Chapter Fourteen: Blenheim Palace & OxfordOctober 3, 2013
Chapter Sixteen: Going HomeOctober 4, 2013
Day Sixteen (Part One) – Tower Trouble, A Stanton Drive-By, Fountain Penned, An Unscheduled Cotswold Walk, Gardens Galore, Below Parr, Give My Regards To Broadway, A True English Gentleman, I’m Melting, Mind Your Manor, One Man’s Junk Is…, Gardens Galore (Part Deux), The Last Cute Town, What Time Are We Leaving Again, My Sticky Love Affair Heats Up and We Shall Return!
Even though it was our last day, this would not be a relaxing one (we really don’t believe in relaxing because you never know when I’ll just keel over and we’d have to use our trip insurance for my lonely flight back in the cargo hold).
After another delicious English breakfast at Bramley House, we were on the road to Broadway Tower by about 9:15. It had rained overnight, and the roads were a little slippery so Kim drove carefully. He hadn’t killed us yet, so why ruin a great trip. Speaking of driving, we found the British (for the most part) to be the most polite drivers we had ever encountered. Maybe they just saw the terror on our collective faces as we barreled down the highways and byways.
We had a full list of attractions and towns I had downloaded, and I hoped we could visit most of them before heading back across the pond. The first place to see was high on my list…and it was also high. Jane had given us great directions to Broadway Tower, but even with those directions and our GPS imploring us to go straight onto a very small road, we turned right and found ourselves in the town of Broadway…not the Broadway Tower.
Attempting to spy the TI, we saw a sign for it, and Kim parked in lot close (we thought) to the TI office. Tracy and I said we could zip over to the “nearby” TI and get directions. Unfortunately, the nearby TI was not as close as we had thought, but we did get to see more of Broadway than we had expected. When the woman at the TI asked where we had come from that morning, we said, “Chipping Campden.” Her dry reply was, “So you missed it.” “Yes,” I answered, “that’s why we’re here chatting with you and not at the tower.”
By the time we finally reached the Broadway Tower parking lot, the skies became bluer and bluer. One of the stories on why it was built in the late 1700s was so that the Countess of Coventry could see its beacon from her Cotswold estate at Croome Court in Worcestershire (now a National Trust property). Either that, or she could see her estate from the tower. Whatever the true story, it was built in 1798, and we were going to climb it.
As we climbed the tower, at certain interludes there were exhibitions about its construction and other interesting tidbits of information. They include the fact that in 1943, while on a reconnaissance mission, a Royal Observers Corps plane crashed just 200 meters from the tower, killing all five aboard (we saw the memorial…above… when we got back down).
Also during the Cold War, Broadway Tower was used to monitor nuclear fallout in England, and they even built a bunker (Nuclear Bunker) about 50 meters from the tower. The views overlooking the countryside were stupendous, and it’s said you could see the Welsh Mountains from up here. I told Tracy I was quite excited because this would be the first time I had ever gone “Wales Watching.” She shook her head, and I knew it was just about time to go back to the states. By the way, Broadway Tower is on the Cotswold Way for those of you wanting to hike the Cotswolds.
We even met some more wildlife friends.
We drove through the little town of Stanton (I think there was a town there somewhere). Along the way we stopped to take a few photos of the lush, green countryside, and we also found that we were parked near the official Cotswold Way National Trail.
We were on our way to Stanway, where we wanted to go to the Stanway House & Fountain, which also has a Baroque garden (apropos since we had spent so much money we were almost Baroque ourselves). This Jacobean manor house has the tallest gravity fountain in England, which we were looking forward to seeing.
Sadly our inept tour guide (moi) left out one important detail…the house and garden shut down at the beginning of September and the place was all locked up for winter. Next time, I should probably read the brochure a little more carefully. At least we did get some nice shots of an adjacent church and a nearby war memorial. Hopping back in the car, we took the short drive to Winchcombe where we would visit our final castle of the trip. We drove by Hailes Abbey, but we passed on that as we had seen our fair share of abbeys on this journey.
