Although we technically live in the Cotswolds, there is much of the area that is not exactly on our immediate doorstep. We are located in the southern part, in the north-west corner of Wiltshire, relatively close to Bath. The Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is quite large- taking in parts of Somerset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.
This past weekend we did a day trip to the north, stopping by Cotswold Lavender Farm, the nearby village of Snowshill (where some of Bridget Jones was filmed), Broadway, and Bourton-on-the-Water.
It was warm and sunny, and being school holidays, quite busy in places. Still, it is nice to be able to do a day out to see these tourist hot spots rather than needing to take longer stretches off work and study, book accommodation and sort the logistics that go with all that. England is wonderful in that respect- lots of places aren't too far away. We feel particularly lucky being in the south west.
Cotswold Lavender was planted in 2000-2001, it is spectacular to see such a vast and pretty crop, and one that has been established in a relatively short amount of time.
The farm is very close to Snowshill- about a mile and a half- which is quite an iconic Cotswold village. Film buffs will recognise it from one of the opening scenes in Bridget Jones when Bridget goes home to her parents for their 'annual turkey curry buffet'. It was covered in snow and transformed into a proper English Christmas backdrop for filming.
It looked very different this past weekend in high summer, buddleia in bloom, and the annual village fete about to begin.
The National Trust property Snowshill Manor is right in the middle of the village and a must visit in my opinion. Once presented to Catherine Parr by Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries (it belonged to Winchcombe Abbey at the time), the house has had a varied history. A beautiful sixteenth century house, it is absolutely crammed with the impressive and eclectic collection of curiosities of its most noteworthy (twentieth century) owner, Charles Wade. The rooms are filled with wonderful and weird things: keys and locks, clocks, costumes, weaponry, bicycles and more, from all over the world and from all eras. Wade himself didn't live in the actual manor house, choosing to renovate and live with his wife in an outbuilding known as the priest house. This simple lodging consists of just two rooms and very basic accommodation.
The collections inside the house, as fascinating as the 22,000 objects are, were not what I was interested in. I really loved the story of how Snowshill came to be Wade's home. Charles Wade was conscripted in WWI and served in northern France. Charles showed great care and attention decorating his accommodation ( he was an orderly room clerk) to imitate the comforts he was used to at home. The hessian from sandbags lined the walls, he coloured in and displayed tactical maps, his trunk was draped with a hand knitted blanket. He spent spare moments drawing and writing poetry. Whilst he was serving in the war he came across a copy of Country Life magazine which featured an advertisement for the sale of Snowshill Manor. Charles dreamed that one day, if he made it home from war, he would buy the property and transform it into his country home. And he did.
We also wandered the high streets of nearby Broadway and Bourton-on-the-Water. It is obvious summer is in full swing at the moment. It was impossible to pass through a village over the weekend without seeing a strawberry fayre, a summer fete, or a harvest festival. Broadway and Bourton were no exception. And like most English village traditions, these were quite the sight.
Bourton-on-the-Water was in the middle of a rubber duck race when we strolled along the water. All for a good cause though. The money raised from bets for which duck would win went towards the Royal National Lifeboats Institution, responsible for saving lives at sea through their 24 hour search and rescue service. A worthy institution considering the wild seas that surround this island nation.