Day 1 - Broad Campden, settling in

​The flight from Sydney to London was uneventful except for my hair which became over excited with static and wanted to sit at right angles to my head. Only my eye mask kept it under control. Next time I travel I'm doing so with greasy hair and in daggy clothes. It's an urban myth that you get upgraded if you check in looking respectable. I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep on the flight and didn't feel too tired during the day. 

When I arrived in the Cotswolds market town of Moreton in Marsh I picked up the car, had some food and made my way to my cute cottage in the hamlet of Broad Campden. Later on I drove into nearby Chipping Campden to pick up some provisions. By then I was getting very tired. I couldn't concentrate and forgot to get butter for my morning toast and, as a grand finale, got lost returning to the cottage.

I went to bed at 7.43pm and was asleep by 7.45pm.


Tues 30 Sept - Stanway and Hailes Abbey

​Where were we? Ah yes! I was asleep by 7.45pm. Although I did stir in the night I ended up having 10 hours sleep and woke up raring to go. My initial intention was to drive further south to the town of Burford via the Slaughters and the Barringtons. I didn't end up getting anywhere near Burford. 

As I have discovered before in England, you can be out all day and end up going only about 10 miles from your base. I wasn't keen on taking busy roads so I chose to drive on what are nothing more than one lane sealed laneways with passing bays. These little roads get you right into the heart of the countryside and offer rural views you don't get from main highways. 

Today I discovered Taddington which wasn't even named on my roadmap. Taddington is near the "Stans" ie Stanway and Stanton so, as I'd seen their photo in a book, I drove to view them in person. I managed to miss Stanton although I did find Wood Stanton. The confusion arose because of one of those road signs that points in two directions to what you think is the same place. 

Stanway is an interesting hamlet. It has a water mill which is once again producing flour. It also has a manor house which is HUGE and has been owned by the same family for 500 years! I couldn't really see the full extent of the building because of the high fence around it but I caught glimpses from different perspectives and it was BIG. One feature is the ornate Jacobean gatehouse which I sketched. The house is known for having a modern fountain which shoots water 300 feet into the air. Next door to the manor was what I think might be called a perpendicular church because of its straight square lines and no steeple. 

From Stanway I drove to Wood Stanton where I saw a sign to Hailes Abbey along a 2km walking track. I had read about the abbey and figured 2kms wasn't far so I decided I'd take the path. Firstly, I went in the wrong direction but I saw some interesting birds along the way – wild pheasants perhaps. I retraced my steps and met a woman walking her two dogs who redirected me. I'm pretty sure walking across open grazing land in open toe sandals isn't too bright but I managed to avoid the various cow pats and sheep droppings. Unfortunately the path ended ambiguously so once again I retraced my steps. I met some other walkers who had an ordinance map and they showed me where the abbey was. 

As I was almost back at my car I decided to drive there which was just as well as it was further than two kilometres away. All that is left of Hailes Abbey is the ruin of a once large and beautiful Cistercian monastery which was founded in 1246 by Richard of Cornwall. He built it as thanks to God after he survived a shipwreck. The abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII on Christmas Eve 1539. The king had fallen out with Rome and in response he dissolved all the Catholic Monasteries within his realm. Hailes Abbey only ever housed around 20 monks but it had extensive elaborate buildings. It was financed by pilgrims visiting its holy relic, a phial that allegedly contained drops of Christ's blood. When Henry dissolved the abbeys he literally had them taken down stone by stone after which the looters moved in.


Today's photo gallery


Wed 1 Oct - a day of villages and churches

​Today I planned to drive to the Slaughters, Sherbourne, Windrush, the Barringtons and then Burford as I missed it yesterday. Once again I took the back roads and stopped at a few other villages on the way.

Not all villages in the Cotswolds are picturesque although the countryside as a whole seems to be. One of the features of the Cotswolds is the yellow colour of the stone used in the buildings. Some of the not so pretty towns seem to be built of a greyer stone. I drove through Longborough and Upper and Lower Swell but either they weren't that remarkable or there was nowhere to park.

I arrived at Upper Slaughter which has an unimposing weir and of course a church. There are quite large churches in even the smallest of villages and you soon begin to understand just how much influence the church had in times past. Many of the churches are in need of maintenance work and all encourage donations. The church in Upper Slaughter was one of the most entrepreneurial (in a modest way) that I have come across. They raise money by catering to walkers and selling bottled drinks and BOOT LACES!!! They also had a 3 small jars of Seville marmalade just perfect for lady travellers. One came home with me.

