For the second half of our Cotswold journey we backtracked west to Colesbourne, just outside Cheltenham. Our visits to Upper Slaughter and Churchill inspired us to see more of the Cotswold countryside and the hallmark Cotswold stone villages. We toured a few, enjoyed Ploughman’s lunches in the local pubs and just generally walked around. The highpoint, for me anyway, was a ride on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway.
Since our transit distance from Churchill to Colesbourne was a short one, we decided to turn it into a meandering trip up through Chipping Camden and stopping in little towns on the way. It started out as a misty, rainy day which was just perfect for us. We drove along small one-lane country roads, through towns with names like Moreton-on-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Hill. Some towns we got out and walked and some we just slowly drove through. Either way we enjoyed the day. The towns were so idyllic, tranquil and photogenic.
Chipping Camdenis an old 15thcentury market town. In fact, the name “Chipping” comes from the Old English cēping, which means “a market, a market-place”. There is an old market hall in the town centre dating back to the early 17thcentury. The town is lined with old Cotswold stone buildings, shops and homes. Their church, St James, dates back to the 16thcentury with its medieval altar frontals and cope, and a large monument to a local wealthy 18thcentury silk merchant; Sir Baptist Hicks and his family – the Almshouses and Woolstaplers Hall. After walking around town, we stopped at the Lygon Armsfor a ploughman’s and a pint for lunch. It was still mizziling, so we had soup also.
Our afternoon was spent visiting more idyllic villages, trying to stay dry from the rain, and generally just driving around the countryside. Our first village was the quaint hamlet of Snowshill. Known for Snowshill Manor, a 16thcentury Tudor mansion, Snowshill is located at the top of an escarpment above the villages of Broadway, Buckland, and Laverton. They say if there is snow in the area, you will find it at Snowshill first. A scene from Bridget Jones Diary was also shot here, however that snow was of the Hollywood variety – all fake! The true allure for us though was the 19th century church clustered around a small green in the center of town. It really is a truly picturesque village.
The other village we visited on the way to Colesbourne was Stanton. It has a very pleasing long main street with several delightful corners where the ancient house are built in typical Cotswolds style with steeply pitched gables, mullioned windows and glowing honey colored limestone walls. Stanton takes its name from ‘stan’ (stone) from which it is built – similarly the neighboring village of Stanway. The village contains a number of 16th and 17th century houses as well as a restored , medieval cross and a church in which some Norman work is still evident. There is a pub, The Mount, up on a hill at the end of the village. We walked up for some spectacular views of the town.
Our stay was at the Colesbourne Inn, an old roadside coaching inn. It had a wonderful pub with the ambiance we look forward to in a Cotswold country pub.
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railwayis a heritage railway which runs along the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border of the Cotswolds. It is an entirely volunteer run effort that strives to remain true to the era. It runs multiple steam engines back and forth between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway. We boarded in the middle of the line at Winchcombe and rode to Broadway and back. Our engine was the No. 35006 “Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co.” an SR 4-6-2 “Merchant Navy” Class. It was a magnificent ride. With the open seating, we found a seat in First Class and just enjoyed the sound of the tracks and the beautiful countryside.
Upon our return to Winchcombewe spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town. Nearby is Sudeley Castle and the remains of Hailes Abbey. We decided to skip the crowds at the castle and explored the town. The church, St Peter’s, in the centre of the town is known for its grotesques, or gargoyles. It has a 14thcentury alter cloth and a 15thcentury Alm’s Box. Speaking of Alms, there are some beautifully restored old Alms houses along the side street.
On we go to our next adventure, exploring Bampton, visiting our old village of Ducklington , and walking in London.