A Travellerspoint blog

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Green and Pleasant Land

I can certainly understand why the Cotswolds have been declared an area of outstanding natural beauty. Even if the names of the villages make you feel like you're in an episode of Midsomer Murders. Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter, Moreton-on-the-Marsh, Chipping Norton, Chipping Camden, Stow-on-the-Wold and our favourite, which luckily is the one we are staying in, Bourton-on-the-Water. We picked up a walking map from the information centre and explored the village by foot. It has beautiful golden honeycomb coloured Cotswold stone houses, rolling green fields and the willow tree lined river Windrush runs through the centre of town. The river has stone bridges that that cross where the old fords used to be. There is still one ford there, strangely enough it seems to be at the deepest part of the river! The town has a maze, which as you make your way through you have to find and solve clues. If and when you make it to the centre you need to solve the riddle in order to find the golden dragonfly! We thought it'd be a good laugh and was actually trickier than we thought. We managed to solve the riddle (well most of it) and make our way back out. The village also has a 1/9th scale model village. I'd never seen a model village before. They have replicated it exactly and we even found our apartment. They even included a 1/9th scale model of the model village in the model village

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In the afternoon we took a drive to Tewkesbury, famous for the battle during the War of the Roses in 1471. A lot of the old medieval town still remains. The following weekend after our visit they were having a medieval festival, we won't be able to make it, but it might have been interesting, even if a little nerdy.

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After driving back to Bourton we strolled down to one of the local pubs, The Old Manse, for a drink and some dinner and then back to play with our techno gadgets at the apartment!

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Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On.

Stratford Upon Avon was the agenda for today. About an hours drive from where we are staying. When we were in London we visited the Globe theatre and now it was to Shakespeare's birthplace. Although Shakespeare is the draw card the town itself is really attractive. There is still a lot of the medieval houses remaining, apart from those connected to Shakespeare.

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However, we were there as tourists - I mean pilgrims, so first up was a visit to Anne Hathaway's Cottage. I dunno why they call it a cottage, it's actually quite a large farmhouse. It's much bigger than I expected and the grounds and gardens are beautiful.


Next up was Mary Arden's farm the childhood home of Shakespeare's mother. It's been set up as a Tudor farm with petting animals and actors playing out daily scenes.

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There was just one more stop in Stratford and that was Shakespeare's birthplace. It's right in the middle of Stratford. Shakespeare was born in the house in 1564 and spent his childhood here. It's a typical 16th Century wooden framed, wattle and daub house. I doubt many houses going up today will still be around in 500 years time.


After Stratford we drove to Warwick. Susan had never visited a castle so we spent the afternoon exploring the grounds and rooms. As we arrived they had a birds of prey display with two huge eagles flying around the castle. They really were massive and scared the living daylights out of me! Birds scare me at the best of times let alone ones that rival a 747 for wing span. The castle was built in 1068 by Bill the Champ (William the Conqueror) and used as a fortification until the early 17th Century when it was turned into a country house by Sir Fulke Greville. Probably the most famous owner was Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick and those history lovers among us would know him as "Warwick the Kingmaker" It stayed in the Greville family until 1978 when it was sold to the Tussauds group - Oh how the mighty fall!

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Dreaming Spires

We thought we'd go to Oxford today and scope out which of the colleges might be a potential future centre of learning for Susan - I have already chosen Kings College Cambridge.
When we arrived we were one again overrun with hoards of tourists. Coach loads and coach loads of European teenagers, who looked bored out of their minds, either standing in groups blocking the pavement of sitting on steps blocking entrances and exits. Do they not understand that other people need to access these areas or walk on the pavement???
We did one of our favourite things and jumped on the open top bus tour. As always a great way to see the city and learn a bit of history at the same time. It's easy to think of the University when you think of Oxford and forget that there is a whole other side to the city. Oxford has examples of architecture from every period since the Saxons.
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Obviously the University is a big draw card. The second oldest University in the world (first is Bologna) and oldest in the UK. It has 38 colleges and a list of famous alumni as long as your arm, well longer in fact.

Oscar Wilde
Lewis Carroll
Kenneth Grahame
T. E. Lawrence
C. S. Lewis
J. R. R. Tolkien
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Alan Bennett
Richard Burton
Rowan Atkinson
Hugh Grant
Christopher Wren

To name but a very few.

The weekend we were there was "Alice Weekend" after Alice in Wonderland, whose author Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was a student at Christ Church College and the shop where the "real" Alice bought her sweets is now a Alice in Wonderland souvenir shop.
We took a quick look inside but it was packed.
We were going to have a walk around Christ Church College, which is normally open to the public, but today was closed for a wedding - I guess not everyone was hit hard by the recession!! We did walk around the grounds surrounding it though. A lot of the scenes for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films were shot here, probably the only reason the coach loads of teenagers were here for the day, and why they looked fed up!!

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We spent most of the day in Oxford then headed back to our wonderful apartment in Bourton.

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All The Kings Men and Ghostly Tales

We had a "chilled out" day today. Slept in, relaxed - you know the kind of things you're supposed to do when you're on holiday - the things we have done very little of on this holiday. We went into one of the village cafes for brekkie. The village was packed. Looks like everyone just comes and sits on the village green at weekends and has picnics and buys ice creams from one of the local shops.
We took a leisurely stroll through the fields surrounding the village, following the river. It's just such beautiful countryside and so peaceful and tranquil.

