Autumn Afternoon

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Photographs©VCUzzell2017

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A Week in the Cotswolds

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As a Brit, I am well aware of the need to prepare for all eventualities weather-wise when going on holiday in my own country; hence I packed both my umbrella and rain jacket when my family and I went for a week’s stay in the Cotswolds.  It was the beginning of July, the first week of Wimbledon; it was bound to rain at some point, wasn’t it?  Actually, no, it wasn’t.  In actual fact, it was really quite warm, with temperatures getting up to 29 degrees most afternoons.  It was the kind of weather that many go abroad for and here it was in my own country, and did I moan?  You bet!  Just like a true British person, I moaned it was too hot; typical eh?  Luckily, I had also packed a hat and plenty of sun protection, so still went prepared for anything, and as we were doing a fair amount of walking and I was wearing trousers and walking shoes most of the time, that didn’t help with the heat factor.  Yet the clear blue skies were immense and the views were beautiful, and with no rain our days were spent outdoors without any interruption, so I was grateful for the weather, in the end.

We stayed in Cirencester, which is a convenient base for any visit to the Cotswolds; it’s a pretty little town, but with plenty of places to eat in the evenings, such as the usual chains of Pizza Express and Cote Brasserie, both of which were good but to give a shout to a local independent, I highly recommend Malt and Anchor – quite simply the best fish and chips I’ve ever had!

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Blenheim Palace was first on our list of must-sees and we arrived just as the gates opened, which was a good thing as it became quite busy, although we were there during the week in term time, so it wasn’t as busy as it can be.  We chose not to do the palace itself, primarily due to the difference in price; it was about £10 less to just walk round the grounds and gardens, and as we enjoy that, we went for the cheaper option.  However, I’m not quite sure how anyone does all of it in a day anyway, as we didn’t leave until late in the afternoon and we had looked round most of the grounds, although not all.  I think if you really wanted to get the full experience you would need two days.  A word of advice, take some food with you unless you’re happy to pay out quite a lot throughout the day to keep you going as you look round.  Like many of these places, they have you trapped, and although the food was fine and there was a reasonable range on offer, it was pricey.

IMG_0999The highlight for us was the butterfly house, which was wonderful, and I suggest you visit there first before the crowds.  It’s near the pleasure gardens; you can take a little steam train to it but there’s really no need as it’s only about 10 minutes from the main house, and the train charges both ways.

Day three of our holiday was one of the hottest ones; 29 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, which was lovely for our photographs (if not for us) as we wandered through the trees at Westonbirt Arboretum.  This (to use a well-worn phrase) is an absolute must if you are ever in the area.  Unsurprisingly, arriving early is the best option, hence our being pretty much alone for the first hour or so as we strolled the first of two guided walks.

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Upon arrival you can pick up a map which details the routes and also where the restaurant is, which is reasonably priced and serves tasty cakes and lunches; good-sized portions too!  You’ll certainly be fuelled and ready for more walking.  If you’re OK with heights then you must walk along the raised walkway, which gradually ascends into the canopy, providing fabulous views across the grounds and the opportunity to observe craftspeople at work in the wood shop below.

On our fourth day we once again arrived early at another highlight of the trip; Broadway Tower, the highest point in the Cotswolds.  The drive up to it is a little tricky; rather narrow roads in places so beware, but once there, you can park and have a cup of tea and cake before walking to the tower.  Early is definitely important with this attraction as you won’t be able to truly appreciate the view with dozens of other tourists in your way.  It only costs £5, and there are exhibitions on each floor as you walk up to the top, concerning the tower’s history and place within the landscape.  With luck, you will have a clear day and far reaching views across several counties.

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We were fairly lucky (as you can see from the photo) but I think on an even clearer day, we would have seen more.  As I mentioned, getting there for when it opens is key to having the opportunity to photograph and admire the scenery around you.  We were there around half an hour, and as we were leaving many more visitors were arriving, including a coach full of people!

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The afternoon was spent sheltering from the sun in the past inside the Cotswolds Motoring Museum, which is in Bourton-on-the-Water.  The village itself is an essential stop on the tourist route through the area but we went principally for the museum and were not disappointed; it was wonderful!  There’s a reason you enter the museum through a door which looks like the Tardis, as it has so much in such a small space.  Not just classic cars but motorbikes, caravans, cameras (I was ecstatic at that point), boxes, tins, old signs, toys and other memorabilia; so much in fact we had trouble deciding what to photograph and I’m sure if we go back, there will be things we missed that first time.  Each room is themed around the cars and artefacts from a particular period and as you walk through the music changes accordingly.  It was lovely and put big smiles on our faces.  The village itself was very busy as we arrived later in the day, so we couldn’t really appreciate it and at lunchtime it was quite a task to find somewhere that wasn’t already full.  Fortunately we walked away from the river and found a good restaurant called L’anatra Italian Kitchen, which is part of a hotel; the service was friendly and the food was tasty.  It was a good find as it was off the main route through the village, and therefore was a little quieter.