Lower Slaughter couldn't be more different than Upper Slaughter. Lower Slaughter is posh and picture perfect. The River Windrush which runs through both villages, is wider here and the banks are elegantly paved and lined with pretty houses of the kind you see depicted on chocolate boxes. Lower Slaughter also has a pretty water mill. While I was taking photos a man walked by with his Labrador doggie and we started to chat. He told me that "slaughter" is an old English word meaning marsh. That explains the rather strange name of the two towns. By the time I had talked to him and done one little drawing time was passing and it was time to head for Sherbourne.

Sherbourne is another ancient estate dating back to the 800s. It was originally held by Winchcombe Abbey but after the Dissolution of the Moasteries in 1539 the Crown took its lands. These days the estate is owned by the National Trust and operates as working farm. Sherbourne House itself has been turned into privately owned apartments.

Next I stopped to have a quick look at Windrush and of course its church which was sweetly decorated for the Harvest Festival.

The Barringtons were my next port of call; a kind of twisted homage to my ex, Barrington. Great Barrington is a very interesting place. It is yet another vast rural estate with, of course, a church. Barrington Park Estate is privately owned but no longer comes with a title. I found this out when I parked outside the gate and attracted the attention of one of the workers. There were security cameras on the gate and he wanted to know what I was up to. The present owners, so I was told, inherited the estate and apparently have the money to maintain and restore it. The estate is a working farm with a deer park. The adjacent village would have originally housed farm workers. I was told the houses are all still part of the estate and would never be sold off although they are now rented out. The houses here seemed a little down at heel and unlike in other parts of the Cotswolds the cars were more humble.

Little Barrington was next and it is very different from its big sibling. It is less exposed, nestling as it does lower down in the valley. It's another village of pretty cottages although it's not really on the tourist route. I spoke to one of the residents and her cute doggie (the dogs provide the introduction service) and she lamented the fact the village is being increasingly populated by outsiders who buy the cottages as holiday retreats.

By now it was after 4.00pm. Burford was 3 miles down the A40. As I drove through the main street I decided it was too late to start seeing the sights of what is quite a big town. I headed for home instead. But I will get there.

Today's photo gallery


Thur 2 Oct - a walk in the country

​This morning I needed to run some errands in Chipping Campden which is about 1.5kms away. Apart from needing to buy some food I wanted to try on a pair of boots I coveted. I bought the boots and will post them back home.

While I was doing my errands it occurred to me that I need to walk over to the town one day with my sketchbook and settle in to do some drawing.** It really is a lovely town with lots of interesting buildings. It also has plenty of inns and cafes and nice shops.

This afternoon I decided I would do a walk. England is criss-crossed by myriad walking paths which traverse farms and pass through woodlands and beside canals and so forth. The whole country is divided into zones and comprehensive ordinance maps are available to serious walkers so they can ramble and not get lost. To make it easier for people like me smaller maps of selected circuit walks are available.

I chose to walk a circuit from Moreton in Marsh that goes past the historic house and garden called Sezincote. Sezincote was of interest to me because it was the inspiration behind Brighton Pavillion which is the most wonderful, high camp, crazy mad folly I've ever seen. Mad King George III had a son who became George IV. George Junior wasn't nuts like his papa but he was madly dissolute and irresponsible with public money. Brighton Pavillion is testimony to that. I saw Brighton Pavillion when I was in England in August/September 2013.

Armed with my map I set off from Moreton across fields of gold, past blackberry hedges and through lush green pastures where Jersey cows grazed. The map was a tad out of date because gates existed where there should have been stiles. But no matter because earlier walkers had created a track that was easy to see and follow. My walking circuit was designed to go past Sezincote but I wanted to visit the house. This posed a small problem in that I ended up in the adjacent field with a trench between me and Sezincote. These trenches have a name but I can't recall what it is. They divide one property from another without the need for a fence which would otherwise mar the view. They are like an infinity pool but without the water. Fortunately someone had erected a narrow plank across the trench. After walking for an hour and crossing the plank with trepidation I arrived at Sezincote.

Its influence on Brighton Pavillion is unmistakable. It follows the style of the Moghul architecture of India. Only the garden was open, the house being shut now that summer is past. The outside of the house is gorgeous and the garden is sublime. I would have liked to have spent more time there but was feeling a bit tired and concerned that if I sat down I might grind to halt.

