Books I've Read

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Cotswolds

To those of you who have never been to England or those of you who live in England but have yet to "do the tourist thing" I'd like to invite you on a tour of the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds are simply a range of hills. These hills are encompassed within several counties of England (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire). The area that Mark and I recently explored is the heart of this area, (mainly Gloucestershire). When you search this area on your chosen web browser you will find out that is has been awarded "area of outstanding natural beauty" and that it is characterized by pretty small towns and a honey coloured limestone that is rich in fossils. All this is true, but those words are truly the black and white description of the wonders that await you if you visit this place.

We traveled up to Charlton Kings (a small village on the edge of Chletenham) after dark. So after a wonderful night of sleep in a great B&B Detmore House (we stayed in the Beech room). I opened our curtains to see a promising view. Downstairs a fabulous breakfast awaited, I had decadent and scrumptious
View from the Beech Room
Eggs Benedict and Mark the traditional English Breakfast (Bacon, sausage, two eggs: scrambled, mushrooms, baked beans and toast). I was surprised to find I could move after breakfast...but move we did and step one was Chletenham. According to a guide to independent shops in the Cotswolds, the place to go was the Mountpellier district for shopping! So off we went. I won't disagree with the book as there were lots of independent shops their BUT both Mark and I we a bit disappointed as we found that it wasn't that different from any other high street in the south. Yes the shops were independent and not chain stores, but they we still full of the same things you find in the chain shops. However we did find a little crafts market to wander through and still managed to fill a half of a day in shops. Patient Mark. The weather started to turn a bit and so we decided we would head back to our B&B  for a little rest and to escape the drizzle. As we stepped through the front door the skies opened and by the time we settled into our room the wind was driving the rain sideways! Perfect timing!

The shower didn't last long and after a quick chat and consultation to the oracle of all things (the internet) we decided that we would explore for the remaining hours of daylight. We would turn off the Sat Nav (GPS) and horror of all horror rely on my map reading skills. Now in North America not a worry I am a fairly good navigator on road trips having spent a fair amount of time crossing North America with maps only as a child. BUT my friends, England takes map reading in a car to a whole new level! Especially when embarking down the roads that we were planning on taking. Not the motorways, not the "A" roads, not even the "B" roads! No we were off to explore the Cotswolds via the single track roads! Excuse me for a minute while I explain an English single track road to those of you who have never been down one....

An English single track road  is a bit more than what it sounds like. It is not merely a one way road, rather it is the width of a one way road but two way traffic is allowed and encouraged. Further these roads are rarely straight, usually have no shoulders, usually are bordered closely by tall hedges, stone walls or buildings. So it is not unusual to have to reverse for some distance in order to allow opposing traffic through. Also these roads are typically used by locals who know where they are going and are using them in a effort to escape traffic or by farmers in their large tractors.  Off these roads are other roads that to not feature on a general map and often sign posts are missing, covered by foliage, or have none of the larger villages you are using to guide your journey or worst of all don't have a single village name that is on your map! So it can be a bit challenging.

Like I said advanced navigation skills are recommended....either that or an adventurous spirit and a patient driver! We had the latter combination! So we headed in the direction of Slaughter. To be more specific Upper and Lower Slaughter. On our way we came across a gaggle of geese who had occupied the sunniest and warmest spot they could find. I was thrilled as it was a prefect photo opportunity one that I'm sure travel magazines would pay good money to set up! So we slowed and I snapped my shot. After this there were two options turn around and leave the
geese to enjoy their sunny spot or slowly advance and encourage the geese to vacate the road. We edged forward. One plucky fellow was familiar with the story of David and Goliath and fancied himself to be David. So with no thought to the impossibility of the task he squared his wings raised his hackles (who knew geese had hackles) and charged our car hissing and sputtering at the car. He got so close that we could only see his tail and he was still sputtering away at our front grill trying to convince our car that he was bigger and this was his turf and NO ONE not even a silver, boisterous machine was going to make him leave this warm bit of pavement. Poor fella. He lost the fight as the silver machine had a unfair advantage it had two humans who ever so slowly kept edging the car forward which eventually convinced David the goose that maybe this wasn't his Goliath and that he should retire to the yard to fight the REAL Goliath, if he ever had the guts to show up. We laughed and laughed!!

That battle over we made it to Stow-On-The-Wold. Which according to the web review one of the must see villages within the Cotswolds. The first picture below is of the high street and the stone that is in the sun is an excellent representation of the actual colour of the majority of the stone, houses, cottages, churches that are in this area of the Cotswolds. It is this beautiful honey color that becomes golden in the sun!

After several wrong turns, being on the same road more than once and going in more than one circle we eventually made it back to Detmore house where our hosts Gill and Hugh Kilminster suggested that we head to a nearby pub for dinner, The Royal it did not disappoint. Personally if you are ever in the area I can highly recommend the Thai beef! The meat is perfectly prepared and melts in your mouth! Now I'm hungry.

I have just looked and the length of this post and I am going to end now as it is the end of Day one of our trip to the Cotswolds. I will continue with more later...

1 comment:

Danita Ellis said...

Sounds like a fun trip... I love the pictures. Can't wait to read about the rest of it later :)