Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cotswolds Visit Part 1

On our recent visit to the Cotswolds we stayed at a small cottage at Well Farm, Wick Street, near Painswick on the old main road from Gloucester to Cirencester. We really enjoyed our stay, thanks to a cottage full of character in beautiful countryside, walks that were not too strenuous, a very interesting church and amazing graveyard, picturesque buildings and literary connections.

First a touch of historical background - I like to know the background and set things in context. In 1819 a new turnpike road was built along the west side of the valley as Wick Street was too steep for carriage traffic, thus taking the main traffic away from the ancient route that follows the spring line crossing the valley south east of Painswick. The photo shows Well Farm (with the tall chimneys) behind the cottages.

Well Farm is on the east side of the road overlooking the valley. The main house is a beautiful late medieval building with a late 17th century front; there is a mid 19th century northern extension. The earliest known owner was Edward Seaman and he was hanged for murder in 1636. The house then was probably a small late-medieval house, consisting of a kitchen and dining room, maybe with a timbered front to the road.

The cottage we stayed in was originally one of the agricultural buildings belonging to the farm and was formerly used either as a cowshed and or as a milking shed. The stone built cottage stands sideways on to and above the road, opposite the red roofed building ( a cowshed) on the opposite side of the road. Six Gloucestershire Old Spots were ranging freely in the fields opposite. Knowing next to nothing about pigs we thought they were vastly entertaining. These pigs are unlike any others I have seen, with faces that look as though they have been squashed in and how they see is a mystery to me as their ears flop down apparently completely covering their eyes. They trotted round the fields, often following each other in a straight line. They pushed and shoved each other, squealing and grunting at each other and of course loved rolling around in their mud baths - apparently they each had their own favourite spots. The largest sow is called Hinge and her sister is of course Bracket. Hinge was the noisiest of the lot, especially when the boar was getting interested in her. He is only young and about a quarter of her size.

Whilst we were there four cows were moved from the cowsheds back to the main farm. This was accomplished in two trips and much mooing! It was a lot quieter after they left. But it wasn't completely quiet as just outside the kitchen window was a bird feeder stand visited by bluetits, great tits, nuthatches, chaffinchs, a robin, blackbirds, and a couple of pheasants eating the seeds dropped by the other birds.

However, as well as birds, this was visited by two squirrels as well, who rapidly devoured the bird food.

The cottage has a red metal spiral staircase up to the“solar gallery” with a view overlooking Painswick Valley. It was very comfortable, with a coffee table and two very large easy chairs. I enjoyed sitting up there looking at the view, reading and playing Scrabble. There was an interesting selection of books at the cottage - you can just see the bookshelves to the left of the painting on the stone wall - several books on the Cotswolds; on Stroud, a town just down the road; a booklet giving the history of the Farm and cottages; as well as books on local walks and novels, such as Lord Jim, For Whom the Bell Tolls, a Jilly Cooper novel (she lives in Gloucestershire, not too far from Painswick I believe) and Cider with Rosie, by Laurie Lee, a native of Slad - where we stopped for a drink at the Woolpack Inn on one of our walks. I didn't have time to read any except the local books and had brought several of my own with me. I swapped between reading Hardy's The Woodlanders (still to finish) and Anita Shreve's Body Surfing, which made good contrasts being complete opposites, although with similarities in that both are essentially about the love triangle between two men and a woman and both are melancholic. They also write so lyrically about the locality, setting the scene so well - Hardy in Dorset and Shreve in New Hampshire - that they make me want to visit both.

So, it looks as though Dorset could be the next place we visit and New Hampshire will have to wait, who knows.


Nan - said...

Although we have decided we really can't have a pig, I so long for a Gloucestershire Old Spot. I do love pigs; a bit of Lord Emsworth in me. :<)

Lovely cottage, and a beautiful time for you. What a nice touch for the owners to have books available.

Tara said...

What a beautiful place. It looks like a lovely and relaxing getaway. The photos are wonderful.

Ann said...

One of the things I really love about cottage holidays is that there is nearly always a large selection of books left either by the owners or previous holidayers. OK, so very often these are the latest blockbusters, but just occasionally you find a real gem and get caught up in something you might never otherwise have thought of reading. One of the great luxuries of a cottage holiday for me is being able to read over breakfast for as long as I like without having to feel guilty about all the other things I ought to be doing.