We visited Gloucester and Cheltenham, both briefly, as I’m afraid neither appealed to us, so we didn’t stay long.  Cirencester is much nicer and as I said before, a good base with plenty of local amenities.  Despite the heat, it was an enjoyable break, and we hope to return to Westonbirt later in the year to see the trees in all their autumnal splendour, and to visit the Motoring Museum again.

For more information on the places I have mentioned, click on the links below:

http://www.blenheimpalace.com/

https://www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt

https://broadwaytower.co.uk/

http://www.cotswoldmotoringmuseum.co.uk/

All photographs ©VCUZZELL2017

 

A Return to Mottisfont

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IMG_0965IMG_0924  In a previous post; Endings and Beginnings, I wrote of a rather chilly visit to Mottisfont last December.  It was lovely, even in the depths of winter, and my family were eager to return in the summer, and yesterday, we did just that.

We arrived just before the gardens were due to open as it gets very busy.  Walking boots on, we had a chat with the friendly staff at the entrance before heading straight for the Coach House Cafe for tea and a scone, which set us up nicely for a few enjoyable hours of exploration.

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The flowers had taken a bit of a battering the night before in a thunderstorm but the colours were still strong and the smell of lavender added to overall calm sensation of the gardens.  It was hard to know what not to photograph there was so much to see!  My mum impressed me with her plant knowledge and my brother took inspiration for his patch of garden back home.  I don’t have a garden so it was lovely to wander among the foliage and listen to the birds flitting back and forth overhead; so healing and inspiring.

After the walled garden, we made our way into the house itself, which my brother and I had only seen part of at Christmas.  You could easily spend a good hour or more exploring each of the rooms, which have so much detail; I loved the old wireless radios and cameras.  Returning to the garden we made our way along the river bank and marvelled at the salmon jumping upstream.  It was so peaceful; just the sound of water and the trees, with the occasional splash from the fish.  The route back to the house cuts across some fields which were knee high with grasses either side of the path, and ended up at the circle of trees which I had photographed back in December on a sunny winter’s day.  Unfortunately, although much warmer yesterday, it wasn’t sunny, so I couldn’t re-create the shot.  However, I tried to do so with as many as possible.

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It was lovey to see the gardens in their summer greenery and we’re planning to go back in October in order to see the trees in all their autumnal glory.

If you’d like to visit Mottisfont, here’s a link for more information:

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont

I visited at my own expense.  All photographs are ©VCUzzell2017

 

 

 

Endings and Beginnings

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The time between Christmas and New Year has always felt a bit odd to me; the main event has passed and now I feel I’m in limbo-land, waiting for everything to get back to normal again after New Year. I sometimes feel a little low as I reflect on another year passed and what I have yet to achieve in life, whilst at the same time feeling eager for the following year to begin so I can hopefully bring some more dreams to fruition.  2016 is certainly a year which many will be glad to see the back of, and for a number of reasons, both personal and global.  As mentioned in my previous post, 2017 is the first of the next nine-year cycle, and therefore it is vital that you get off to a good start.

Over the last few months, as 2016 has come to close, many feelings and situations in my life have also changed or ended. Maybe the same has happened for you.  I’ve already made plans for goals I wish to achieve next year, and am really looking forward to putting them into action.  Have you taken the time to reflect on what dreams you would like to see realised in 2017?  Try to get out and about in nature, especially if it is sunny, and use that as inspiration for your reflections.  I went to a lovely National Trust property today; Mottisfont in Hampshire, for a very cold but enjoyable walk around its house and grounds.  Having felt a little tired and down-hearted when I woke up this morning, I left feeling 100% better after strolling around, camera in hand, marvelling at the trees and winter light casting long shadows across the frost covered grass.  Seeing gardens in winter often makes you appreciate them all the more when you see them again in full summer colours.

It clearly had the desired effect as I’ve come home inspired to write a blog post, something I haven’t done in a while. I’m sure many of you who are reading this may be looking back on this past year with a mixture of emotions, so I suggest a dose of Mother Nature to ease any sadness or melancholy.  It has certainly helped me.

A word on Mottisfont; it became busy quite quickly, so I recommend getting there for when it opens. There are two cafes but they too filled up fast, so you may want to take your own lunch, although I can highly recommend the scones!  The grounds are lovely, even at this time of year.  However, the person who recommended Mottisfont to me said June is the best time to visit because the roses are in full bloom and smell wonderful; so a return trip is a must!  At this time of year, the house is only open on the ground floor but it had been beautifully decorated.  I look forward to seeing more of it on my next visit.

For more details, follow the link below. I visited Mottisfont at my own expense.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont

Photographs©VCUzzell2016