I set off again towards Bourton on the Hill. The track became rather ill defined however I managed to get to the village. By now I was really tired.

To cut a long story short I cut the walk short by walking back to Moreton in Marsh along the path beside the busy A44 highway. The walk claimed to be 8.5 kms which I know I can do but it seemed longer. Perhaps it was walking across fields that made it more demanding. When I got back to my cottage I was done in.

Despite being tired I very much enjoyed the walk. It is wonderful to be able to go more deeply into the countryside; to see beyond the high walls and into the daily life of a place.

**PS: I never did manage to do that.

Today's photo gallery


Fri 3 Oct - Taking it slowly

​This morning I awoke feeling a bit off song. It wasn't that my legs were sore after yesterday's walk; I was just feeling under the weather. I decided it was best to take it easy so I stayed in for the morning catching up with this blog which takes some time to pull together.

This afternoon I went to Chipping Campden to post my boots to Australia and to have a better look at the town. I wanted to check out what might be good to sketch. There are lots of nice buildings but mostly they are partly obscured by parked cars.

As I was walking I saw the church spires and wandered in that direction. St James is another imposing church and like other churches in the area it was being decorated with flowers and produce for the Harvest Festival which is this weekend.

St James is what is known as a wool church. Wool was a major industry here in the past and it brought great wealth to the Cotswolds. Many fortunes were made and that is why there are so many mansions and large churches. The churches were built by the wealthy wool merchants as a way to get into God's good books and also I imagine to show off their wealth. St James is one of the more ostentatious examples. Apparently the man who financed it was in fact a good Christian because he also built a row of alms houses nearby. I bet no poor folk live there these days.

I gleaned this information as I chattered to the two women who were decorating the church for the festival. One told me that inheritance tax in England is crippling. If someone inherits one of the historic estates they have to pay a huge amount in death duties. On top of that they are obliged to maintain the property. These two things mean many are compelled to sell the family home for redevelopment into apartments and to hand over the rest of the estate to the National Trust.

I would like to give small plug for the Campden Pantry who have been feeding me with tasty ready made dinners. I found them at the quieter end of Chipping Campden opposite Sheep St when I arrived on Monday. It turns out the cook had been in IT but on his 40th birthday was given a week's residential cooking course at River Cottage run by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a celebrity chef more well known in England than Australia. That gift led to a career change.

The food from The Campden Pantry is excellent and comes frozen in one person servings and has saved me the bother of cooking and then having to do a lot of washing up.

I have included some photos of my little home in the country.

Today's photo gallery


Sat 4 Oct - Go directly to Burford

​Hee hee! I got there today – to Burford that is. When I woke there was a very pretty red sunrise which meant it was going to rain. Sure enough the rain started about 8.30 and the temperature was very nippy indeed. I was hoping the rain might put people off going somewhere like Burford which is otherwise a very popular destination. It's approximately twenty miles from here and I was pleasantly surprised that the roads weren't too busy. 

The drive to Burford is about 70% along the top of a plateau with lovely farmland on either side. It's a pleasant road to drive along because visibility is good and there aren't any hairpin bends that can make driving stressful. I got to Burford around 11.00 am and was so glad to have made the trip. It's one of the bigger Cotswold towns. The high street is set on a hill and runs for quite a length with shops, pubs and cafes on either side. A close NSW equivalent would be Leura Mall except that Burford is a medieval town. I managed to find a free parking spot in Sheep St. You can tell if a Cotswolds town is a wool town because there will be a Sheep Street. Chipping Campden has a Sheep Street. Burford's Sheep Street is an absolute gem. I think I'd taken about 10 photos before I'd even moved away from the car. I wandered down to the high street snapping away the whole time. 

The best way to see Burford is to walk up one side of the hill and down the other. There are plenty of nice shops selling art and craft as well as some good apparel shops. Unsurprisingly, I discovered the church and I tossed up whether I should visit yet another. I decided I had to in case they had a harvest festival display because I know, dear reader, you would be disappointed if I didn't post another photograph of pumpkins and giant marrows. 

I am sincerely glad I did visit St John The Baptist at Burford because it is perhaps the most appealing church I've ever visited. Sagrada Famillia in Barcelona is fabulous of course but I'm talking a different kind of house of worship here. St John the Baptist is a regular working church but it is truly wonderful. It dates from 1175 when it was a simple long building. More additions were built over the next few centuries until in 1475 the spire was added. There are traces of paintings on the wall but they have worn away with time. It's probably incorrect to call them frescoes. Apparently a fresco is a different process. This church has so many interesting details and you can see the process of change in the building itself. Alas they don't celebrate Harvest Festival until 19th October so there was no produce to record. I might add that the photos don't do justice to the church. I might also add that is very difficult in most of these towns to take photos without cars or wheelie bins or telegraph poles marring the image.

