Today we drove eastwards to see more of the scenic villages that we had identified in our pre-trip research. I really enjoy driving through these country roads and little villages although most other cars on the road (especially Audis and Jaguars) drive much faster than us and invariably tail-gate us right up our clacker, as my friend ‘Rattles’ would say.
I am sure that God is with us on this trip. After more than two weeks of driving our rental car, I still haven’t found the switch to turn the headlights on and off. I asked Jill if she could see where it was and she replied “God only knows”. Well, he must know. Every time it gets dark, he turns them on and when it gets light, he turns them off again. Every time we drive through a dark woodland area and come out of it again, God turns the lights on and then off.. I’ve decided that I don’t need to find the switch – I’ll just let God do his work!
The first village that we visited today was a little town called Bibury. It was not a town that I knew much about but it is a ‘picture perfect’ village on the little River Coln, The river is sandwiched between the main village street and an expanse of boggy water meadow known as Rack Isle which was originally where the cottage based weavers laid out their fabric to dry after dyeing it. There must be a least six photographic sites in this village that could be candidates for biscuit tins or jigsaws. It has a cuteness rating of 1en on our scale.
A row of old cottages named Arlington Row that were built around 1380 from local stone is the main tourist attraction. , It began its life as a monastic wool store and was converted into a row of weavers cottages in the 17th century. An American man, named Henry Ford, once wanted to buy this entire row of cottages and reconstruct them in an American theme park. Fortunately, they are now owned by the National Trust.
The old mill pond has been converted into a trout farm and the Swan Hotel provides villagers and visitors with lubrication. We actually saw a black swan swimming in the river. This was something of a surprise as these birds are native to Australia. No village worth its salt would be without a church and this one has the Church of St Mary, a Saxon church that dates back to the 8th century. Some Norman and Gothic additions, including some 13th century stained glass windows made it interesting to visit.
An unexpected find was the town of Burford. This was the site of a fortified fort in Anglo-Saxon times. The town grew to be an important crossroads and very wealthy wool town. The broad main street slopes gently down to the River Windrush and is lined with some splendid old houses, ancient cottages and many shops – all of which appear as if they might have come straight out of Tudor times. There are some interesting angles and levels in many of them.
By lunch time, we reached the town that we were actually heading for, Stow-on-the-Wold. It’s a quaint name to differentiate this town of Stow (on the Wold River) from other towns with the name of Stow in other places. It’s quite a large town with a large market square that now serves as a car park. We found a shop that sold poppies for Remembrance Day and we had quite a chat with a Canadian couple who were friends of the man running the shop. They directed us to a local hotel asa place for lunch. It was quite a bit more formal and old fashioned than any we have previously visited. I’m sure Miss Marples would have been their most regular customer.
From there we drove on to visit the villages known as the ‘Slaughters’. Upper and Lower Slaughter are both well known Cotswolds villages. Their names come from the Old English name for a wet land ‘slough’ or ‘slothre’ (Old English for muddy place). This quaint village sits beside the little Eye stream and is known for its unspoilt limestone cottages in the traditional Cotswold style. The stream running through the village is crossed by small bridges and the main attraction (apart from every cute house in the village) is a converted mill with its original water wheel.
One mile upstream on the Eye River is the little village of Upper Slaughter. The most dominant building there is a beautiful gabled Manor House – one of the finest buildings in the area. Upper Slaughter is known as a Double Thankful Village due to all their then members of the armed forces surviving both World War I and World War II. One of the other two Thankful Cotswold Villages, having no fatalities in the Great War was Little Sodbury that we saw yesterday.
Our last major stop for the day was at Boughton-On-The-Water. This village, with a complete lack of parking space, is often described as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ due to its six bridges that span the River Windrush. These bridges greatly add to the charm of the village, which is sliced in two by the little river and its grassy banks. Many of Bourton’s cottages are more than three hundred years old and some even date back to Elizabethan times, over four hundred years ago.
By now, the sun was very low in the sky and it was time to head back to our hotel. We chose one last village ate random as a place to stop on the way back – Notgrove. It dates back to 1088 and consists of just a few houses and . . . (you guessed it), a church. We found a very photogenic farm house lit up by the setting sun.