“There isn’t a landscape in the world that is more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in, than the countryside in Great Britain.” — Bill Bryson
Can I write a post about our day in the Cotswolds without using the words cute, quaint, or charming? I’ll give it a try.
The Cotswolds are an expanse of English countryside where verdant rolling hills of farmland and meadows are dotted with tiny villages unchanged by time. It’s one of the prettiest places on earth.
The first stop on our Mad Max minibus tour was at own called Castle Combe, population 47. Castle Combe has one street. Its cottages, built in the 15th century of honey-colored Cotswold limestone, hug the roadside. We ambled along the row of little homes with lace-curtained windows and meandering roses clinging to their walls. Had we just stepped into the pages of a Tasha Tudor storybook?
How had this village remained so untouched by time? Like all Cotwolds villages, its cottage industry for centuries was wool. Then cotton and the Industrial Revolution came along, and the villages’ economy declined.. The sturdy buildings remained, however, and today are cherished for their simple beauty.
The next town we visited was Bibury. Our guide Tim sent us along a path edging a stream to the Arlington Rows, a cluster of wee homes surrounded by trees. What if we could duck through their child-sized doors and take a peek inside? I imagined a cozy parlor, perhaps a pair of pleasantly worn wing chairs, a table between them to set one’s tea cup, an Agatha Christie mystery waiting to be read. Maybe a tabby cat — and I don’t even like cats — curled up on the worn woolen rug.
Across the road from the Arlington Rows was a cluster of homes with genteel flower gardens beyond their stone walls, and the Swan Inn. Had Mother Goose come walking down the lane, I would not have been surprised.
.On to our next stop, Tim drove us through the Cohne Valley. On narrow roads wide enough for one vehicle at a time, we rode under canopies of trees. The hills were criss-crossed by dry (no mortar) stone walls, some constructed centuries ago to pen in wayward sheep. We saw black-faced sheep grazing in meadows, and once or twice a pheasant fluttered into view along the road side.
Three more villages — Stow-in-the-Wold, Upper Slaughter, and Tetbury– filled us with fairy tale images to store away, If you come to England, go to the Cotswolds.