When we first arrived in England, I had great designs on visiting the Cotswold area. I’d heard about it from some acquaintance who’d run a B&B there for a while, and it sounded fantastic. And so in the first few months, we made a few day trips to Tewkesbury, Chipping Campden, and Bourton on the Water. Wonderful places, all. Quaint old high streets, with buildings made from the typical yellow sandstone. Ancient market squares, and picturesque villages with small rivers running through.
Then, they became the places that you took visitors to. But after a few times, one gets a bit tired of Chipping Campden high street, and the tweeness of Bourton. We found ourselves not heading down that way much at all. But this summer, in between the wonderful weather, and another batch of visitors, we’ve made a new effort to get back in touch with the Cotswolds. Starting with Snowshill and Broadway, and ending up at Bibury, Chedworth and Painswick, it’s been a time of finding anew the treasures and beauty that are everywhere in this region if you just take the time to look. What I’ve really enjoyed, though, is not the chocolate-box perfection of Arlington Row, or the fascinating objects in Charles Wade’s collection, but the more ordinary, everyday things.
As we travelled from town to town, I tried to imagine living in these places. Giving my address as Lower Slaughter, or Guiting Power. Opening and closing old wooden gates flanked by sandstone pillars as I enter my house. Crossing a stone bridge to get to an ivy-covered pub. Smelling the bright red climbing roses that cover the dormer windows of the house next door. But the real revelation was just going for a walk into the country, climbing a hill, and looking down over the town below.
The views that are available without much effort certainly make it a haven for walking and cycling. It’s no surprise that so many long-distance walks make their way through here – the Warden’s Way, Monarch’s Way, Heart of England Way, and others. I’m trying to organise a family expedition to do the Cotswold Way next year, which involves walking just over 100 miles from Chipping Campden to Bath. And last weekend, most of the LEJOG campaigners spent a day doing what was supposed to be a 100 mile cycle through the area.
It truly does deserve its status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And for the first time, I think I’ve managed to fully appreciate it this year.