Supposedly England is all too soon going to say goodbye to that wonderful thing known as sunshine and will be struck by days of rain. As a born and bred Southern California girl, I’m obviously devastated by this potential development. What about all that vitamin D that my body needs? I need sunlight to produce that! I mean, I practically photosynthesize! Better get out in the sun as much as possible and store up those rays for the rainy days ahead (Dan frequently hears my theory that they should outfit me with solar panels that I can use the stored energy to keep me warm).
Waking up on Monday to the only day of the week forecasted to be sunny, I made the executive decision–how executive can it be when there is only one person involved in/affected by the decision?–to hop a train to the Cotswolds, those quaint villages that I visited with friends in October, for some strolling and hiking. And a few unexpected surprises as well!
The train arrives into the station at Moreton-in-Marsh, the town I explored last time, and after a brief stop-in at the Tourist Information center, I took a bus to the nearby village of Stow-on-the-Wold. Not too sure what a wold is, but I don’t think I saw any unless wold is an old word for tea room, because there were plenty of those! Just about every corner and side street had a sign advertising yet another one of those cafes frequented by octogenarians and other members of the Geritol Brigade. I’m not judging of course, because I knew that I would be joining them in probably more than one of the tea rooms as they are the best places to get nourishment in the Cotswolds.
Armed with my trusty Rick Steve’s guidebook and a local walking tour map, I wandered the town, reading up on some of the historic buildings that were known for leaning at odd angles and knobbly yew trees inspiring JRR Tolkien’s entrance to Moria. It may have been only a kilometer’s tour, but it kept me out of the way of the numerous tour groups that kept being bussed in and unloading walkers and canes that sometimes seemed to have minds of their own. Nonetheless, I joined in the throngs of elderly eventually when I grabbed a spot of lunch at one of the tea rooms before heading out into the meadows for a hike.
Now I pride myself on my ability to follow directions and translate maps into actual locations, but finding the entryway to the footpath I was going to take was IMPOSSIBLE! The instructions were vague because everything claimed that the path was clearly marked, and if something is clearly marked with signs why describe it in detail on paper? Maybe because the sign that leads you there can only be seen from the opposite direction, so in order to see it coming from Stow, you have to get confused, walk more than twice the distance away until you reach a junction that you know is too far, then turn around in frustration and intend to give up only to then stumble upon the “clearly marked path”. Thank goodness I had the foresight to do just that!
But the footpath quickly made up for its initial angering, with its wide sweeping pastures and meadows studded with fairytale forests. Yet it was also the strangest trail I have ever followed. I was literally walking through someone’s manor/farm land, opening gates to paddocks and grazing areas for sheep and cows (which also means pooping area! Watch your step!), and the horses. Yes, some of these paddocks held the sweetest horses ever, and they just came right up to me for nuzzles and eating the buttons on my jacket. I couldn’t believe that this footpath led me straight through these animal enclosures, but what an opportunity it was to spend time with the horses. I love horses and can’t wait to go back there and go riding sometime during this next term. One of the horses whom I was formally introduced to by one of the workers name was Tiffin, and she was just an adorable ham and affection hoarder.
She kept nudging me while the worker explained to me about the horses needing help to shed their coats as they got older and other things like that. I could have stayed there for hours with the horses, but the rest of my 4 mile hike was still ahead of me and the Cotswolds closes down after the Early Bird Special hours so I couldn’t dawdle too much.
Eventually I reached the village of Lower Slaughter and then my final destination of Bourton-on-the-Water, not to be confused with Bourton-on-the-Hill which I went to last time. The two places couldn’t be more different. The latter is one street winding up a hill–hence the name–with only cottages and a church. The former is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds because of its canals, curios, and crowds. It looked like something off of a postcard for the Cotswolds, perfectly groomed for tourists seeking that charming atmosphere the region is famous for, probably because it is groomed for tourists. And there is nothing wrong with that, I just prefer my visit locations to be more natural and less put on for show. But it had one major draw besides the picture-perfect setting: a bus that would drive me back to Moreton-in-Marsh’s rail station and eventually back to Oxford.
Monday ended up being the perfect day to take this trip as well, as even while I’m writing this the rain is falling steadily, making it the perfect day for baking and tea and books and other creative but indoor tasks and less for hiking through a wonderland of countryside.