In Winchcombe, after making the turn toward Sudely Castle, we all yelled at Kim that there was an open (free) parking spot. We felt this was a great coup (well, for about ten minutes). As it turned out, our free parking space was nowhere near the castle and was located about a ½ mile from the entrance.
However, it provided us with a lovely stroll through the Cotswold countryside, and since you’re supposed to walk in the Cotswolds, it turned out fantastic. You see, every cloud does have a silver lining…except the one that appeared overhead that dropped some measurable rain on us for the last ¼ mile.
Sudeley Castle did play an important role in England’s turbulent past. It was home to Queen Katherine Parr, the last, and more importantly for her, surviving wife of King Henry VIII. King Charles I found refuge here during the Civil War, when Oliver Cromwell’s army besieged the castle.
Sudeley was rescued by a couple of wealthy Worcester glove-makers in 1837. Brothers John and William Dent began an ambitious restoration program which was continued by their nephew, John Coucher Dent, when he inherited the castle in 1855. His wife, Emma Brocklehurst, was integral to Sudeley’s restoration. There was a 15th-century Tithe Barn, which became a store for Parish tithes before being partly destroyed in the Civil War.
We found Sudeley Castle to be much nicer on the outside than the inside. Inside the castle (no photos), we saw some displays that included clothing, letters and artifacts that we were not particularly interested in seeing.
There was a movie showing in a small room that had lots of details about Katherine Parr. We probably would have stayed to watch it, but there was a guy in the back hacking up a lung (or two), and no one really wanted to carry a deadly influenza back on the plane.
The gardens at Sudeley were definitely the star attraction and very colorful. Strolling through the first of its award-winning gardens was a nice change of pace from the rather boring (at least to us) inside.
In the distance was a small church. We walked into St. Mary’s Church (located on the premises) where Katherine Parr is buried. She is the only English Queen to be entombed on private land. From The Historical Dilettante website comes this tidbit: “There is a macabre story about the discovery of Katherine’s forgotten grave at Sudeley in the eighteenth century, when some sightseers came upon an alabaster slab and, compelled by curiosity, dug beneath it to find her sealed, lead coffin. It is said that she had been preserved, with her skin plump as if she had died only the day before, giving those sightseers an extraordinary glimpse into the past, before the inevitable deterioration on contact with air. A few things were buried with her which are on display in the museum there: a lock of hair, a fragment of cloth and a tooth. This tooth, which looks to me very much like a dog’s tooth, made me imagine it might have belonged to her dog Rig and that perhaps it was a keepsake to remember a beloved pet.”
Tracy was in “garden heaven” once again.
I think she would have spent the day here, but it was time to move on.
On the walk out of the property there were owls, “flamboyant” peacocks (well, they;’re flamboyant according to the website) and other assorted fowl. The peacocks seemed interested in us, while the owls didn’t give a hoot.
After a disappointing start inside, Sudely castle delivered the goods and the scenery when you get outside.
The walk back to the car was thankfully sans rain, so we could enjoy the surrounding landscape a bit more than we did on the way in.
The pumpkins told us that autumn was here.
The town of Winchcombe did not look that charming to us on this day (unfortunately a fair was being set up…nothing like kiddie rides to destroy history), although we could se a hint of its charm on some back streets.
As we entered town, Kim talked up the charms of this place. “In your trip report, remember to give my regards to Broadway,” Kim said (and fortunately did not sing).
By now, we were pretty famished. At the edge of town we walked into a pub filled with what seemed like locals who were having a jolly good afternoon respite, and the pub’s official greater was right out of “Typical English gentleman” central casting. This older man (guessing mid to late 70s) at the Crown & Trumpet pub welcomed us like we were long lost relatives.
Sadly the pronunciation of the beer I ordered supplied Kim and myself with additional grade school humor opportunities.
