10 Mar 2013 The Quintessential English Village
This is an entry in the We Said Go Travel Writing Contest written by Prachi Joshi from India. Thanks for your entry Prachi!
Have you ever built up a place so much in your imagination that you wonder whether the reality will turn out to be a disappointment? And the relief when the place surpasses your expectations? That’s exactly what I experienced the first time I visited The Cotswolds in England.
I had grown up on a steady stream of books by Enid Blyton, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, P G Wodehouse and other English writers. All these books had created a picture of England, which was undoubtedly at least 100 years old (200 years, if you consider Jane Austen’s Victorian England!). I wondered if I’d find the small one-horse hamlet where everyone knew each other, the quaint tea shops, the houses with thatched roofs and honeysuckle-covered walls… And The Cotswolds didn’t disappoint one bit.
We drove over from London to a bed & breakfast called Manor Farm in Weston-sub-Edge, close to the village of Chipping Campden. It’s a charming farmhouse dating back to 1624, which had been beautifully restored to function as a BnB. From the moment I walked in, I felt as if I had stepped into one of my books – high ceilings with oak beams, comfortable couches, a china cabinet, a working fireplace, and a mantelpiece lined with porcelain figurines – just as I had imagined Miss Marple’s house to be!
The next day, after a hearty English breakfast, I set out to explore Chipping Campden. The narrow streets were lined with honey-coloured houses with thatched roofs, sitting pretty in gardens spilling over with a profusion of colours. The picturesque, terraced High Street had several old inns, elegant restaurants, cafes and a couple of tea-rooms – with a delectable window display of cakes, muffins, scones and crumpets. That sight, coupled with my desire of having the traditional English Cream Tea experience, found me seated in one of those tea rooms.
The elaborate cream tea arrived soon – hot scones fresh out of the oven, small pots of jam and clotted cream and steaming black tea in a teapot, with an accompanying pot of milk, a bowl of sugar and of course the cups and saucers. The tea was perfectly brewed; the scones were buttery, crumbly and absolutely melted in my mouth; the jam was sweet, sticky and strawberry and the piece de resistance – the creamy clotted Devonshire cream. The combination was as close to heaven as you could imagine!
The Cotswolds is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it is not hard to see why. Rolling hills displaying all possible shades of green, farm fields dotted with grazing sheep, interspersed with tiny villages with their ‘wool churches’ – it seems as if the region has been frozen in time. One of the trails worth exploring is the Cotswold Way – a 160 km long-distance footpath running through the region and affording gorgeous views and historical landmarks. It’s perfect for walking or cycling. I was lucky enough to be exploring the area during a particularly gorgeous spell of English summer and all I did was walk around the villages, climb up hills and take in the grassy smell of meadows and drink tea – lots of tea with buttered crumpets and jam-slathered scones.
The local inns and pubs offered hearty luncheons and dinners (bangers and mash, fish and chips, steak, lamb shanks…) all of which were washed down with a pint (or two) of ale or a glass of house wine. After a long day of wandering around the villages and trekking up and down hills, coming back to Manor Farm seemed like coming home. The hostess, Lucy King, and her family ensured that my stay was comfortable. The room was bright and large with a king-size four poster bed; the window looked out over the family farms, their cows and sheep and the road leading up to the village. Amidst the history and tradition of the house was the ultra-modern en suite bathroom, complete with a power shower and all the amenities that you would find in a city hotel. In my opinion, Manor Farm truly embodied the character and spirit of the Cotswolds – a touch of modernity while retaining all of its old-world charm.
About the Author: I’m Prachi Joshi, a Food and Travel Writer from Mumbai, India. My website is Deliciously Directionless – http://www.deliciouslydirectionless.com/. I also freelance for Nat Geo Traveller, India. You can find me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DelishDirection