“Tree! Tree! Tree! Small sheep! (Baaaa.) Tree!”
I would like, dear reader, to pretend that this cliche of urban wonder did not come upon me and my friend – who we’ll call Bombadil for the purpose of this post, and who is also the photographer of the trip – as we travelled through the Cotswolds.
I would like to claim that at every animal we saw, the pair of us, die-hard Londoners, didn’t feel obliged to make the appropriate animal noise. It would be delightful to say that we didn’t wander through the Gloucestershire countryside with mouths agape, marveling at the strange concept of ‘fresh air’ and looking at every muddy hole and going ‘wow’. I would absolutely like to pretend that, crossing the border into Oxfordshire on the way home, we didn’t spy our first Sainsburys for 40 miles and heave joint sighs of relief to at last see something within our comfort zone; or that, while on the bus into Oxford itself to see an old friend, I didn’t cling onto the reassuring plastic sides of the double-decker like a sailor to a lifeship in a storm.
It’d be so good to pretend all these things.
That is all.
We decided to go to the Cotswolds because of the following criteria:
1. We wanted an adventure somewhere we’d never been.
2. It had to be reasonably accessible from London.
3. It had to be within our (limited) budget.
4. We wanted to go on walks.
“But why the Cotswolds?!” exclaimed my Grandmother. “It’s so touristy!”
“It’ll be alright,” I replied. “It’s November! No one does anything in November!”
How may I best summarise the Cotswolds?
As we drove through Oxfordshire, my friend’s satnav app (I hasten to add – we navigated with maps, it’s just she likes to have something to tell her where she is, even if she doesn’t know where she’s going) beeped every half mile to warn us about the approach of a traffic camera. Cross, however, into Gloucestershire and the roads suddenly became empty, quiet, not a digital warning to be found. The only major traffic issue we had was getting stuck behind a flock of particularly stupid grouse. After a while we got bored of pointing out stunning views of softly rolling hills decked with autumnal woods to each other. Our main hobby in such urban hubs as Cirencester (too quiet, even after the excellent fireworks) or Bourton on the Water (silent at night, save for the quacking of evil ducks) was comparing the price of various cream teas. On walking to the village of Naunton, we sat on a bench to stretch our legs and looking at the map in my lap, I reported that somewhere near by was a post office, a telephone box and a church.
The church we found. The post office and the telephone box remain a mystery. Walking into the valley of the river Windrush, we were accosted by a flock of fluffy-tailed sheep, far too cute to ever be served up as mutton, surely? When our kindly host at the B&B we were staying in asked how our walk was, we replied that we’d done a nine mile circuit through forest and over hill, down valley and through villages so picturesque that I couldn’t help but play scenes from Hot Fuzz through my mind with every step – and yet, as we walked, we saw barely another human.
“Well of course!” she replied. “This isn’t like the Lake District!”