Personal blogging

A Visit to the Cotswolds and the Prettiest Villages

When you say to anyone, “I’m off to The Cotswolds for a short break”, the usual response is “How lovely, you are lucky, it’s so wonderful there”.   It is also a quintessential place for visitors from abroad to visit.   Not only is it a beautiful area of our green and pleasant land, it is home to a number of the prettiest villages in England.   During the 13th to 15th Centuries Cotswold sheep and their thick fleeces provided high quality wool, which generated a great deal of wealth.   The wool traders built fine houses and churches and to this day many large mansions can be seen when driving through the area.

I have just returned from a very happy break where we based ourselves just outside Cirencester.   We talked about visiting gardens, and there are many to be seen – Hidcote, Kiftsgate, Sudeley Castle and Painswick to name but a few.  Being a garden lover and blog writer you would assume that these would be a big draw.   On this occasion you couldn’t be more wrong!   Instead we visited some of the most beautiful villages you could imagine.


Set below the very steep escapement of the Cotswolds lies the village of Broadway.  It dates back to Roman Times and was in the 1600’s a staging post.  These days it is full of interesting independent shops and tea rooms.   We actually spent all day in Broadway, just wandering around, stopping occasionally for coffee and cake.  It was hard to take photos of the houses because of other people (mainly Japanese/Chinese) doing the same thing.  It rained on an off most of the day and was relatively quiet, I hate to think how crowded Broadway can get in the height of the Summer!   Cars also spoilt the views, but this we found to be a problem no matter which village we went to.

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We parked in the visitors car park, which we then discovered was at the top of another steep hill and as we walked down we were conscious that we would have to walk back up again!   It was well worth the walk, what a very pretty village.  Castle Combe is now a conservation area, with properties built in stone with natural stone tiles.  Many are hundreds of years old.   As we reached the village square with its 14th century Market Cross, we were met by a large group of cyclists.  They were on a cycling holiday around the Cotswolds – they were welcome to cycle up that hill!

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This is one of the many villages that is used for film locations, including Poirot and War Horse. 

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The village of Lacock is owned by the National Trust.  This pretty village is the backdrop to many films and TV period dramas, such as Pride and Prejudice, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Larkrise to Candleford.  The cloisters of the Abbey remains were used for some of the Hogwarts scenes in a few of the Harry Potter films.   The streets, which again were full of parked cars, were interesting because they lacked any road markings.  We assumed this is because it makes filming something set in the 18th or 19th century much easier when it comes to turning the road into dusty roadways.    For such a small village, it was a surprise to find a Work House, now the pottery.   Again, because of the visitors to Lacock, it was difficult to get a photo without people.  I had just lined up a photo of the bakery when someone walked out of the door!

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As with every visit there is always time  to stop to eat.  We found King Johns Hunting Lodge, in the middle of Lacock, tucked down a little alley with a secluded garden.  The weather warmed up and we were able to sit outside.   The proprietor, Margaret Vaughan, cooks all the food that is served.   I had the most delicious homemade pork pie with a healthy salad – well recommended.

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As for not visiting any of the gardens, I now have another excuse (as if  I would need one) to revisit the Cotswolds.

© Hurtlingtowards60 and Hurtled to 60 and Now Beyond ©AarTeePhotography; Unauthorized use and/or duplication of photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited

Book Review

Book Review and Give Away – Of Rhubarb and Roses, The Telegraph Book of the Garden

The Aurum Publishing Group invited me a few weeks ago to review The Telegraph Book of the Garden “Of Rhubarb and Roses” and a copy arrived a few days later.

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The Telegraph has published garden writers in their gardening column since the 1930’s, starting with H.H. Thomas, a horticulurist, Fred Whitsey, Roy Strong, Vita Sackville-West, Christopher Lloyd and Sarah Raven, to name but a few.

Of Rhubarb and Roses” is a collection of personal thoughts and advice written by experts and garden columnists, published in The Telegraph over the years, compiled by Tim Richardson, a regular columnist in the gardening pages of the Daily Telegraph.

After a brief thumb through, it took a while to pick up and read this book.  Initially I was dipping in an out and there didn’t appear to be any logic in the layout.   Also I didn’t recognise the names of a lot of the writers – Nb:  it is always a good idea to read the introduction first!   Here I found out who most of them were;  a short summary of all the writers would have been useful.  Then I looked at the contents page and realised the gardening articles had been separated into chapters.   To explain this further, Chapter 3 “The Dukes of Marlborough and Devonshire have been locked in annual combat over their white Muscat grapes” had a selection of writings about fruit.  Chapter 8 “These plants present an aspect so fantastic and so bizarre that one’s thoughts are carried away” was about plants and gardens in faraway places.