Today’s photo gallery


Sun 5 Oct - Stanton and Winchcombe

Today I thought I'd head in the direction of Winchcombe which is an Anglo Saxon town. As it happened, Stanton was on the way so I was able to pay it the visit I missed the other day. The drive to both towns involves dropping down off the escarpment into a wide plain to the west of Broad Campden. It is a steep descent with warnings to use a low gear and safety ramps on the way down. It's similar to the Bulli Pass road and I was glad to be driving a manual car so I could use geared braking. 

I am so pleased I was able to make it to Stanton. It is a very lovely small village. The car park on the edge of town only had a few cars in it, there were no coaches and very few cars on the road in the village itself. The village lies on the route of the Cotswolds Way, a long walking path that extends throughout the region. The main traffic was on foot but even then I felt like I had the place to myself. Photos can't do it justice. I liked it because it was pretty but it also had a good feeling. It was quiet and unhurried. 

After wandering unhurriedly around Stanton I drove to Winchcombe where I was rather disappointed. Although it's an Anglo Saxon town there didn't seem to be much visual record of that or none that I could easily find. The main street has some Tudor buildings and some from later eras. Suddley Castle seems to be the main attraction but it was too late in the afternoon to visit it. I had quick look around town, walked for a little way into the castle grounds and then headed for home. About all I know of Winchcombe is that it was the capital of the Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Mercia and in the 1600s it was a tobacco growing area.

Today’s photo gallery


Mon 6 Oct - Batsford Arboretum in the rain

​It was very wet today especially in the morning. I drove into Moreton in Marsh to buy my train ticket for my trip to Paddington Station on Wednesday. Just as I got to the ticket office a blind was pulled down explaining the office would be closed for 10 minutes due to a shift change. No trains arrived while this took place. Only in England…

Although I was wearing a spray jacket I got pretty wet, especially my good shoes which I'd worn without thinking. It was also very cold. While I had a warming coffee in a continental style coffee and pastry shop I decided I'd spend the afternoon at Batsford Arboretum.

Batsford House is where the infamous Mitford family lived in the early part of the 20th century. The arboretum is a legacy of the 1st Lord Redesdale who was the girls' grandfather. The family only lived there for about six years. The estate is now owned by Lord Dulverton. It's a very pleasant garden even in the rain. I don't have a green thumb but I appreciate the efforts of serious gardeners who create such beauty. 

As I walked the paths I warmed up, the rain stopped and my shoes got even more wet. I enjoyed myself nevertheless. From the garden I was able to access Batsford village where there is a very pretty gate house. As I was getting ready to photograph it the resident opened her front door. I asked her permission which she happily granted and we had a bit of a chat. Although she is a permanent resident she rents the house because the entire village belongs to Lord Dulverton.

The path back to the car park winds past Batsford House itself. It's a forbidding pile from the rear but the front looks onto a manicured garden and beyond that across lush farmland.

Today’s photo gallery


Tue 7 Oct - Broad Campden- last day

Today was my last day here in this sweet little hamlet. I had errands to run so planned to have a low key day around the two Campdens. I posted my maps back to Australia and then had to find petrol to top up the car. That was a bit of a challenge. I asked Van, a New Yorker who owns a cottage in Broad Campden and lives there for a month in Spring and Autumn, if he could direct me to one. He didn't know for sure where the closest one was!! Dean from the Campden Pantry directed me to the nearest one so I headed for that but took a detour to Mickleton first. Mickleton is a homely town. I should have just gone and got the petrol. By chance I found a service station – not the one Dean suggested – and it had a service attendant which was a piece of good fortune except that when I said "fill 'er up" she only partially filled the tank. I didn't realise this until I'd driven off. 

After that I went home and spent the afternoon doing some packing, worrying about where I was going to find another service station and having a play with my sketch book. I decided to draw Green Cottage en plein air. I managed to do a sketch but nearly froze in the process because there was such a chilly breeze. It would have been nice to have a final walk around the village and perhaps a drink at the pub but it really was cold out. I had also wanted to have another good look at the Quaker meeting hall. The photos today are a selection of shots of the two Campdens.



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