Wednesday, July 25

THE COTSWOLDS: Storybook England


THE COTSWOLDS


As far as vacation spots go, I have a few personal favorites. But I can take that one step further, I have favorite spots 'with-in' our vacations. We did the whole Disney World/Orlando vacation with the kids {let me just stop right here and say that Disney World is NO vacation.....it's hard work!}, we followed that up with a week in the Florida Keys. I spent one whole day in Islamorada doing nothing more than walk from the beach to the pool, it was sheer heaven after the chaos of Disney. That is definitely on my favorite 'spots' list! What else tops my 'favorite' vacation spots list? The Cotswold District of England is VERY close to the top. Lower Slaughter being the ultimate hamlet with Bibury coming in a close second....at least for me. I just love it!
Beautiful thatched roof houses cover the countryside.

Less than two hours north-west of London lies a region that is crisscrossed with ancient hedgerows, stone walls and 'kissing gates'. The landscape is dotted with storybook villages built by medieval merchants enriched by the wool trade and fields sprinkled with delightful sheep. The rolling hills of the Cotswold region is quintessentially rural England. They couldn't proclaim their heritage anymore if they shouted, "here I am....it's me, quaint England." They truly are a sightseeing treat not to be missed....showing you just how 'English' England can be.......really!
Isn't it GORGEOUS?

GETTING THERE

CAR vs. TRAIN
The Cotswolds are sandwiched into a triangular shaped piece of land boxed in by the M40, the M4 and the M5. To the north lies Stratford-Upon-Avon, to the east lies Oxford and to the southwest lies that rare English beauty, Bath. If you have rented a car you will have the freedom of NOT sticking to a timed schedule. The back roads of the Cotswolds are a dream to drive, meandering along even getting lost can be a joy. This is going to be one of those times you wished you had rented a car. If you are just day tripping out of London on the rails, Moreton-in-Marsh is the only Cotswold town with a train station. Not to worry, two of the region's coziest villages, Chipping Campden and Stow-on-the-Wold, are but a few miles from Moreton-in-Marsh. Chipping Campden, Stow, or Moreton  ....any of these villages make a great jumping off point for exploring the 'thatch-happiest' of Cotswold villages with a bike ride, a rambling walk or a drive down unmarked roads to little known places. 

On the river Eye in Lower Slaughter. The 16th and 17th century homes in the village were built using the honeyed colored Cotswold sandstone. Many adorned with mullioned windows and  other embellishments such as projecting gables. Thus, animating this storybook village to life.
The mill on the River Eye in Lower Slaughter.
Copse Hill in Lower Slaughter.
 Cotswold SHEEP!
St. Marys, the 13th century Anglican parish church, in Lower Slaughter is a GEM!
The 19th century water mill on the banks of the River Eye, Lower Slaughter.

WALKING THE COTSWOLD HILLS


The Cotswolds are walking county and the English love their walks and vigorously defend their age-old right to free passage. If you have never taken a self-guided walking tour before, the Cotswold  Hills is one of the best places to try. The gentle and welcoming countryside offers you peace and tranquility and you are never far from a village. The paths are well marked ensuring you never lose your way. The Northern Cotswolds have more hills than further South, so pick your walking area according to your personal effort and ability. There are a wide range of accommodations here, ensuring that at the end of the day, you will have somewhere comfortable to stay.
Walking among sheep, ancient stone walls, wooded paths and hedgerows. It's idyllic....
This path was not on our map. Having no schedule to keep, Mr.P and I just couldn't resist!

Mr.P and I carry a map, along with a compass, a standard guidebook for walking the Cotswolds, a good camera and bottled water. We do not find it necessary to be with a group or 'tour'. In fact in our travels we have never taken a tour, I guess we aren't happy within the confines of an organized itinerary. We have mastered wingin' it quite well! I'm the navigator and Mr.P is the guide. If we see something interesting we STOP. You can't always do that when you are with an organized tour. Gotta stick to that schedule. There are wonders to see! Like.....
 How about looking over and seeing this, Broadway Tower. On a clear day, the view from the Tower encompasses as many as 13 counties. Footpaths run around, and up to, the tower....entry to the tower is around £4 and well worth the extra time spent.
How about kissing your honey at this 'kissing gate'?  A Kissing Gate is a small gate giving access through a wall or fence that swings and 'kisses' its posts. Allowing you to pass but not the sheep.

