A Week in the Cotswolds

Standard

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!

IMG_1011

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.

IMG_1048

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.

IMG_1087

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!

IMG_1117

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

 

Advertisements

A Return to Mottisfont

Standard

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.

IMG_0977

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.

IMG_0935

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

 

 

 

Stunning Stourhead

Standard

IMG_0671  IMG_0705

A misty day with drizzle in the air might not inspire a trip to a country house and garden, but that did not deter me and my family as we set off for Stourhead House and Garden this morning. In fact, the weather being a bit ‘iffy’ worked in our favour, as it wasn’t too busy when we arrived and the rain brought the lush greens, browns and reds of the trees to life.  Not only that, but the smell of the dew covered grass and the damp earth was breathed in deeply as we made our way through the tree lined paths, constantly amazed by the view around each corner.

Green is often said to be a healing colour; being immersed in it today I received a good dose of its health giving properties as I strolled along, camera in hand, trying to do justice to the scenery but feeling like I couldn’t quite capture its beauty. Every few minutes my brother and I would stop and go ‘oh wow!’ before experimenting with different angles, framing and trying not to get in the way of one another’s photo.

The house is both interesting and beautiful; the tasteful furniture and numerous paintings are particularly impressive, with each room immaculately arranged and knowledgeable staff on-hand to tell you more about every element of a room. We weren’t able to see everything today, which is brilliant as a return visit in the autumn will be a must!  Having seen Stourhead’s landscape in all its green glory, I can’t wait to see it covered in reds, oranges and yellows.

For more information, follow the link below:

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

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

I visited Stourhead House and Garden at my own expense.

Minterne Gardens: a piece of paradise in Dorset

Standard

IMG_0377  IMG_0366  IMG_0355

Mother Nature has been kind to me in many ways; one of which is the fact that I was born on the beautiful South Coast of England, in the equally lovely county of Dorset, which is where I still live. Although I’m based by the sea (couldn’t live any further inland; I tried that when I went to university, and hated it) there is so much countryside to explore, most of which is only thirty minutes to an hour away.  There is also so much of my own fair county which I have yet to explore, and I’m constantly surprised by how much wonder there is in one place.

Yesterday was another of these discoveries as I set out early with my family to visit Minterne Gardens, near Dorchester. It was still quite hazy when we left the, but as we drove deeper into the Dorset countryside, the sun was beginning to break through and the temperature was warming up quite nicely.  As we made our way to our destination we passed fields of green and yellow, pretty villages and inviting tea rooms.  It was quite easy to find Minterne Gardens and free parking is opposite St Andrews Church, which is next to the entrance to the gardens.  It’s quite a small parking area, so I imagine it would get full quite quickly at the height of summer, especially because Minterne Magna is also the starting point for those who wish to view the Cerne Abbas Giant.

It only costs £5 to enter, which is an absolute bargain, considering the amount of flora on display, and the birdsong which accompanies your stroll through the Capability Brown inspired landscape, taking in the array of colour and the fragrance all around you. On your way to the start of the gardens you will pass the ideally situated Minterne House, which is not open to the public, but on Spring Bank holidays you can have tea and cake on the terrace.  There are public toilets towards the beginning of the route through the gardens, but wheelchair access around the grounds would be quite difficult as many of the paths are uneven.

What struck me most about the 1.5 miles of paths through the Himalayan landscape were the vibrant pinks, reds, yellows, purples and whites which greeted you around every corner, especially at the moment as the Rhododendrons are still in bloom, although starting to go over. I hope to go back in October and admire the trees in their autumnal glory as well, which will involve a lot of stopping and snapping with my camera; it could take a while to get round that day.  You could easily spend several hours pootling along the paths, marvelling at the variety of plants and the consideration taken in their arrangement, enabling every species to thrive and shine.

As I said, nature has been kind to me in many ways, and being able to walk around such gorgeous scenery on a summer’s day with family, taking photos and listening to birds singing all around me, was just about perfect and a few hours I’m very grateful for.

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

 

A Tourist in Your Own Town: Writing Inspiration

Standard

I haven’t written much for Blogging 101 this week as the tasks have been more appropriate for newcomers to blogging. However, when you’re struggling to write, taking a day trip somewhere nearby can provide inspiration and learning too; as you’ll read below.

