Day 21, Monday December 30, 2019
A foggy start to what became a lovely day – other than Christmas Day, the bluest we’ve had.
After beginning our day’s touring at Moreton-in-Marsh which was, to be honest, a bit of a disappointment, our next stop was Stow-on-the-Wold. It was at its coldest and foggiest at here because, as were informed, Stow is the highest point in The Cotswolds. I, of course, asked how high Stow was, and was informed that it’s a similar altitude to the alps. Hmmm, yeah, nah, I wasn’t entirely sure I believed that.
Stow is, however, built on top of a hill – the word “wold” meaning hills. The hill in question is only 800ft high, so not exactly alpine material, but there you go.
Stowe-on-the-Wold, Where the wind blows cold.
Where horses young and old are sold, Where farmers come to spend their gold.
Where men are fools and women are bold and many a wicked tale is told.
High on the freezing Cotswold.
This is a lovely town, with plenty of antique shops and some great pubs and restaurants. There are lots of little alleys (known as “tures”) that run from the market square to the buildings and streets beyond. These were apparently to herd sheep into the square to be sold during the 5-day fairs – which have been held since the 1400s. Over 500 years later there are still fairs held twice a year, although these days they are gypsy horse fairs.
The church door in amongst some ancient yew trees is now an Instagrammer’s delight, although this Instagrammer didn’t get a decent picture and is having to “borrow” another Instagrammer’s shot.
Tewkesbury is a medieval market town where the River Severn meets the River Avon. Like many of the other towns we’ve visited, this one dates back at least to the 7th century and was the site of one of the most decisive battles in the War of The Roses – between the Lancasters and the Tudors – in 1471.
I recall catching the bus across to here from Gloucester on that first trip in 1995. We spent ages wandering around the abbey and I remember being blown away by it. There was something completely awe-inspiring about it and something else that I couldn’t put words around. I felt exactly the same this visit.
The Abbey was founded in 1087, although building didn’t commence until 1102. While many of the buildings attached to the Abbey were destroyed and their stone used elsewhere following the dissolution in the mid 1500s, the church itself was sold to parishioners for the grand sum of £453 (the value of the lead in the roof) and was saved.
Check out these photos of the magnificent interior…definitely worth saving!
The views over the fields are also pretty special. The pics below were taken before the fog lifted.
We had tea and scones at the Abbey Teahouse across the road – a tiny shop filled beyond capacity with a mish-mash of a million and one things that the owners euphemistically referred to as “artifacts.” It was hilarious.
Before leaving town we sneaked a look at the canal – although the picture I had in my mind from all those years ago was of a lot of narrowboats being moored here. I suppose though, that visit was in September and this one the end of December – the temperature was very different indeed.
Onto Broadway where the sky was blue and the streets heaving with traffic.
While we were able to jag a carpark, we weren’t so lucky when it came to finding a spare seat anywhere for lunch – all the pubs and cafes were overflowing.
I know I’ve told you a little about Broadway before, but it truly is the quintessential drop-dead gorgeous Cotswolds village and one that is an essential stop on any visit to the Cotswolds – although it might be best to avoid a public holiday when you do so.
If you watch Father Brown on TV you’ve seen Blockley as this is where it’s filmed. Yet despite its TV fame, Blockley is relatively unspoiled and very lovely indeed.
The pub was full of hikers and people with dogs and, while the menu was very limited, was all the better for that.
We got talking to one couple with a chocolate Labrador. They showed us photos of the parents – both black labs – and the rest of the litter, which were also black labs, with this little chocolate brown one at the end. Too cute for words.
After lunch we took a walk around the village.
But as I promised the villagers that we were talking to in the pub that I wouldn’t say how beautiful it is, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Snowshill and beyond
The shadows were lengthening as we drove through Snowshill – another village that should be on any Cotswolds driving itinerary. although the lavender farm was closed when we visited. Just where Snowshill runs into Broadway we stopped to take a photo of the most higgledy piggledy house I’ve ever seen.
We intended to stop at Winchcombe and checking out Sudeley Castle but it was also wall to wall people and cars so did a drive-through instead.
We ended up on a single lane road that wound high above Sudeley Castle, so we at least got a view of it
and some lovely sunset pics over the fields.
Back to Burford for dinner at The Lamb tonight, and tomorrow we’re off to Lacock.
This was an excerpt from my travel diary. You can access other posts in this series here.