Bath and Cotswolds

Trip Start Mar 14, 2012
Trip End Jun 15, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Faff's ramblings

On the morning of Thursday 10 May, it was rainy, misty and foggy. We packed our bags and said goodbye to Sylvia before she went to work. Graham came to visit and we said goodbye to him too. We (reluctantly) left Peter Tavy (I wanted to stay for longer), and began our drive to Somerset. It was really foggy, and at some points we could only see a few metres in front of us! We saw some lovely countryside as we drove though Devon and into Somerset :) We went to Lynton in Exmoor National Park. It is a pretty town. We walked to the Valley of the Rocks, which was so beautiful and rugged! It was also very windy, but it suited the location :) We could see across the ocean to Wales :) We continued our drive through Exmoor, which was beautiful. We went through Minehead and Bridgwater, but decided to drive to Weston-super-Mare for a (very) late lunch. Weston-super-Mare is similar to Brighton in some ways, but I actually liked it more than Brighton :) We had a late lunch at the pub. I got two chicken breasts with cheese, bacon and BBQ sauce, and a pound of chips! I was as full as a goog :P

We continued driving to Bath, and drove through Chew Lake valley, which was stunning! We arrived in Bath and dropped off our luggage at our B&B, and spoke to our host about places to see and places to eat. We went for a walk into the centre of town, and went to the Royal Crescent, which I was excited to see because it is in several Jane Austen movies (the Cobb at Lyme Regis is also in a Jane Austen movie - 'Persuasion'. See previous post) :P We also went to the Circus, and walked down Milsom Street to Bath Abbey, beside the Roman Baths. Bath is a beautiful Regency town. We walked to Firehouse Rotisserie for dinner (one of our host's recommendations), and I had beautiful duck quesadillas and goats cheese fondue with chilli pesto and pine nuts, and smoked cheddar and chives mash, and Dan had rotisserie chicken. We walked back to the B&B after dinner, and I looked at some of the pictures in the sitting room, one of which is from the cover of one my Jane Austen books :)

Ultimate cultural experience of the day: seeing the Royal Crescent in Bath.

On the morning of Friday 11 May, we had a full English breakfast at our B&B, and the husband of our host, who served us breakfast, was so excited about everything (especially Bath), and about where we had eaten dinner the previous night :P He recommended we drive into the centre of town and park there for the morning. We drove into town, parked, and walked to the Roman Baths. We got audio guides and did the tour, and I listened mainly to the Bill Bryson commentary, because he usually has something interesting to say :) We learned about how the Romans heated the floors in some of the rooms, and saw the steps that led into a temple, and Bill Bryson commented on how worn they were from foot traffic back in the day, which was very interesting :) We also saw the source of the natural hot spring water in the Baths, and tasted some of the water coming from a tap. It was warm, of course, and tasted very mineral-y and metallic. We peeked into the Pump Room, which is a famous cafe at the Baths, but we weren't interested in going in.

We went to the free Bath tour meeting place outside the Baths. Our tour guide was an older lady, and she had a bit of a naughty sense of humour :P She gave us an interesting tour, and we learned a lot :) Like about Sally Lunn and her famous buns. Sally Lunn's House is one of the oldest houses in Bath, and we were told how they don't think her real name was Sally Lunn, but the oven she cooked her buns in cooked one side more than the other, so they referred to them using the French words 'soleil lune' (sun moon, because one side of the bun was a lighter colour than the other), and it eventually became 'Sally Lunn'. And we were told about how the architects of the buildings in Bath only concentrated on the front of the buildings and the people could design the backs of the buildings any way they wished. And how there was a window tax, so having windows was very expensive, and the corner townhouses had a lot of windows, so the owners filled some of the windows in so they wouldn't have to pay the tax, but they painted the bricks where the windows used to be so that from a distance they still looked like windows - it was all about appearance. And how people would go to the Baths and then get a sedan chair home (see, and they would be carried up to their rooms (so they could "sweat it out" after the Baths) still in the sedan chair, so the staircases were always very wide! And we saw a building that had three different roof styles - one was like a cottage, one was like a mansion, and one was like a castle. It represented the different classes of people, which I thought was interesting :) We also saw the Pulteney Bridge, which is an old bridge over the River Avon with shops on it, like Ponte Vecchio in Florence and Rialto in Venice.

