In Which We Visit the Cotswolds

I first visited the Cotswolds in 1981, with my buddy Kate Smith, when we were studying at Syracuse University in London. We went to a couple of the little towns one weekend — Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Bourton-on-the-Water. The entire region looked like something out of a Constable painting, all rolling hills, leafy trees, old stone houses, and a whole lot of sheep. I’ve dreamed of returning for the past 31 years. Today, Aug. 8, 2012, I finally managed to do that.

Sometimes those kinds of memories don’t hold up. You end up disappointed and wonder why you thought something was so great in the first place. That didn’t happen today. The towns that Dave, Elizabeth, Noah and I visited — Swinburn, Burford, Upper and Lower Slaughter (you’ve got to love those names), and Stow-on-the-Wold — were as beautiful as the places I remembered.

Swinburn wasn’t on our itinerary, but it was on the way to Burford, and I couldn’t not stop there. It was once the home of the Mitford family, about whom I’ve read so much. It is a beautiful, teeny-tiny very green speck of a town that, if you could overlook the cars and the occasional electrical line, you’d swear has been untouched by progress. We went up to the churchyard and looked at the graves, some of which date back to the 1600s, and some of which are the eternal resting places of Nancy, Unity, Pamela, and Diana Mitford. Pretty amazing stuff for someone like me, a longtime Mitford fan.

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Noah wasn’t terribly impressed with Burford — I think because it had too many stores and E and I wanted to go into all of them. So we separated for an hour, and Noah and Dave went and looked at nature-y things, and E and I explored the shops. (In keeping with the male Wishart tradition of a severe shopping allergy, Dave said Stow-on-the-Wold was his favorite place, because we arrived at 6 p.m., a half hour after all the shops had closed.) (In a break from the female Wishart-Waldman tradition, Elizabeth and I were remarkably restrained and resisted buying antique apothcary jars and stoneware, a fire-starter in the shape of a giant matchstick, a knick-knack shelf, a jewelry box, and miniature cake stands. We did buy a hand-held ebony-framed mirror for £12.)

The Slaughters are more peaceful and buccolic than the relative metropoli of Burford and S-o-t-W. We drove to Upper S. and walked the mile down to Lower, mostly through fields of sheep, and made the return trip on a quiet, one-lane country road. By then it was nearly 5 p.m. and the sun was fully out (belying the weather reports, which had promised thunderstorms which, mercifully, never came). Jet lag had set in, and all four of us just hunkered down by a beautiful stream and rested.

We stopped back in Burford for dinner and returned to Eynsham Hall at about 8:30, in time to watch BBC Olympic coverage and see Jason Richardson win the silver medal in the 110m hurdles. Very exciting, as E and I had met him in June when he was in Edmonton for a track meet.

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Tomorrow the Canadian women’s soccer team plays France for the bronze medal. The game is in Coventry, about an hour and a half from here. Coventry is about a half hour from Stratford-Upon-Avon, where we were planning to go tomorrow. We’re gonna take a detour. I tried finding tickets on line, to no avail. But maybe we’ll luck out and find some in Coventry. If not, it’ll be a Shakespeare kind of day.

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The mill in Lower Slaughter.

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Nature at work in Upper Slaughter

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4 Responses

  1. Hi Debby-I am enjoying this blog. Running a 5K was on my bucket list; but a walking tour through the Costswalds is on my running friend’s bucket list. I look forward to your updates. Love and hugs-Cindi

  2. Love your blog! Makes me feel as if I’m there. So nice to know someone who is in England and can write sooo well. Yeah, Debby. Thanks for telling us how it is going over there!

  3. I am torn Debby…I hope you find some tickets for the soccer, but you are such a wonderfully evocative writer, that reading your thoughts on Shakespeare and Stratford on Avon sounds marvelously appealing.

  4. Thanks for the lovely descriptions and increasing my already jealous feelings. Having spend far too much time in Victorian novels and none at all in the places they describe, you can at least appreciate my envy. Whether you got tickets to the game (WE won!) or spent the day Shakespearing, you can’t really lose. Take care.

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