Doyles Take England: the Cotswolds
In mid June, Connor's parents came to visit for 10 glorious days. We embarked on a tour of some of England's finest, stopping in the Cotswolds, Bath, Exmoor National Park in North Devon, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Birmingham, and Wales. Miraculously, we had absolutely fantastic weather for the entire trip! We rented a car since the Minnow is really only suitable for a couple adults and maybe 1.3 suitcases, and a rental also guaranteed that we could charge our phones and thus rely on GPS. First stop, the Cotswolds! We based ourselves at a B&B in Ablington, a tiny village with a small river, a manor house, and only a few roads. To say I envied Isabel, our hostess, would be an understatement. Her setup is dreamy. She hosts visitors in a gorgeous, traditional 3 bedroom stone house where she moved after she ran out of patience with London. She works from home, her horse boards down the road, and her dog accompanies her everywhere -- even on jump courses when she's riding her horse. I wanted to talk with her for hours. Gardens in England are magnificent, but something about her garden was so thrilling: herbs were thriving everywhere, flowers were full of dizzy little bees, and the colors were magnificent. I was tempted to ask her if she needed a sidekick for the summer.
Isabel cooked us a full English breakfast the first morning and day 2 was fresh baked bread, croissants, and all the jams, marmite, and nutella you could hope for. We all agreed her kitchen was just perfect, with that traditional charm radiating from the SMEG refrigerator and antique style range, both of which were actually quite modern. We enjoyed walking through fields behind the house and met one of the neighbors who owned a few donkeys, sheep, and dogs. The neighbor was tickled that we came to Ablington all the way from America, and we chatted with her for a half hour. Wild pheasant cackled in the fields, and one followed us back to the B&B to taunt Connor and Dave.
The pace is slow and moseying in the Cotswolds. It isn't the place to visit if you're looking for action packed adventure, but if you enjoy little villages, gardens, and nosing around, you would enjoy this part of England. Some villages are completely devoid of tourists and others are just packed (Bourton on the Water was so horribly crowded that we didn't even stop.) From what I could tell, if your village has a parking lot, you will attract crowds. We made the most of our 2 days in this area and visited a number of villages. We started Sunday morning in Cirencester, the largest town in the Cotswolds. We strolled the streets, admired gardens, and saw the big Bathurst Estate and nearby Cirencester Park.
We also visited Upper Slaughter and walked the 1 mile trail to Lower Slaughter. I was happy to learn that "slaughter" comes from an old English word which means "muddy place" and so has nothing to do with death. The lower village was similar to Ablington, just a few scattered houses, but the upper village had a picturesque river curving through the town and an old mill with attached cafe. I regret not buying something from the little mill shop - so many good things in there it was hard to settle on just one item.
Next we ventured to much larger Stow-on-the-Wold with its little tea shops and ice cream stores and famous St. Edward's Church. The north door with its ancient yew trees looks like something you'd find in Narnia or Middle Earth.
Our final visit was to tiny Bibury to see its famous row of old wool weavers' homes dating back to 1380. The timing of this trip perfectly coincided with the explosion of growth in gardens all over the country. I adore the wildness of these gardens and how fast everything seems to shoot up overnight. Sometimes I can't help but think that if someone went all out and did this to their house back home, the neighbors would think a total nutter lived there. Like all the other tourists, I took pictures of the gardens and houses, knowing full well that normal people lived in these places, people who may not appreciate having strangers crawling all over their town. One person had a sign on their gate warning people to keep out as it was a private residence. The sign was posted in a couple different languages, which made it perfectly obvious who the main offenders were.
I'm not spilling the beans and calling out the main offenders, but I will tell you about the Drone Dolts. As we were walking back to our car, still laughing about the "keep out" sign, we pass the Drone Dolts: two people who perfectly fit the description of "main offenders" who are very calmly guiding a drone downstream. Attached to the drone was their camera, and I certainly hope they were satisfied with the perspective of the photos because they looked absolutely ridiculous. The fact that they were lugging around a suitcase dedicated solely to the transportation of said drone did not help their case. I later saw this drone in a store in Bath as well as in an article about new travel gadgets. Can we not just visit buildings from the 1300s and enjoy them for what they are, following all posted signs and the spirit of the law that is kindly requesting just a bit of privacy for residents? I mean, come on people.
Next stop, a brief stop in the beautiful city of Bath, Jane Austen's home for a time and site of the old Aquae Sulis Roman baths.