We left the tour early to go to the Fashion Museum. I had considered going to the Jane Austen museum, but decided not to because I have read that she didn't like Bath, so I didn't want to go to a museum based on her life in a city she didn't even like living in. So we went to the Fashion Museum, which had some interesting items, including Edward VIII's golfing jackets, and several pairs of leather gloves owned by numerous people, but the fingers of the gloves were very long because they weren't worn for warmth, they were worn for...yep, you guessed it! - for show and appearances. I think that if you had gloves like that, it meant you were rich. We walked through the museum quite quickly, and did a few of the audio guide commentaries. Just as we were about to leave the building, Dan said really loudly, "Is that Chele?!", and it was! Chele is a friend (who I originally met in high school), and we had known that she and her family were going to be in the UK at the same time as us, but we didn't think we were going to be in the same places at the same time. But we were! What are the chances! She was at the counter buying a ticket for the museum. She took us outside and said to her husband Andrew, "Look who I found inside", and his jaw just dropped :P We chatted with Chele and Andrew and the kids and got some photos :) They gave us some good suggestions for places to go to in the Peaks and Scotland and places not to go to :) After we left Chele and Andrew and the kids, we walked down the main drag and got some lunch, and then we went into Bath Abbey and had a look around (interesting and pretty), and then went to a computer store and got some external hard drives (because all of my videos were taking up space on the ones we had :P). We walked back up the main drag, and I bought some irises because we were visiting a family grave later.

We drove from Bath and through some nice countryside to Crudwell, which was much bigger than I expected. We found the church we were after, and I walked around the churchyard looking for the plot that I had seen pictures of. I found it behind the church, and placed the irises in front of Louisa Grace Richard-Preston's headstone. She was my great-great-great-grandmother, married to William Richard-Preston. I had my little solemn moment (which was nice), and Dan came around and we got some pictures. We went inside the church and it was very pretty, and different to other churches we have seen because it was stone inside and out, when they usually have timber or plaster inside. As we were leaving the church, I looked at the names of the previous ministers on a plaque, and I saw William Anslow-Sole and William Preston Anslow-Sole. William was my great-great-great-uncle (married to Louisa Grace's daughter Grace) and William Preston (their son) was my first cousin thrice removed :) They are buried in the same plot as Louisa Grace, along with Grace and several other Anslow-Soles. I took a photo of the outside of the church because it looked pretty on a pretty, sunny day :)

We continued our drive to Painswick in the Cotswolds down some narrow roads. We got to our street and asked someone walking by if they knew where Byfield House was. I saw a woman by the window in the house behind him and she came out, and she was our host! We had stopped in front of our B&B :P We drove down the street to the car park we would be using, and took our luggage in to our room. We went into the main house kitchen and were given maps and recommended drives and walks, and we had a nice chat with our hosts, Jill and Brett. Brett is actually Australian, and they lived in Australia for a while when they got married :) Jill is lovely, and is a very excited person :P :) We decided to go for a walk around Painswick. We saw some very pretty cottages and buildings, it really is the hidden gem of the Cotswolds! We walked up to the churchyard, and it was amazing! There was lots of yew trees that were sculpted and with paths cut through them, and it was late afternoon and the lighting was beautiful, and the graves were really old, including some for people that died in the 1770s aged 70! I find it fascinating that their parents were born in the 1600s! These people were alive before Australia was even "discovered"! It was the most interesting and pretty churchyard I have ever visited :) We walked some more through Painswick and towards the northern edge of town, where there was a beautiful view, with the lovely European evening light. I tried to film how nice it was, but a man started mowing his lawn, so it spoiled the serenity.