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We did a tour of the perfumery factory which is part of the building we are staying in - our apartment is over the shop. If anyone's interested check out their website, they make some nice things and you can buy online, although you could use it as an excuse to take a trip to the Cotswolds! http://www.cotswold-perfumery.co.uk/ If you click on the link to accommodation you'll see pics of our apartment too.

In the afternoon we took a drive round a couple of the local villages on the way to see the Rollright Stones. Some lovely thatched cottages and surrounding lavender fields.



The Rollright Stones are a collection megalithic stones known as The King's Men, The King's Stone and The Whispering Knights. The main one is the King's Men, which is a stone circle of 77 stones and 33 metres in diameter. Originally there were more than 77, but over the years people have removed them, as they do. It's thought to date to around 2500–2000 B.C.


The oldest of the three is the Whispering Knights. This dates to around 4000–3500 BC and is the remains of a neolithic burial chamber. The third, The Kings Stone is a single monolith erected somewhere between 1800 and 1500 BC and thought to be a marker stone for an early Bronze Age cemetery. All these stones are surrounded by wheat fields with wild poppies growing through them, dotting spots of red amongst the green and yellow crops.

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We went back to Bourton and in an attempt to blend in and show our respect for local customs, bought an ice cream and ate it wandering around the village green.

Later in the evening we went on a local "Ghost Walk" We met at 7pm near the War Memorial in the village. There were 4 others on the walk and as we waited and chatted a very odd looking man dressed as a pirate approached. Even without the pirate costume he would have been strange. When he saw the looks on our faces he claimed he was going to a fancy dress party after the walk, however I'm not convinced. He led us on a walk through he village, following much the same route we had done on our first day. As he went he regaled us with stories of local ghosts and legends, including the ghost that haunts the cafe we had breakfast in, not that we saw anything. I've been on a number of these types of walks and I have to say, this was the worst. The guy was just weird and added no life or spark to the stories, just regurgitated a few local legends. To make these walks successful you need to bring the stories to life and create an atmosphere, not just look weird, something beyond our guides ability, pirate suite or not. Jack Sparrow he wasn't! Still it was a pleasant evening and a stroll through the village is always nice.

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Pigs, Acorns and Mr Darcy

Today was one of the highlights of Susan's holiday. Top of her list of "things to do in the UK" was "have a bath in Bath"
When I think of Bath, two images come to mind - Romans splashing around in hot springs and Georgian drawing rooms filled with young ladies gossiping about that arrogant Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. There is however much more to Bath, strangely enough it didn't just jump from Emperor Claudius to Jane Austen. The springs were a shrine to the Goddess Sulis back in the Iron Age, long before the Romans arrived. In fact the Romans named Bath Aqua Sulis (waters of Sulis) because of the shrine already there. They associated Sulis with their Goddess Minerva. The Romans were good at incorporating local religions into their own, made quite a habit out of it.
Bath also continued to evolve after the Romans left and has architectural remains from periods throughout the centuries. Although it is true to say that most of what you see now comes from the Georgian boom, when Bath became fashionable and anyone who was anyone travelled there to "take the waters"

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Hands up those who think they can guess what was the first thing we did in Bath. For those who said "open top bus trip" congratulations. I don't know how you guessed! This was a little different from our usually bus tours, as we had a celebrity guide. A slightly tipsy Ronny Corbett was our guide today and very entertaining he was too! I know some of you won't know who that is, this is because you are too young and should probably be in bed by now and not on the magic computer reading this! My favourite story related to us on this tour was that of King Bladud. Legend has it that Prince Bladud contracted leprosy and was banished from his fathers kingdom. With no other way to make a living Prince Bladud became a swineherd. His pigs too contracted various skin diseases. One day he noticed his herd wallowing in mud. Nothing unusual for pigs you might think, however on this particular day the pigs would not get out of the mud. No matter how much he tried to coax them or force them, they would not move. Eventually he gathered some acorns, as the only things pigs love to do more than wallow in mud is to eat acorns. Bladud laid a trail of acorns leading the pigs put of the mud pools into an open field. When Bladud looked at his herd of pigs they had been cured of their skin complaints. Prince Bladud climbed into the mud himself and discovered it was warm, as he rubbed it all over his body his leprosy disappeared and he was cured. Now free of his ailment he returned to his fathers kingdom and was welcomed back with open arms. He went on to become King Bladud. He founded Bath around the mud springs so that others could benefit from their healing qualities and went on to become the father of Shakespeare's King Lear. True story!! When we finished our bus tour, as we alighted Susan whispered "and it's goodnight from him" (for those who again don't know, that is a reference to the closing lines from the Two Ronnies)

We went to the Roman Baths next. As previously mentioned the Romans built their baths here and dedicated them to the Goddess Minerva. Probably around 43 A.D. The water comes from rainfall on the Mendip Hills which goes into the limestone to a depth between 2,700 meters and 4,300 meters, where it heats to a temperature between 64 °C and 96 °C. It then gets pushed back up through the limestone and comes out through faults in the rocks. The old baths are no longer used but are fascinating to see.

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We did try the water. You can buy a glass for 50p. Susan managed to drink hers all down, I only managed half. It's served at the same temperature as it is when it comes out of the springs and also being full of minerals it's not the most pleasant taste. Still I'm sure it's cured us of all our ailments!

Susan the went off to the new Bath Spa for a 2 hour soak in their thermal baths, steam rooms, rooftop pool and Vichy waterfall shower. I on the other hand drank coffee and ate lovely little patisseries to while away the hours.

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