Tag Archives: Cotswolds

Styles of stiles and trip miscellany

13 May

13 May 2023.

England delivered exactly what we expected: occasional sun and plenty of damp, but high spirits surrounding the spectacle of King Charles III’s coronation.

What a privilege it was to be in-country for the event! When we booked our trip, Queen Elizabeth was still very much alive so being there — although not in London, thank the gods — was strictly coincidental.

In Lower Slaughter on the Sunday after the Coronation, the village prepares for The Big Lunch, a community celebration. These parties took place all over the U.K.

First stop was Oxford, convenient on our path to The Cotswolds for some country walking. Oxford was decked out for the upcoming pageant and did not disappoint. We toured parts of Oxford University with a doctoral candidate and enjoyed his inside-take on how the place functions and inevitable comparisons to the U.S. university experience.

Blenheim Palace was a glimpse into the aristocratic lifestyle as the family still resides there. Goslings and ducklings peppered the estate grounds and the gardens were in fine form. I can only imagine how gorgeous the roses must be in season. Our final Oxford tour was of the Bodleian Libraries, dating to the 15th century when 281 manuscripts were donated, the libraries now house over 13 million printed items.

The oldest part of the Bodleian, Duke Humphrey’s’ Library. Volumes cannot be “checked out” but must be read on-site with a chaperone librarian.

Almost over jet lag, we headed to Bourton-on-the-Water, our home for a week. We chose a self-guided center-based itinerary with HF Holidays staying in a hotel that was previously a private residence built in 1662.

This is the view of the grand staircase that greeted us outside our our room.

No matter how often we tour in the UK or the rest of Europe I am constantly dumbfounded by the history and the preservation and adaptation of old buildings. HF Holidays provided a lovely room, cooked breakfast and dinner with a packed lunch daily, and dozens of walking itineraries to choose from. We could select from clear instructions encased in waterproof laminating to guide us. All we had to do was don our gear and head out each day.

Those waterproof instructions were necessary. Our walk conditions have ranged from misty to sun-dappled to downright soggy. It reminded us of Oregon although in Oregon we have never hiked with sheep nor though mud as sticky and pervasive as we have done here.

And there are stiles of many styles. Frankly, I prefer a good gate, but the stiles were definitely a sensible solution to allowing walkers to walk unhindered yet keep sheep and cows in their fields. They are being replaced in many areas to allow barrier-free access to public footpaths.

Our final day in Bourton-on-the-Water was weather perfection, a sunny day capped by a thunderstorm at 17:00 when we were safely “home.”

We set off for Wales yesterday (Friday). Almost two hours by private transport thanks to a rail strike in England, then a 3 hour train ride. Conwy, the town we are staying in, is charming and today’s weather exactly what you’d hope for on a spring day!

Will write more from Ireland later in the trip!

A day in the Cotswolds

17 Jan
The sun rises late in London just after the Solstice, in fact, a few minutes after 08:00. That didn’t stop us from seizing the day and taking a day in the country, thanks to the generosity of friends Carol and Nigel of the East Midlands.

St. John the Baptist in Burford, a so-called "wool church" as it was funded by wealth from wool.

St. John the Baptist in Burford, a so-called “wool church” as it was funded by wealth from wool.

Carol and Nigel got up before the birds and motored to London on Boxing Day to fetch us for a day in Nigel’s old stomping ground, the darling villages of the Cotswolds. You know you are in the Cotswolds when you start seeing names like Bourton-on-the-Water, Chipping Norton, and Barton-on-the-Heath. Thatch roofs appear and great spires above country churches with picturesque cemeteries and nameless gravestones. It’s like a movie set. No wonder Downton Abbey, Harry Potter, Poldark, The Remains of the Day, Bridget Jones Diary and many British shows have filmed scenes here. Even on a gray winter day (no rain!), it was charming, each village cuter than the last.
On the very edge of The Cotswolds we visited Bladon, where beside the village church, Winston Churchill is buried. Not in a great cathedral, like St. Paul’s or Westminster Abbey, rather this great man is buried in the countryside near his ancestral home, Blenheim Palace.
We toured Burford, Bladon, Bourton-on-the-Water, The Slaughters and more than I can remember. Nigel took us along twisty-turny roads I might not successfully navigate even with left-hand drive. A day is not enough. One only gets a sense of the peace and beauty of the English countryside. Best to come back when one can walk the paths through the green hills.
We wrapped up in Oxford, and while it was quiet on a holiday, it was nice to see the fabulous architecture without tourist hordes. We took so many pictures it has taken considerable time to sort through them. Here I offer you a taste of this gorgeous landscape, although remarkably we did not think to get a group picture of the 4 of us. Click on any picture for a larger view and full caption.


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