We walked back to the B&B, and were given a tour of the main house by Jill, and it was amazing!!! Very big and very old, and Jill used to be an antiques dealer and she loves old religious antiques, and some of them in the house were a bit interesting :P The house was also awesome because it was so big (three or four storeys) and interesting, and had staircases going up and then down, and reminded me of the house in the Edgar Allan Poe short story 'William Wilson': 

"But the house! -- how quaint an old building was this! -- to me how veritably a palace of enchantment! There was really no end to its windings -- to its incomprehensible subdivisions. It was difficult, at any given time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories one happened to be. From each room to every other there were sure to be found three or four steps either in ascent or descent. Then the lateral branches were innumerable -- inconceivable -- and so returning in upon themselves, that our most exact ideas in regard to the whole mansion were not very far different from those with which we pondered upon infinity." :)

There was a corridor outside our door that ran from the backyard to the street and it separated our room from the main house, and it was used to drive animals through back in the day, and the door that leads to the street is called the 'donkey door', and our room used to be where the carts were kept :P We went to dinner at the local pub, which was nice. We came back and chatted to Jill in the backyard with her pups Daisy (maltese), Maddie (14-year-old English springer spaniel) and Rosie (younger springer spaniel). They were all gorgeous and sweet pups! Daisy loved attention and was always standing on her hind legs and doing tricks, and Rosie was running around chasing a tennis ball, and Maddie was walking around with a tennis ball in her mouth because she is too old and stiff to run around chasing it. Poor old pup. But Jill said that as long as she has a tennis ball in her mouth, she is happy :)

Ultimate cultural experience of the day: touring the Roman Baths, and visiting the church in Crudwell to see Louisa Grace's grave.

On the morning of Saturday 12 May, we got up and made some breakfast. Dan ate his and I took mine with (croissants from our hosts). We headed out at about 7.15 for our Cotswolds walk. We walked up a hill, across a field, across some of a golf course, through some woods, past a quarry, and up through and past the golf course some more along a path. We realised we had gone the wrong way and went back to the start of that part of the golf course. We found the right way up to the Beacon (the highest point). We walked up to the Beacon, which has a beautiful view, and has an old Iron Age hill fort from 2500 years ago, but you can only see the ridges of the fort. We walked back down from the Beacon and talked to a local taking his dog Cass for a walk. Cass is a bearded collie but is always mistaken for an Old English Sheepdog (which I thought she was :P). She was beautiful. He asked if we saw the Seven Bridges and Wales from the Beacon, and we hadn't realised we could see Wales from there if we looked west! I didn't realise we were that far west in England!

We continued on our walk back along the road we had originally mistakenly taken, and walked at the edge of some woods, which were pretty. We walked along the road past some farms with lots of sheep and lambs, and we could hear the Cranham church bells ringing across the hills :) We walked to Cranham, which is just a little village, nothing to write home about (even though I am). We walked past the church with the church bells still ringing. We continued on our walk to Sheepscombe, but we wanted to walk on the Cotswold Way on what are called "public footpaths", but sometimes there is no path at all and it's a walk across fields. We didn't want to walk on the road because it's not as picturesque (high hedges) and the roads are narrow and can be dangerous.

We walked up what looked like a driveway but it had the public footpath small circle sign on a post there. We saw big fat pigs eating in a field, and some more in the next field with a pile of piglets :) One piglet was pushed out of the way by a pig, poor little thing. It went flying! It was OK though :) We kept walking along the path and got to a house that looked like it belonged on 'Escape to the Country'. There was no path, but our map indicated to walk down to the stream and cross the little bridge, so we did. Dan was walking ahead and trying to work out where the dotted line on the map was going, and I ended up walking a different way up the rise and was essentially walking through a little creek or marsh with water and mud, and I was trying to step on the clumps of grass but they were sinking. I got over the rise and walked along the hill with Dan, but there was a fence between the field and the woods and we couldn't work out which way to go. We walked down to a wide dirt path that would lead up to the next house behind the field, and we were going to walk down the houses's driveway to get back to the road, but the dirt path was deep mud and cattle had been treading in it so it was really messy. Dan tried to walk through a bit of it and his shoes sank into the mud almost ankle-deep! We decided to go back to the road the way we had come because we were over trying to walk through fields. We tried to walk back over the creek/marsh part that Dan had managed to avoid the first time, and he was trying to step on the clumps of grass, but they were sinking and he ended up ankle-deep in mud again! We finally got past it and crossed the bridge over the little stream, and Dan washed his muddy feet in the stream. We walked back up the hill and the owner of the property was there. He asked if we were lost and we said we were following the map that said it was a public footpath, and he said (nicely) that it was private property and that they are on-edge at the moment because they have cows with calves, sheep with lambs and pigs with piglets, and two little lambies have disappeared and they don't know what happened to them. So he is wary about people walking on his land.

