Sunday, March 31, 2019

England: Goodbye, Cotswolds!

The last leg of our Cotswold Tour took us to three towns, the first of which was the charming Stow-on-the-Wold.

Stow means resting place and Wold means unforested, rolling countryside. It is the highest point in the Cotswolds and like the other towns we visited, a market town that was once dependent on sheep. Kate Winslet is one of the more well known actors who call Stow-on-the-Wold home.

One factor I found particularly interesting here were the extremely narrow alleys. One could stand in the middle, both arms out to the side and touch the walls.

These were designed so that farmers could herd their sheep to market. Because the alleys were so narrow the sheep could go only one by one and it made it easier to count them.

This was our lunch stop. I picked Huffkins Tea Room for a "Burford Tea."

This consisted of a scone, an egg mayo sandwich and tea.

There was time to wander about a bit too. I found a thrift shop and bought a couple of very pretty scarves!

Stow-on-the-Wold was the site of an uprising between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians in 1646 and Colin happily told us that the streets were "rivers of blood."

This will go down as the town where Jeanie became a bad blogger. I thought I had plenty on my camera battery -- I didn't. So the next two towns remain relatively unrecorded.

The first of those is Bourton-on-the-Water. Known as the "Venice of the Cotswolds" it is set on a large canal with loads of pretty bridges.

It was a lovely town. I wish I'd had time to do a little more exploring!

Especially this...pretty cute entry to a motoring museum!

Back on the bus and through some more beautiful countryside. I wonder if anything is more lovely than England in autumn.

Our next stop was Tetbury. A "bury" is a fortress and Tet was wither the name of the sister of the King of Wessex back inthe day or the Celtic word for space. The town has a large Market Cross in the center which was very big for the wool industry from the 16th century until the indistry declined in the 18th century. Markets, however, are still held here.

Prince Charles has his home, Highgrove, at Tetbury and we drove by it. The gates were very low key. Apparently the gardens are open for tours in the summer. Maybe next time! But we did stop at the Highgrove shop, which sells items produced by those in the Duchy of Cornwall. There were loads of very beautiful items. Priced for a prince! (I have to admit, I found Charles' watercolors quite appealing but out of my budget range!)  I also found a fun antique store and though I didn't buy anything it was fun to see different types of items than what we see here.

We also passed by Badminton House, a noted residence of the Duke of Beaufort and a hunting pal of Charles and Camilla. The property is known for the Badminton Horse Trials and associated with fox hunting. The Beaufort Hunt is considered one of the most famous hunts in the UK. Although foxes are no longer hunted, pheasant shoots continue.

The it was back to Bath. By this time, we all felt like old friends and were delighted with our tour, the sights and our purchases. It was fun to just sit back and watch the lovely scenery roll by.

And after a short walk to the station from the Abbey Hotel, where the day had started, I caught the bus home and climbed up our little hill. Rick had been on a cycle ride that day and we shared stories over a bottle of wine carted around since Paris and some wonderful pasta.

Yes, all the way from France!

I can't say enough how delighted our tour group was with Mad Max Tours and particularly with Colin, our driver. No financial compensation for me here, but I would recommend them to future travelers who are staying a bit in Bath.

Next time we'll hit one of the most well known attractions in Bath and for my money, one of the best values!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

England: More from the Cotswolds

All aboard the tour bus for Bibury! This is the town that craftsman William Morris once called "The most beautiful village in England."

I can see why.

There are two features that are particularly notable in this town, once a center for weaver. (Again, another town in the Cotswolds built on the sheep industry.)

The first is Arlington Row. This is an area of cottages build aside a water meadow which is home to a number of trout. (There is also a trout farm nearby).

The water meadow is a habitat for birds and considered a National Trust Wildfowl reserve. We didn't have enough time in the town to really venture beyond the meadow section in the city and all I saw that day were the trout. The water was crystal clear.

The buildings are made from geological limestone quarried in the region and they are as charming as any fairy-tale town.

There was a Michigan connection to Arlington Row that particularly touched home for me. In Michigan we have a historical village created by auto pioneer Henry Ford called Greenfield Village. Many buildings of some historical significance have been moved there and when Ford saw Arlington Row, he decided he wanted to add that to the Greenfield Village attractions.

Fortunately, the Brits decided this could not happen. A group organized together to preserve Arlington Row as a historical monument.

The cottages were originally built in the 1300s but became cottages for the weavers in the seventeenth century. It has been in several films including "Bridget Jones' Diary."

We were lucky that the beautiful October was unseasonably warm and sunny and all the flowers were still in full bloom.

Many of the homes had climbing roses. Mine died out in the heat of July.

Theirs were much better tended!

The other building of note is the Swan Hotel. Colin said it had inspired Dickens for Bleak House but another inn also holds that honor.

I'll leave that one to the experts!

Inspirational or not, it was a lovely building!

I was ready to move here in a heartbeat, hang out the laundry to dry in the fresh air and spend my days making felted things from wool.

Alas, not to be.

Time to move on to another charming town!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

England: The Cotswolds

"So, when I think of the Cotswolds, I will think of BIG hills, tall hedgerows, lots of sheep, stone walls, charming cottages, pretty rivers and streams, lots of tourists but not too touristy, if that makes sense."

Those were the words in my travel journal on the day I took a day trip bus tour to this beautiful area that looks like the setting for a Miss Marple or British telly mystery.  If Mad Max Tours weren't so good -- or the Cotswolds so beautiful -- they would only merit one post. But we're going to stick here for a couple of posts, even though my tour was just one day! We met at the Abbey Hotel in Bath and soon after were on our way through city traffic...

...and emerging into the beautiful countryside with tunnels of trees...

...and wonderful stone walls.

I think there were nine or ten of us on this mini-bus -- enough to have fun with, not so many that you could neither see nor hear the driver. That would be a shame, because Colin, our driver, was four star!

He was a font of knowledge, good humor, bad (and good) jokes, songs and royal impersonations. He talked enough, not too much. Just perfect. He also managed to squeeze the bus through narrow roads, even in the face of oncoming traffic!

Our first stop was Castle Combe, which was beautifully preserved and a town you may well have seen in films like "War Horse" and the original "Dr. Doolittle." Colin explained it was like many of the Cotswold villages in the day -- fully dependent on sheep for its economy.

The village dates back to Roman times and then experienced a revitalization after the Norman Conquest in 1055 and again after the Black Death in 1349.

Like many such market towns relying on the wool industry, the town was built on a river. And was most picturesque.

It was tremendously prosperous, as were many such villages until the industrial revolution, which led to economic collapse of the wool industry and ultimately the town's preservation.

The homes were charming -- picture-perfect English storybook homes with thatched or slate roofs and window boxes.

One of our first stops was the town church. Along with being quite lovely, outside...

...and in... had displays that highlighted the production of the film "War Horse"...

...and a tomb of a knight.

The description indicated that this knight had participated in two crusades and had died in battle.

We then went into the center of town and admired the market cross where farmers and weavers would bring their sheep and their wool to sell.

The town is also home to a former manor house that now welcomes guests.

It was quite beautiful with its autumn ivy.

Everywhere we went, autumn was in full flower.

The foliage was lovely with brilliant reds...

...and quieter golds.

Even the cemetery felt as though it belonged right here in this quaint hamlet.

But this was a shorter stop. We had other towns to visit -- and we will, next time!

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