Cotswolds - Bourton-on-the-Water
By Patti Nickell
ourton-on-the-Water, England. On an early spring afternoon, with the
temperature in the 70s and the sun shining, I wander along the footpath
next to the Windrush River that flows right through the heart of this
village in Englands Cotswolds region. The Windrush is not really
a river, but a bubbling brook that one could easily wade across. Nevertheless,
it has no fewer than five pedestrian stone foot bridges spanning it.
The village also has an assortment of antique shops,
tea rooms, small inns, private cottages hidden behind a profusion of
colorful blooms, and a rather large population of Golden Retrievers.
When I ask a gentlemen walking the fifth Golden Ive seen in an
hour about their numbers, he smiles and answers, Yes, quite. Around
here, theyre called Cotswold dogs.
I would call them lucky dogs to have such a glorious
region as home. Located about two hours west of London,
the Cotswolds, a hilly area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is famous
for chocolate box villages with fairy tale names
in addition to Bourton-on-the-Water, theres Chipping Campden,
Stow on the Wold, Moreton in Marsh, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Shipston-on-Stour
So perfect are the villages one wonders if they arent
backdrops for Thomas Kinkaide paintings, rather than the dwelling places
of real live people. People do live here many wealthy Londoners
in search of a second home and a slew of celebrities, including Kate
Moss, Kate Winslet, Stella McCartney, Hugh Grant and royals, from Zara
Phillips to Prince Charles, whose estate High Grove is the most famous
of the Cotswold residences, as well as regular folks who were lucky
enough to have bought their cottages before area real estate went through
the proverbial thatched roof.
A good base for touring the Cotswolds is the spa town
of Cheltenham, often called the best preserved Regency town in England.
Stroll the tree-lined Promenade, as visitors have done for nearly 300
years, taking in Neptunes Fountain, modeled after Romes
Trevi Fountain, the Imperial Gardens and the Montpelier area, where
a row of caryatids, sculpted female figures, serves as architectural
support for the buildings, most of them now housing boutiques, tea rooms
and cafes, which spill out onto flower-bedecked terraces.
If you do stay in Cheltenham Spa, you will do no better
than the Ellenborough Park Hotel, adjacent to the towns race course,
famed for its steeplechase races (the newlyweds William and Katherine
are said to be particular fans of the track.) Once the country estate
of Lord Ellenborough, Governor-General of India during Queen Victorias
reign, it is everything besotted Americans such as me look for in a
grand English manor.
I had my morning coffee in the Great Hall, my evening
cocktail in the Minstrels Gallery overlooking the Great Hall,
and retired each evening to a four-poster bed in a room with a view
of the expansive gardens. I didnt, however, have the room where,
with the aid of binoculars, you can see the race courses finish
line while sitting in the bath tub, or the room with a secret staircase
allowing guests to have nocturnal visitors without fear of embarrassment.
Ellenborough Park Hotel.
From Ellenborough Park its an easy drive to such
quintessential Cotswold villages as Chipping Campden and Broadway, but
on the way save time for a stop at Sudeley Castle, which can date its
history back 1,000 years when King Ethelred the Unready gave the property
to his daughter Goda on the occasion of her marriage.
The current castle is most famous as the home of Henry
VIIIs final wife Catherine Parr, and in 2012 will celebrate the
500th anniversary of her birth with a year-long schedule of events.
The castle gardens are spectacular, particularly the
secluded Knot Garden, which incorporates a design from a dress pattern
worn by Elizabeth I in a portrait that hangs in the castle.
Another garden you wont want to miss is the Painswick
Rococo Garden, a restoration of an 18th century pleasure garden. Flamboyant
and flashy, as the trend of the times warranted, the gardens feature
a miniature Doric temple, Gothic alcove, water features, and a maze.
While most people think the best time to visit an English garden is
in the spring or summer, a good time to visit the Painswick Garden is
late February and early March when a carpet of snowdrops spreads across
the woodland floor.
Chipping Campden, a settlement since the 7th century,
has a High Street that has been described by historian G. M. Trevelyan
as the most beautiful village street now left on the island.
While you may be tempted to stick to the High Street, with its impressive
medieval Market Hall and array of one-of-a-kind shops, do detour to
the lovely St. James Parish Church to wander through the graveyard with
its moss-covered headstones.
Broadway is often referred to as the show place of the
Cotswolds, and in this region of picturesque villages, that is quite
a tribute. It basically consists of one main street (formerly a coach
road between London and Worcester) skirting a village green with rows
of honey-colored limestone buildings on either side. One of these buildings,
the Lygon Arms Hotel, has welcomed guests for centuries, including the
two rivals in the English Civil War, King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell,
although presumably not at the same time.
In the 19th century, the village became a gathering
place for writers (J. M. Barrie and Henry James), musicians (Edward
Elgar) and artists (John Singer Sargent and Frank Millet), and in the
early 20th century, it was a center for the Arts and Crafts movement,
with William Morris a frequent visitor and furniture maker Gordon Russell
opening a shop, which is now a museum.
A great way to see Broadway is to take a walking tour
with local artist Jeremy Houghton, who has been named one of the official
artists for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. In his tweed jacket
and Wellies, Houghton proved the perfect guide to all the spots frequented
by the Broadway Colony.
Lord Randell's Pudding, one of the offerings at
The Pudding Club.
All Hail the Great British Pudding
Now, everyone remember to bang your spoons as
each pudding is introduced, because as you know, puddings have feelings
So spoke the Pudding Master as he prepared to announce
the Parade of Puddings at the weekly Friday night meeting of the Pudding
Club in the village of Mickleton. As each pudding was paraded with great
ceremony into the room beginning with the Treacle Sponge, followed
by the Jam Roly Poly, Spotted Dick, Lord Randalls Pudding, Apple
Crumble and Summer Pudding and concluding with the Squidgy Chocolate
and Nut Pudding - a thunderous cacophony of spoon-banging ensued.
Founded here at the Three Ways House Hotel in 1985
to prevent the demise of the Great British Pudding, the Club has no
dues, no members (everyones welcome) and no hard and fast rules
other than you must finish one pudding before starting on another. Over
the 26 years of its existence, the Pudding Club has served some 100,000
pudding lovers not just in Mickleton, but at special events in
London, Dublin, New York and Tokyo. The evening offers pomp and circumstance
mixed with frivolity and comfort in the knowledge that the British Pudding
indeed appears safe from the challenge of frozen cheesecake and tasteless
If you do want to attend, book ahead as the weekly meetings
are wildly popular, but if you do get in, youll probably decide
that this is the best club youve never been a member of.
Ritz, London; Yorkminster,
Glen, England; English