Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bath to the Cotswolds

Tuesday August 30, 2011

“The nicest thing about being here,” Ty says over breakfast “is waking up to the realization that it isn’t all a dream”.

We woke up an hour later than planned having slept in until 8:30 am. Moments later we were having an English breakfast and coffee and planning our day.  We planned on taking the National Express bus from Bath to Cheltenham but our plans were quickly dashed by the station attendant who said the $440.00 14 day passes I bought were only good if there was room on the bus and if it went where we were going, which it wasn’t. Bugger.  So we walked over to the train station and caught the 9:36 to Bristol and the 10 am to Cheltenham.  From the comfort of our train, and over hedges and forests of red hawthorne berries, we watched rows and rows of brick houses fly by our window, 1970’s tv antennas still pointing from the slate and terra cotta roofs. We saw numerous farms with picturesque stone manors, flocks of sheep, a few cows, and corn fields divided by old hedges. From the train station in Cheltenham, we hoofed it a couple miles to the rental company and hired a car for a week.  With no more training than it takes to use a toilet, we turned the key and headed off onto a main English highway, driving on the wrong side and all.  I doubt I have experienced that much adrenalin in one day of my life as we drove, terrified yet squealing with laughter around traffic circles, over narrow stone bridges, trading the single lane highway with oncoming traffic at way faster speeds than we were comfortable with.  We passed through tiny villages, their windy, narrow and steep roads built on ancient sheep trails and onto our second destination, the Cotswolds. 
By noon, we were walking the narrow streets of Winchcombe with its stone-walled thatch roofed homes and churches. We toured St. Peters Church and spent several hours at Sudeley castle where King Henry VIII brought his lovely second wife Anne Balwynn in 1835, just before having her beheaded for not producing an heir. We climbed circular stairways to bell towers, jumped moats, got lost in a maze, posed beside ancient tombs and Ty bought a wooden sword, which he wore for the rest of the day.

By 4 pm we were staying in a hostel in the town square at Stow-In-Wold and having meat pie in the Queen’s Head Inn. After getting settled, we walked the small town and explored the local church.  Interestingly, the story goes that JR Tolkien (Lord of The Rings) was inspired by the one door of this church which is overgrown with yew trees.


After dinner, we took a drive east to Chipping Norton and ended up at a tiny village called Great Pew where a 15th century manor was converted to a pub called the Falkland Arms back in 1629.  Tyler walked in ahead of me wearing his wooden sword and the memory of the shocked locals looking at him sceptically will forever give me belly laughs.  We ordered a couple of beer from the round English barmaid and took a corner table under the old wooden beams and low ceiling.  Scanning the menu, we ordered a wooden platter of baked camembert and fresh bread with cranberry sauce on the side.  As we sat there dipping our bread and sipping our beer, we took stock of yet another fine day in olde England. Tomorrow, we intend to head north east towards Wales and see how far we make it.