In a chapter about hedges and shrubs, you will find Vita Sackville-West’s piece called “My Roses thrive on a touch of neglect” dated 10 December 1961 followed by Anne Wareham’s thoughts on “Grasses –  how I got with the programme” dated 1 September 2012.  Personally I would have liked all the articles to be in date order, this particular chapter jumped from 1973, to 1961, 2012 and back to 1966.

However, once I got to grips with the book, I found this anthology of gardening articles absolutely fascinating.   They are both informative and amusing.   I chuckled at Fred Whitsey’s thoughts, written June 1981, called “Bluffer’s guide to showing off your garden”.  Here he says:

“No longer do you have to apologise for the weeds.  You airily say “We’re leaving these nettles for the bees”.

“You must  be sure of using the word “project” as often as you can.  Gardens are always in the making,  They are never made”.  – what sound advice!!

Mark Diacoco from Otters Farm has interesting advice on vegetable planting called “Let your palate do the planting”.  This was published in 10 March 2012, and is sandwiched between advice from Beth Chatto dated 6 April 1991 and Fred Downham, about peas, dated 15 July 1989.

This book would make a great Christmas present for any garden lover and they would be sure to be entertained by its varied and interesting contents.

COMPETITION – Win a copy of “Of Rhubarb and Roses The Telegraph Book of the Garden“: 

Please leave a comment on this post and let me know if you would like to be included in the competition which closes midnight on Friday 25 October 2013.   All names will go into a hat and I will draw a lucky winner who will be notified by email, so please make sure you leave an email address.  This giveaway is only open to UK addresses.

Thank you Jessica at The Aurum Publishing Group for asking me to review another Aurum Press book.

Garden blogging

Osborne House, IoW and Coleus Overload

I recently had a wonderful and happy weekend on the Isle of Wight with my cousin.   We took the bus on Saturday morning to Osborne House, owned by English Heritage, the holiday home of Queen Victoria, which later became her reclusive home following the death of her husband Prince Albert.

The house is in grounds planted with many specimen trees sought by Prince Albert and makes for a very pleasant walk along the drive to the front of the house, which is painted a pale ochre yellow, I wonder if it was that colour in Victoria’s day?  It looks cream in the photos but was quite a strong colour in reality, and one wall was covered in Daddy Long Legs (Crane fly). They must have been attracted by the colour, thinking there was pollen to be had.

Prince Albert was involved in the Italianate design of Osborne House, as well as the gardens which include terraces at the rear of the house, facing the Solent.  As I walked around the corner of the house to the Upper Terrace I was knocked back in horror by the strong dark colour of the formal bedding set in geometric patterns.   This is one garden where I can honestly say that I did not like the planting in this area.   Each bed was formed of concentrated rings of different planting,  framed with tightly packed Coleus (horrid – Coleus overload),  with dark leaved Dahlias, and in the centre were very dark purple Perilla (which I particularly disliked in such large amounts) with the only redeeming feature being the Sunflowers still, surprisingly, in full flower.

We are lead to believe that the planting on the Upper Terrace is in keeping with the type of planting that Prince Albert and Queen Victoria would have had in their time.   Queen Victoria wrote in her journals of plants such as roses, stocks, heliotrope, jasmine and orange blossom.

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It was a relief to look beyond the Upper Terrace to the Lower Terrace.  Here it was much kinder on the eye, especially with  the grounds beyond sweeping down to the Solent with Portsmouth and Southampton on the other side of the water.   It is with no surprise that Queen Victoria loved Osborne, the view is spectacular.  I don’t expect, however, there were as many little sailing boats during her time.   It was somewhat hazy, and later in the day the sun broke through.

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We walked down the hill towards Queen Victoria’s Private Beach.   She loved to bathe and the children spent many happy hours playing on the beach.   In July 2012, the beach was opened to the public and here you can see her Bathing Machine.   Prince Albert, a man with very strong beliefs, thought that bathing in the sea was very healthy and had the bathing machine installed 1846 so that Queen Victoria could partake in the healthy experience.   The machine ran on tracks down into the sea, so that she could emerge from it straight into the sea.

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As I stood looking out to the sea I tried to imagine all the Royal children running up and down on the beach, collecting pebbles and shells and swimming. I could almost hear their laughter and chattering, just like any modern child having fun on the beach.

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Down here, also is a cafe, selling drinks, ice-creams and cakes, always good news as far as I am concerned.  What would Queen Victoria and her family have made of a cafe on their private beach.    I expect, though, that they may have sat on the grass with a picnic once in a while.

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We ran out of time and sadly didn’t get to visit the Walled Garden, which I have been to before.   If you get the chance to take a trip to the Isle of Wight, either by ferry, hovercraft or catamaran, of all places to visit may I suggest that you find time to visit Osborne House.   Give yourself about an hour to walk around the house, which is fascinating, but also make sure you have time to go to the beach.

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