Day 20, Sunday December 29, 2019
The news coming out of Australia this morning is worrying – the bushfires have now burnt out an area of about 50,000 square kms which is more than double the size of Wales. It’s heartbreakingly unbelievable – but sadly all too real.
This morning we’re off to Lower Slaughter this morning to meet H&J for a proper wander. This is a beautiful village but, to be frank, not at its best on this cold and gloomy wintry Sunday morning. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the village doesn’t get its name because something unspeakable happened here many years ago, the name “slaughter” actually comes from the old English word “slough” meaning “wet land” or “muddy ground”.
There’s a plaque on the green that has us intrigued – the Bledisloe Cup.
For us Aussies and Kiwis the Bledisloe Cup is the annual rugby competition between Australia and New Zealand. In the pic below H and I are attempting to replicate a scrum.
That rugby competition has been running since the early 1930s when Lord Bledisloe, the then Governor-General of New Zealand wished to present a cup for the All Blacks and the Wallabies to play for.
This Bledisloe Cup, the one in the Cotswolds, is for something very different, but no less highly contested – a best-kept village award. The same Lord Bledisloe is responsible for it (evidently he liked to have his name attached to competitions) and Lower Slaughter has won it on a number of occasions.
Sarah asked the shopkeeper at The Mill in Lower Slaughter if there was a chance there might be some of their (previously very good) ice cream in the freezer. Her response? That there was slightly more chance of finding Tom Hardy in your bedroom, naked…twice… then there was of getting ice cream from Lower Slaughter in the middle of winter. She did, however, tell us we could get some badly made mass-produced ice cream in Bourton on the Water. She was right – Sarah did get some and it was bad…but more on Bourton shortly.
As we were walking back to the car we saw a blackbird attempting to drown another blackbird in the stream. At first we thought that it was some sort of strange mating practice until it became clear that one was deliberately attempting to hold the other under the water. (As an aside, did you know that only male blackbirds are black? Female blackbirds are brown… don’t say you don’t learn anything from this blog.)
We shooed the attacker away and fished the victim out of the stream – the other bird still hung around and actually tried to come back in and attack again while we were in the process of our rescue. I ended up carrying it across to the church yard and set it down in the garden where it was protected a little and hoped that it would be okay.
Just over a mile down the road is Bourton-on-the-Water, not to be mistaken with Bourton-on-the- Hill or Great Bourton or even Little Bourton. As Agatha Raisin exclaimed in the TV series, ‘which bloody Bourton?’ In fact it’s easy to tell which bloody Bourton because this is the only one with bus parking.
While it was still early on a Sunday morning it wasn’t quite early enough for us to be ahead of the day-trippers, but just early enough to get a car park.
Last time that we were here I decided that this was a lovely town ruined by too many bus-tour style gift shops and below-par tearooms and I’m sad to say that I haven’t changed my opinion. It’s a gorgeous town, but stupidly busy; somewhere along the way with the commercialism and the bus companies, it’s lost some of its charm…in my humble opinion, anyway.
The Christmas tree in the middle of the water is, however, pretty.
We stopped in at one of the above-mentioned teashops for cream teas. The tea part was okay, but I would have scored the scones a very average five at best. They were overly crumbly and the metallic taste of bi-carb was quite strong and had other (ahem) affects… okay, they made everyone a tad, well, gassy. The scone cost £3.50 plus another 55p for jam and another 55p for cream.
By the time we got back to the carpark it was full, as was the second one a little further outside town near the bird park. People were literally everywhere.
And the people that weren’t in Bourton were in Burford – which was where we were headed to for lunch. It definitely wasn’t this busy when we were here last time although, to be fair, that was mid-week in November, not a holiday Sunday.
I adore Burford. It was our first stop on our last trip to England – I wrote a little about it here and here. In fact Brookford, my fictional Cotswolds village from Wish You Were Here and Escape To Curlew Cottage is based more than a little on Burford.
We managed to get a table at The Angel for Sunday roast (£16 each) – and a very good roast it was. Check out that Yorkshire pudding in the pic below.
Suffice to say we all needed the walk up the hill through Burford afterwards.
While I resisted the urge to buy Tommy Bank’s cookbook Roots in the bookshop (mainly because I wasn’t sure I could fit it in my suitcase), Grant and Sarah showed no such restraint in the sweetie shop.
We also bought a lardy cake to share between the three of us with tea back at our cottage.
Not really a cake, but more of a sweet, spiced bread, lardy cake is made across the West Country – especially Gloucestershire and Wiltshire – although a number of counties proclaim that the original recipe is theirs. The main ingredients are lard (of course), flour, yeast, sugar, spices and dried fruits. Once it’s been baked you turn the cake upside down so that the lard can soak through. Yes, this is definitely a sometimes food. (As an aside, I’ll be attempting to make a slightly lighter version of this over the next couple of weeks…watch this space…)
On the agenda tomorrow is some more Cotswolds villages…
This was an excerpt from my travel diary. You can access other posts in this series here.