The weather has cooled over the last couple of days and I’m back to wearing warmer clothes. For the last couple of days it has been 18C and very mild. We have been very lucky with the weather. Over the last four weeks, we have only had one rainy day and a couple of other brief showers. I’m amazed that I’ve spent autumn in England and haven’t even opened my umbrella.
Yesterday, it was very foggy and it stayed misty all day. We continued our exploration of the Cotswolds by visiting a few of the villages that we had identified in our plans. However, on the way to the first one, we saw a sign to Tewkesbury Abby, so, on impulse, we made a diversion and followed the signs to Tewkesbury Abbey.
Where a cathedral is the head church in an area, an Abbey is a church connected to a monastery. This one is the second largest parish church in the country (by about 1.5 metres in length) and a former Benedictine monastery. It is, apparently, one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain, and has probably the largest Romanesque crossing tower in Europe. The present building was started in the early 12th century. It was unsuccessfully used as a sanctuary in the Wars of the Roses. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries Act by King Henry 8th, it became the parish church for the town. I understand that a group of locals saved the church from destruction by paying a price that represented the value of the lead in the roof and the glass in the windows.
We had set our GPS to take us to Bredon which also has a fine parish church and an old threshing barn. We couldn’t find the barn so after a while we gave up and moved on. Trina had told us about a town called Broadway where we were lucky enough to find a park in the centre of the village. We walked around for a while, looking at the very attractive shops. We liked this place – no tourist shops selling crap – instead, nice galleries and a toy shop along with a beautiful display of fruit and vegetables at the town delicatessen. I think there English are a stoic bunch of people. The little cafe had rugs arranged on the back of its outside chairs so tha customers wouldn’t be too much affected by the nine degree damp foggy weather.
Somewhere along the way, we saw some tethered horses grazing by the side of the road. I couldn’t understand why they might be there until a little further on, we came across these wagons. It seems Gypsies (or more politically correct these days, Travellers) still roam the English countryside.
Near the village of Broad Campden, we came across a cluster of beautiful Cotswolds Cottages – some thatched, and others with slate tile roofs. All had very pretty gardens. We also found a pub called The Baker’s Arms for lunch.
We made a brief stop in the town of Blockley, trying to avoid the ugliest house in the town. It was also the one with most signs telling people not to park, turn, or block their parking access. I find the same thing with hotels – its generally the cheapest ones that have the most signs in the entrance, bathroom and wardrobes, like the hotel we stayed in at Ilffracombe. This house near the church had a lovely red vine of Boston Ivy growing over its wall and gateway.
Chipping Campden was a typical Cotswolds town with narrow streets and houses with a consistent appearance along the street scape. The main street curves in a shallow arc lined with a succession of ancient houses each joined to the next. Chipping Campden was one of the most important of the medieval wool towns and famous throughout Europe. Its character comes from that fame and prosperity. The town was already established in the 7th century and derives its name from the Saxon “Campa-denu” or “Campadene”, meaning a valley with fields or enclosures of cultivated land. Thankfully, the High Street and much of the rest of the town was officially designated a conservation area in 1970 to preserve it as an ancient town for centuries to come.
After leaving the town, we had a nice view back from the top of a hill, although the mist had settled a little more and the view was not as clear as it would have been on a sunny day. I tried to photograph some pheasants in the field but they were too far away for any decent image.
Late in the afternoon, we drove though Winchcombe and decided that it would be our final stop for the day. It’s only about 15 minutes away from Cheltenham, so it was an appropriate place to be late in the day. The name Winchcombe apparently means ‘valley with a bend’, and the main street of the town curves gracefully along the ‘combe’. The buildings look as if they are full of the character of past times. I had read that in the early 1600’s the Winchcombe area was known for tobacco growing which was banned in 1619 due to the vested interest of the industry in America and other colonies.
On our way back to our hotel, we came across a colourful patch of woodland with bright orange autumn colours. I couldn’t help but stop to photograph this old elm tree. Thank goodness for some decent photo editing software so I could adjust the brightness and tone of the image.