We walked back to the road but didn't see a private property sign that the owner had said was there. We walked along the narrow road and eventually got to Sheepscombe. Dan realised that some mud had flicked up onto his camera and its hood, but it was easy enough to clean off. We went to the Butcher's Arms pub for lunch, which was nice. It had been recommended to us by our hosts Jill and Brett, and the man who was walking his bearded collie Cass, and by the man whose land we were trespassing on :P We continued on our walk back to Painswick (circle loop walk), and there were beautiful views and fields. We came across a mill and a stream and a path that Jill had recommended. The path looked a little muddy, but we thought it might be alright because it would be a path as opposed to fields. We walked along by the stream and it was quite muddy, but we traversed it all. But we ended up at a field and weren't sure where to go because the map seemed wrong in relation to the path we had walked along by the stream, and we hadn't come across any other paths. So we decided to walk back to the road. There was a group of boys and girls aged about 11 or 12 in a field behind the trees lining the stream, on the opposite side of the stream to us, and one of the girls saw us and said, "Look! Some walkers!", and another girl shouted out, "There's some boys over here and they're naked!", and they kept yelling it out. We could see the boys and they didn't have shirts on, and we assumed they were possibly going to swim in the stream. But who knows what they were getting up to! On our walk back to the road, I slipped in the mud, but I landed on my side on some plants, so I didn't get muddy at all. We walked along the road and back to Painswick. We went to the nearby deli to see if we could get anything for dinner later, but we weren't keen on anything.

We decided to drive through some other Cotswolds towns and villages on a route that our hosts had recommended. We drove past some pretty fields and farms. We drove a little into Stow-on-the-Wold (I know not of a more English-sounding town name than that :P), and then on to Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, which we had read about several times. They were pretty, but very touristy and crowded, and over-rated. We drove to Burford, which was a beautiful town. So beautiful, in fact, that we did a u-turn at the top of the main street and drove back down the hill and then back up again, just to see it again :P We went to Bibury, which I have read about previously as a suggested place to visit in the Cotswolds. It didn't seem as touristy as the Slaughters (although there were quite a few people there). We drove to a hotel which is a large, old manor house, and it was beautiful. And we drove past the stream and some medieval cottages, and it looked like a really pretty place for a nice stroll with an ice-cream in-hand :) We drove on to Cirencester and got some supplies, including some Marks and Spencer pre-prepared meals for dinner. We drove to Tetbury (the nearest town to Prince Charles' estate Highgrove, where I have heard Catherine Middleton got the trees that lined the aisle of Westminster Abbey at her wedding), and it was also a very pretty town, like Burford. We drove through Nailsworth and Stroud and back to Painswick.

We went into the main house, and Jill and Brett's daughter Gemma was visiting. We showed our wedding photos to them (at Jill's request), and they loved them :) Jill thought it was so wonderful that we have weddings in such lovely locations in Australia :P We went back to our room and had dinner in. The Marks and Spencer pre-prepared meals were delicious! It is a really good supermarket chain!

Ultimate cultural experience of the day: going on our (muddy) Cotswolds walk and lovely Cotswolds drive :)

Dan's perspective

- Our B&B was exceptional, located in Painswick, a very 'locals' village in the Cotswolds.
- The Cotswolds area is really beautiful, excellent scenic driving territory.
- There are some great walks to do between villages. From experience, stick to the well-pathed walks (i.e. avoid walks that trek through farms!!!)
- 'Honey' is the colour best used to describe some of the amazing houses in the area
- Stay away from the hyped-up Cotswolds villages in the guidebooks (notably, the Upper and Lower Slaughter region). They are over-run with tourists and there are much prettier villages elsewhere
- Bath is a pretty city, noted mainly for its Roman Baths and Georgian/Regency architecture.
- The free guided city tour was excellent, run by locals who know their history.
- It was a blast running in to Chele, Andrew, Fletcher and Claudia!! Of all places, outside of the Fashion Museum!

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