Contours offers organized walking or biking tours. They provide you with refreshments along the way as well as a few lunches and dinners. During the day as you walk or bike, they relocate your bags to the next hotel so your things will be waiting for you upon your arrival. Your guide will include history and the background of  places you pass on your walk. Wouldn't you love to pass by this church door? Maybe slipping in a back pew to listen in on the chorale evensong.......it's free and somehow magical!
The enchanting north porch and its two flanking yew trees of St. Edward's Parrish in
Stow-In-The-Wold. The trees have become apart of the doorway making it like something straight out of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.

Overall I'd advise you to leave your big bags at a hotel from which you can set off on your own. Grab a good map and guidebook for walking the Cotswolds and off you go. If you don't feel the need for extra handholding you just might enjoy going it alone. You never know until you try.....Perhaps the greatest treasure in the Cotswolds lies within the people who live there. The locals will gladly stop and talk to you along the way; giving advice, directions or just a simple wave hello to encourage you in your journey. The locals seem immensely proud of their beautiful landscape, and rightfully so. Glad that people like us come to enjoy it in the best possible way; on foot following the winding paths through their woods and fields.
I ask you...does it get any better than this? A thatched roof cottage in Chipping Campden.


THE GREAT COTSWOLD RAMBLE


SELF-GUIDED TOUR

One of the most memorable walks, and my personal favorite, in the Cotswolds is between the two idyllic villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter.  A well-worn footpath, Warden's Way, meanders beside the edge of the swift-flowing River Eye, and it's only 1 mile. You will pass quaint cottages, antique houses, stately trees, footbridges, and old millponds. You can extend this walk another 1 1/2 miles to romantic Bourton-on-the-Water. A very easy walk that passes some of the best loved scenery in the Cotswolds.
 
Walking in this tranquil setting brings a wonderful calming peace. Something we all 
need in this crazy-busy world in which we live.
Cozy little cottages can be be rented for your stay in the Cotswold Hills......charming!

 THE COTSWOLD ROUND


A GUIDED WALKING TOUR

The Cotswold Round is a circuit of the best-loved villages of the Cotswolds. Beginning in Moreton-in-Marsh with its large market square surrounded by handsome former coaching inns, the trail takes you through Broadwell to Stow-on-the-Wold. Then heading through Upper and Lower Slaughter to Bourton–on-the-Water, where several elegant bridges span the crystal waters of the River Windrush as it flows through the village. The trail then heads upstream to Winchcombe, an attractive little town of stone and half-timbered buildings with a fine church adorned with 45 gargoyles, each representing a local citizen from the 1460's. Leaving the town you will head to Stanway, Stanton and Chipping Campden, before returning to Moreton-in-the-Marsh through Broad Campden, with its rare 17th century Friends Meeting House.  This walk is 51 miles and takes 5 days, whereas the self-guided was 1 mile and could easily be accomplished on a leisurely day. Again deciding which schedule fits into the larger scheme of your overall vacation.

A delightful cottage garden on the edge of Bibury.


After a well-planned visit, you'll remember EVERYTHING about the Cotswolds as quaint: the walks, the churches, the pubs, the B&Bs and country houses, the thatched roofs, the kissing gates, the sheep and most of all the people. If you visit England without touring the Cotswold Hills you will look back and realize what a wonderful opportunity you missed out on. So whether you take a guided tour or wing it with the P's, carve out some time to walk a bit in the Cotswolds...you'll be glad you did.
        

                   ENJOY!





 The Domestic Curator ~ Ronda

3 comments:

  1. I want to go... Whos ready for a vacation!!! Wouldnt it be fun if we all just jumped on a plane and fly to England and then just ride the train and take our time enjoying the sites!!! It just looks so peaceful and I could really use some of that right now!!

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  2. Who's ready? ME! I'm ready! I would love for Krisitn to see this part of England. She has spent time in and around York, but the landscape couldn't be more different. You know they have LOTS of houses/cottages for rent that would accommodate 10 people....just saying. AND YOU MUST DRIVE IN ENGLAND...that's FUN being on the opposite side of the road!!

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  3. For a number of years I have enjoyed the work of artist Marty Bell, she obviously love the Cotswold areas and painted many of the sites from the area including the Bakery. In my home, my favorite is called Cotswold Parish church. Looking at these pictures I see a number of sites she painted and and looks like my painting is likely of St. Marys, the 13th century Anglican parish church as pictured above. Love it.

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