This past weekend, my family were lucky enough to be invited to stay in the most charming little cottage in what is widely acknowledged to be one of the prettiest, and quintessentially English parts of England – the Cotswolds.
We were staying with my husband’s aunt and uncle, in the holiday cottage next to their own home, and spent three days being very well looked after indeed. The daughter got to wear her party dress for dinner, and play with the dog, and to stay up way past her bedtime, and be generally spoilt for days. She didn’t want to leave.
I had hoped to set myself up at the antique writing desk in the cottage and get some work done, but there were just too many places to visit, and too much to see. Instead, I filed away moments and memories of the Cotswolds for future books, and set about exploring some of the Cotswolds’ most charming villages.
We walked across the fields to Chipping Campden in glorious spring sunshine, stopping for lunch in a traditional pub with compulsory log fire. We rifled through antiques and trinkets in local shops – and I still managed to leave without adding anything to my teacup collection. We visited Broadway, with its wide, wide main street and more gift shops. The husband even got to climb up to the Broadway tower, a folly that became a favourite retreat for members of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Sunday unfortunately saw a return to more wintry weather – rain, sleet, snow, high winds and hailstones. Still, we adventured out for tea and cake in Moreton-in-Marsh and more antique shopping in Stow-on-the-Wold, before returning for a delicious Sunday lunch, then heading home.
It felt strange to leave the Cotswolds. In many ways, I think they are what people imagine when they think of English Country Life. Unaffected by the industrial revolution, simply because by that point the wool trade had died out there and there was no industry, and bypassed by the devastation of the world wars, the villages of the Cotswolds give the impression of a time bubble to earlier days. But in truth, they’re self-consciously Olde Worlde England. With tourism their main industry these days, traditional pubs, tea shops, gift shops and antique centres are their mainstays, with none of the chain stores and fast food restaurants the rest of the country is littered with. It’s almost as if someone put a wall around this section of England and banned anything that wasn’t sufficiently English and classic – or classy.
It’s a very pleasant retreat from the reality, and a wonderful place to be able to indulge in the idea of a simpler (if more expensive!) world. But there was a small part of me that felt slightly relieved when, after an hour of driving back east to Hertfordshire, we saw our first McDonald’s around Oxfordshire…