At this point, Tracy and Mary were getting hot. Oh, not at us, they had already tuned us out completely by the time we reached Bath. The heat inside the Crown & Trumpet had suddenly been turned up to near sauna-like proportions. Luckily the food was very, very good, so for the moment we all forgot that we were sweltering. At least our table was by a window that we quickly opened. It’s the only meal I’ve ever had where I lost weight. Tracy and Mary shared a smoked chicken and tarragon sandwich on a baguette with a side order of butternut squash soup. Kim had a cheese omelette while I enjoyed a Steak & Guinness Pie, which was interesting because they didn’t sell Guinness to drink. The Crown & Trumpet was a winner. I just recommend they turn down the heat a tad.
Afterward, Kim and Mary wanted to go find a place where they were selling some arts and crafts, while Tracy and I had one more attraction to see on our Cotswold bucket list, so as the winds kicked up and the leaves fell, Kim drove Tracy and me to our final; “Big Ticket Destination….”
It seemed that half the people we ran into pronounced it “Snows Hill” while the other half said “Schnozzle.” Either way we wanted to visit this quirky place purchased in 1919 by Charles Paget Wade, described as “an eccentric architect and antiquary.” Writer J.B. Priestly called him, “My eccentric, but charming, friend of the fantastic manor house.”
The manor was a brisk 10-15 walk from where we purchased our tickets. We strolled past sheep pastures, apple trees and beautiful gardens that we would explore later after going inside the house.
After walking for a bit, a tram came by, and the driver asked whether we wanted a lift to the manor. At this point we were pretty beat, so we hopped on and paid the £1 “donation” and off we went. I leaned back to relax for a few minutes before reaching the manor, but after about 100 feet, the tram stopped.
Once inside, a docent gave us info on the house and its owner and off we went to explore this place crammed with a lot of “stuff.”
The treasures included numerous bicycles, toys, ship and antique machinery, along with bedrooms used by his guests (since Wade never lived in the house).
There was even a room full of Japanese Samurai armor. I put on one of the helmets that weighed a ton (massage therapy should have that neck fixed by 2016).
There was also one room devoted to musical instruments. I found the manor more fascinating than Tracy, but that’s because I am a hoarder at heart (check out our garage). A part of the manor dates back to the 1500s, and substantial additions were made in the 1800s.
We walked through that home before perambulating through the various glorious gardens.
It is a lovely setting and was a fitting last site to visit in the Cotswolds.
The area made for a great spot to take a many photos as we wanted to on this phenomenal property.
The panoramas were spectacular…
This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
But now it was time to go.
It was so pretty that we saw artists trying to capture the beauty of the town.
She nicely offered to provide us coffee and juice before we left. When Jane walked away, Mary said, “You know something? Now that I think about it, isn’t our flight at 2 p.m.?” Mary was right, so I hurried back downstairs and told Jane they were stuck with us for one more English breakfast. Then we got ready for our final night in England.
It was a beautiful and rather brisk evening, and we opened one last bottle of vino in the Bramley House backyard garden. We toasted our good fortune at finding so many nice places to stay on this trip.
It’s always nice to find a hotel or b&b where you can enjoy a nice glass of wine (or three).
Tracy dined on Monkfish & King Prawn with Green Thai-style Curry over Basmati Rice and a Lime & Coriander dressed Salad, while Mary had Seared Calves Liver set on a Buttered Mash with a light Smoked Bacon Jus and Seasonal Vegetables.
I had a delightful dinner of Sun-dried Tomato and Spinach Risotto garnished with Parsnip Crisps. We have no idea what Kim ate that night (although it looks good), because before we could write that down, we were served the dessert that I crave to this day.
Tracy and I had ordered Mr. Hawker’s Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream. Now I don’t have a clue who “Mr. Hawker” is, but he changed my life. Tracy and I did not talk the rest of the meal as we inhaled our sticky toffee pudding (Tracy hardly ever eats dessert, but she was in “sweets heaven”). Had we been in the privacy of our own home, I think we would have licked the plates clean.
We took our last Chipping Campden stroll after dinner and returned to Bramley House for a longer night’s sleep than we had thought earlier in the day. We all vowed we would return!
Next: Day Seventeen – Memories Of Jolly Old England