Day 6:    Broadway Tower, Chipping Camden, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Blockley


Day 6 Photos (62)

A lovely night under the duvet with the burbling mill stream outside our window.  We asked for breakfast at 8 so we could get a good start on the day, and Rupert ferried hot dishes from the kitchen down the hall to the solarium where several small tables were set up and the soft rain was drizzling on the sunroof.  Our scrumptious full English breakfast: rack of toast, assorted fresh breads and sweet rolls, yogurt and fresh fruit, cereal (we passed on that), Cumberland sausage, bacon, grilled tomato, grilled mushrooms, one egg sunny side up, and lots of tea with milk. Yikes! What surprised us more, I think, is that we ate it all and burned it off before tea time.

Rupert set out maps of the Cotswolds around Blockley and made some suggestions, most of which we followed. First off the Broadway Tower, a folly designed by Capability Brown and built by James Wyatt for George William 6th Earl of Coventry, finished in 1798. Built to look like a Saxon castle, it commands views of the surrounding countryside for miles, when it’s a clear day. Didn’t happen to be clear. We even had to return to the entry point to ask just exactly what direction we should take at the end of the trail…we could see absolutely nothing in the fog until we launched out over an unmarked field. Then it loomed up out of the mist…way cool.

On your way up to the top of the tower, you can read and hear about its history, including the era in which William Morris was buddies with the owner and spent a lot of time there. That’s William Morris of the Arts and Crafts movement, an early Socialist, novelist, and amazing artisan of fabrics, and other things. From the top we were supposed to be able to see Stratford-on-Avon about 15 miles to the northeast. We could see about 10 feet past the castle crenellations. But it was wonderfully atmospheric…

On to the market town of Chipping Camden with its Market Hall dating to 1627. Built as a roofed stone structure to protect produce sellers, its bumpy massive stone floor has been worn down over the centuries. Just outside the Hall is a memorial to locals who died in WWI and WWII, something we saw again and again. The memory of these conflicts and how many gave their lives is never far from the awareness of the British public.  We looked for the name “Payne” and found it several times at different sites around the country. The weather was beginning to lighten up a little so we ambled up the main street, found public loos (free this time!), and then took back streets to the main square to enjoy a bit of the residential architecture and gardens in bloom. Passed several thatched roofs, though overall we did not see many. Mandy and Rupert noted that the most-photographed street in England is Abington Street in Bibury. The Cotswolds is actually more known in Europe for the honey-colored stone than the thatch. Bibury was too far out of our path to visit, but we saw a great deal of visually satisfying stone, ivy, slate roof, etc.

We caught an intriguing glimpse of some ruins and a large expanse of open field with a cemetery, and went to investigate. Discovered a small museum of Chipping Camden’s history, which we chose to skip in favor of wandering about outside. Behind the museum were the ruins of Old Campden House, built by Sir Baptist Hicks in 1612. Only two ornately-roofed banqueting “houses” remain standing and are open only a few times a year. But they make an incredible sight away beyond the cemetery. And just next to the cemetery is St. James Church, the approach to which is along a narrow path lined with 12 lime trees, planted several centuries ago. Each one is over 20 feet tall.

In 1170 Henry II visited and confirmed the town’s charter. Most likely a small Norman church sat here then. It has expanded in the centuries since, and holds monuments to various successful wool merchants, the Costwolds' most famous commodity. St. James is known as a “wool church.” Two brass grave markers in the floor of the chancel date from 1401 and are protected from the inquisitive by a heavy rug, but we gingerly lifted the corner to have a peek at William Grevel, noted wool merchant and citizen, and his wife Marion.

When we had poked to our hearts’ content, we walked past the almshouses circa 1620 and went back to the market square for a proper late afternoon high tea in a tea shop: lemon cake, crumpets, clotted cream and jams. Once re-fortified, we headed south about 20 minutes to Lower and Upper Slaughter, whose names are reputedly related to sloe gin, not butchery. There was a country fair in full swing in lower Slaughter and parking looked dicey so we kept on to Upper Slaughter, passing up the sheep petting and who knows what other delights. In Upper Slaughter, we found very little for the roving tourist, and were starting to despair of finding a public loo, when we chanced upon a rather classy hotel, the Lord’s Country Club, and nipped in to inquire whether we might use their facilities. Happily, they obliged.

I glanced at the guest book as we were leaving, and saw this charming comment from a Japanese guest whose hometown of Meguro-ku, Tokyo was where I went to school when I was 12 years old: “dreaming hotel! I never forgot this memory of the hotell.”  The Prince and Princess Akishino of Japan also visited here for lunch a year ago. Swank, indeed!

On our way back to Blockley on some of the narrowest roads in the world, me whooping and keening at every close encounter with the verge, as Hank got used to the no-shoulder, very-little-road, no-idea-whether-cars-are-coming-at-us-around-the-next-bend driving scenario. We took turns with this exciting activity over the 5 days on the road and I have to say I think Hank did a much better job of placing his fate in my hands. Or maybe I was just the better driver so he didn’t have as much to whoop about. Just sayin'...

We were still digesting high tea when we got back to Snugborough Mill, so we took a long and lovely walk in the clear early evening light, up into the hills a bit above the village, and then wandered home through back streets. Wood pigeons cooing from the trees and starlings settling to roost for the night. Met a trio of walkers up in the hills, two locals and their visitor. Chatted about Blockley’s history. We passed a local bulletin board on which was posted the testimonial of 91-year old Mr. Smith, who began his plea:

 “I came into this world in the rough and ready year of 1923. I am from Barnsley, and I can tell you that my childhood, like so many others from that era, was not an episode of Downton Abbey. It was a barbarous time. It was a bleak time. It was an uncivilized time because public healthcare didn’t exist.”

Mr. Smith wrote eloquently of the hardships he and many other faced, and ended with an exhortation to Mr. Cameron to “keep your mitts off my NHS." (National Health Service)

We ended the day back in Shakespeare’s pub with another delicious gastropub meal, and another chat with the owners. Tired and foot-sore, but very happy, we climbed under the duvet for another great sleep.

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