My students currently have a challenge to promote a local area, and so yesterday we caught the bus from Bournemouth to Wimborne; hoping the weather would hold out for most of the day. My young charges were ready with ideas of what to film and where to visit as we arrived in the town square, and our first port of call was the well-known Wimborne market, which was founded in about 1855 and is one of the largest markets in the South.  It immediately inspired my international learners, who began talking to the stall owners about the locally produced food on offer, and then browsed the antiques and other products throughout the market.  It was also my first visit too, despite having been to Wimborne many times, I’d never ventured far from the centre of town.

The weather was kind for most of the morning, and I browsed the various boutiques while my students filmed around Wimborne Minster, which is a beautiful church and has been a place of worship for thirteen hundred years. Even for those who are not Christian, the architecture, stained glass windows, organ and chained library are all interesting and worth exploring.  Once you’ve done that, you can walk across the green to 9 On the Green, one of many popular cafes and restaurants in the town.  I had a lovely goat’s cheese, pesto and tomato Panini, followed by some Dorset apple cake and a good coffee.

20160108_123934.jpg

After lunch we made our way to Walford Mill Crafts centre, which wasn’t particularly fun in pouring rain (our luck with the weather had run out) but worth it once we got there. For creative individuals, it’s such an inspirational place full of all manner of crafts and arts, many of which are made by local artists and crafts-people.  In the summer you can sit outside the café and relax to the sounds of the river, which runs beneath the mill and can be viewed through a glass section of the floor; there’s also a video which plays footage of local otters.

20160108_135707.jpg

On our way back to the town centre, we passed the Town Hall, which my student had asked myself and my colleague about earlier in the day, and we hadn’t known anything about it! I have since discovered it is a grade II listed building with a Jubilee Garden, planted in the style of a 17th Century Physick Garden.  Hence the benefits of being a tourist in your own town or local area; it not only means you can answer questions from visitors, but also gives you something to write about.

For more information on the places mentioned, follow the links:

http://www.wimborneminster.net/

http://www.walfordmillcrafts.co.uk/

 

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

 

Have blog, will travel: re-assessing my goals

Standard

This is the first post for Blogging 101, a free Word Press blogging course. The first assignment is to introduce, or in my case, re-introduce myself to the blogging world.

If someone asked me to describe myself, I would say ‘late-starter’. I have often felt that I haven’t quite got going yet, and as we move into another year and I start another blogging challenge, I’m more aware of that than ever.  However, when looking back over the last two years since I’ve been blogging, I realise I have achieved quite a lot, so maybe I’ve finally started ‘living’.

While yoga was part of my initial inspiration for my writing, and continues to be a fundamental part of my life, my focus has now shifted more towards travel and places I’ve visited (both near and far), along with local walks. I have become more interested in writing about the natural world, and my challenge when doing so is to try and describe what I have seen and experienced in such a way that my readers are able to feel they were there with me.  Yet, as regards my late start in life, I have also begun to travel further more frequently than before, overcoming considerable anxiety about the unknown in order to do so.  I still get anxious when I go somewhere new, but I’ve learnt not fight it, and tell myself it’s normal and it will pass, which it does.  So, when re-assessing my aims for my writing, travel is certainly at the top of the list, and I’m already planning day trips and holidays for this year to provide inspiration.

Following that, it is nature writing and photography, which has been my passion since I was a teenager that I wish to share on my blog. After university I lost my creative impulses and didn’t take photographs for about a decade.  That all changed in my early thirties, when the call of the camera encouraged me to start again, and now as I’ve entered middle-age (crikey!) I hear that even more, and my other goal with this blog is to be more creative more often.  I took it for granted when I was younger that I could just mess about with my camera all day; whereas now with work commitments, it’s not so easy to find the time and head space to be inspired.

In effect, my goals for my blog are quite simple; to see and do more in life. The more I see and do, the more I can photograph and write about.  Speaking, or indeed writing, as someone who feels she has done very little so far, that is really important.  I’m much more concerned with collecting experiences now than possessions, although that hasn’t stopped me buying books!