Friday, 28 October 2016

Last day in the Cotswolds

Not a great start to the day, as I reversed out of the drive at the same time as the neighbour and we collided. The drives are at right angles with each other and there is a large hedge in between. If I lived here I would definitely get rid of the hedge or cut it right down. Anyway, it was just one of those things and we both agreed it would be a 50:50 claim as neither of us was to blame. Fortunately no-one was hurt and both cars were still driveable.

Finally we got away to go and find the Rollright stones. An ancient monument with a stone circle.

The circle is known as The King's men

 The Whispering Knights

The Kings men stone circle is visible between the Whispering Knights which I'm sure would have been deliberate.

Standing a good distance from the others is The King stone.

It was another beautiful day and we spotted a few Red Admirals flying around. This one kindly posed for me.

The beautiful comma butterfly.

The stones were up on a ridge so we had great views as we were walking around.

The nearest village to the stones was Long Compton where we stopped for a look round its thatched cottages and Norman church..

This is the Lych gate leading to the church. It dates from about 1600 when it was the end of a row of cottages. The word Lych is derived from the Old English for corpse. They were shelters for the party bringing a corpse for burial when it was required that the priest met the corpse at the churchyard entrance. This one has a room above the gate  which  first became a cobbler's and then an antiques shop in the middle of the last century. Nowadays the room above the gate is loaned to the Compton District History Society.

The gargoyles with piping sticking out of the mouths, to make them more efficient possibly.

The church was closed and cordoned off. The reason was obvious when we went round the other side. was obvious
Apparently it was hit by lightning during a storm in August and until the damage can be repaired it will remain closed.

After lunch in a local pub we moved on to the market town of Northleach, known as a medieval new town.. After the Norman invasion of 1066 many market towns were established. These towns had a simple linear plan, with a long High street lined on both sides by long thin plots of land. These were measured out by using a pole or rod (16 feet long). The plot was 2 poles by 22 poles making an area of a quarter of an acre rented at the cost of a shilling a year. Householders could use the land to grow vegetables and keep chickens and pigs. Early houses had wooden frames and a thatched roof.

The 15th cent church was built by the town's wealthy wool merchants and their amazing brass memorials can still be seen.

This is thought to be the home of one of the wealthiest wool merchants in the town, John Fortey who redesigned the church in the 15th C. It became an inn in the 16th C. It still has the original timbered, jettied upper floor. It is now home to Castle's award winning butcher's shop.
The Old merchants houses now faced with stone

These gabled houses date back to the 17th C

At one end of the town during the 18thC and 19th C   was the workhouse  (now a care home).

This is the Cotswold Hall founded in 1886 as is still in use as the town community hall.

At the other end of the town from the workhouse was the prison, partially demolished in 1937 it is now the Cotswold Discovery Centre and cafe.


We drove back in the sunshine once again and decided on a last walk around Stow-on-the-Wold before leaving here in the morning.

We found the trees that have grown so close to the fabric of the church door that they look part of it.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016


We had a relaxed morning in the cottage before driving to Cheltenham for lunch. This was no ordinary lunch but a dining experience at a Michelin star restaurant, Le Champignon Sauvage. I forgot to photo all the courses but here are a few. Once we had chosen from the menu we were each given a couple of hors d'oeuvres one was a samphire based appetiser and the other was a cheese based one. Both were delicious. Then we were treated to another appetiser of parsnip mousse topped with chopped apple and walnut.

Our starters followed. This was M's starter which had lamb as the main ingredient but I can't remember the other ingredients. I didn't take a photo of mine as I was too busy eating it but mine was pea and mint soup with ham hock and poached egg, It arrived with shredded ham on the plate with a poached egg on top and then the soup was poured on the ham.  It was fabulous.

My main course was grey mullet on fennel tart. Seemed a pity to mess it up.

This was M's dessert of chocolate fondant and raspberry sorbet.

Mine didn't look as attractive as M's but it was just as delicious. I had poached peaches in a peach mousse with sorbet.

To finish we had all these petit fours to share between us. It was fun trying all the different flavours. It was a terrific meal and excellent value for money. We had the set lunch menu at a cost of £32 each. It was fine dining at its best.

Afterwards we wandered around Cheltenham. It has lots of Georgian houses in Cotswold stone giving the town a very elegant experience.

Lots of individual shops,

Cheltenham Ladies College

The Rotunda where the spa used to be but is now a bank.

We very much enjoyed our visit to Cheltenham and it lived it to its description of being an elegant, Georgian town.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Stratford upon Avon

About 15  miles away from where we were staying in the Cotswolds is Stratford upon Avon, famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. A mile or so outside the town in the village of Shottery is the childhood home of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife.

It is a well preserved 16th cent Tudor farmhouse. The house remained in the Hathaway family until 1846 when financial problems meant they had to sell but the family continued to live in the house as tenants when it was bought by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust until the last surviving member of the family died in 1910. Being within the family meant that very few alterations had been made to the property. A fire in the late 60s badly damaged part of the cottage which the Trust restored.
The thatched roof is so thick and looks as though it has been replaced in the last few years. Thatching generally lasts from 20 to 60 years depending on the type of vegetation originally used and its exposure to severe weather conditions.

Although this bed has gone through various renovations it still has the features of a late 16th cent or early 17th cent bed, This was probably the 'best bed' in the house to be used by guests.

The headboard is decorated with inlaid parquetry typical of the 1580s/90s. On either side of the parquetry is a carved figure playing a musical instrument

This bed was also owned by the Hathaway family. It is a rare example of a bed from the 1500s and is possibly the 'second best bed' that William gave to Anne in his will.Along with the bed Anne would also have received a large sum of money following his death. The best bed is likely to have been the visitor's bed so the second best would have been the marital bed.

The farmhouse would have had a number of fires in the house to keep it warm but in the kitchen next to the fire was an oven probably used for bread making.

 The house looked beautiful in the sunshine with its large vegetable garden. In the extended garden is a small sculpture area. One was a wicker structure where you could sit and listen to Shakespeare's sonnets. Didn't take any photos as I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere.

(google image)

Our next stop was Stratford upon Avon and we were just in time to visit Shakespeare's home before it closed. Shakespeare's father was the Mayor of the town and lived in this large house which is actually three houses made into one.

His father was a tanner and we were shown how his father would have tanned animal skins to make gloves. He was a very skilled man and made a range of gloves  from fine kid to rougher workmen's gloves. Urine would have been used in the tanning process and the smell from the tannery would have permeated the house.

Walking around the house it is interesting to see how colourful and decorative the cloth is that hangs on the walls.

The Birthplace Trust has recreated the decor as it would have been during Shakespeare's time.The trust was set up in 1847 to prevent the American showman P.T. Barnum from buying the property and shipping it home 'brick by brick'. The Trust was helped by having the backing of Charles Dickens who helped to raise the £3000 needed to buy the property.

This  window was formally in the birthroom. It became traditional for pilgrims to etch their name into the glass as a symbol of their visit. The earliest recorded date is 1806. I think one of the names is that of Dickens but I couldn't find it.

The town is built by the River Avon and next to the river is the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre. I had booked the tickets months ago to make sure we could experience everything Stratford has to offer by attending the theatre in the evening.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre riverside view 2010 by Peter CookWe saw one of Shakespeare's lesser known plays, Cymbeline which was also being filmed that night to be shown live in cinemas throughout the UK. It would never rate as one of my favourite Shakespeare plays but it was a good experience and made the day in Stratford that bit more special.