intended to go in but the queue stretched for blocks and it cost nearly twenty pounds each. So we decided not to waste the time and went on a Hop on Hop Off bus tour of Windsor and Eton instead.

Windsor Castle photograph
Windsor Castle Down the Long Walk

Drop Cap his was interesting and we were able to see the town and its ancient buildings from a different perspective. It is amazing to think that there has been a school at Eton since the 1400s. We saw some of Windsor Great Park, including the view along the Long Walk to the Castle, and went along the river.

Windsor Tour Boat photograph
Windsor Tour Boat

Windsor Riverside photograph
Windsor Riverside Moorings

Drop Cap hen we returned we walked down to the river and walked along the bank. There were quite a lot of cruisers and narrowboats moored there as well as cruise boats and lots of hire boats from kayaks to motor boats. We just missed a fortyfive minute cruise and didn't have time to wait for another, so we had an icecream and watched the river.

Drop Cap hen we picked up the car and tried to exit Windsor. We weren't sure where we were in relation to our hotel but Geoff's navigating came up trumps again.

Drop Cap owever, when we got to the airport environs we could not find the hotel. If Geoff had not noticed on our second pass of the area it should have been in, that a hotel over the road had a small sign saying it was "formerly the Hotel Arora", we might still be cruising up and down the airport perimeter fence.

Drop Cap ut here we are. Tomorrow we start for home.

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Sunday 19th July, 2015

Drop Cap e were all very happy with the "former Arora" , now the Heathrow Hotel Bath Road (for the time being). The rooms were comfortable and completely sound proofed so despite the airport just across the road, it was a quiet night. Mac went out to explore for the Europcar base and found it within walking distance, so that is very useful.

Drop Cap he hotel's Smith's Restaurant served us one of the best meals we have had in this country, so that was fine. Funnily enough I rate the two dinners we had at airport hotels, Holiday Inn at Glasgow and this Heathrow one as the two best meals I have had this trip. Quite amazing, really, considering we have eaten in Paris, Prague, Nuremburg, London. The meals on the boat were good though.

Drop Capnfortunately, just after breakfast this morning I was getting up from a low seat and felt a sudden sharp pain in my lower back. I waited for it to go but it didn't and I have been in quite a lot of pain ever since.

Marlow Church and Bridge photograph
Marlow Church and Bridge (by Geoff)

Drop Cap evertheless, we had a day to kill, our flight not leaving until 2230, so we decided to drive to Marlow, an historic riverside town, and have a day by the river.

Marlow Riverside photograph
Marlow Riverside (by Geoff)

Drop Cap arlow is a very pleasant town with a picturesque bridge beside an ancient church and a large lock and weir which kept its keeper quite busy.

We walked around the High Street and along the river, then had lunch in a cute Italian place called Zizzi's. Geoff had a pizza but Mac and I were good and had their chicken and orange and beetroot salad, very nice too.

Drop Cap hen we headed back to the hotel where we had left the luggage. Despite a bit of a mixup getting off the M4 (we ended up at the airport) we eventually got back and I sat with the luggage in the foyer while Mac and Geoff returned the car. No problems there, and it is walking distance from the hotel, so when they walked back we got a shuttle bus to Terminal 2 and checked in, still quite early.

Drop Cap e had a meal at the airport Wetherspoon's then went through security and waited for the flight.

Drop Cap n spite of exhaustive discussions with Deanna from Helloworld we did not get the aisle seats Geoff and I wanted. We got A B and C, window, middle and aisle, but the wrong aisle for Geoff's leg! I sat by the window and didn't move until Singapore. Back still hurting.

Drop Cap owever, we made it with no hypos, no real problems. We had to wait twenty minutes at Mascot for our shuttle. Apparently there had been a five car pileup on the M4, Welcome home! But we got home, no problems, no breakins, no damage. No neighbours either, Geoff and Lorraine did not get home for some days due to an emergency with their son in Brisbane.

Drop Cap t's all over bar the typing, photo editing and printing and journalling. Lots to do for a while. I probably will still be going by Christmas.


Drop Cap ere we are in March 2016 and I have just finished. Since we got home I have edited and printed over a thousand photos, made up eight volumes of journal with printed text, photos, programmes, tickets and other souvenirs, made three different calendars as gifts and made a photobook of the Prague to Paris part of the trip. When I put this section up on the Web it will mean the absolute end of the trip. It has been most enjoyable, even in retrospect.

Drop Cap his year we have planned a cross country trip to Canada by train, so that will be the next adventure.

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