England 2010, Day 2: Cotswold Farm Park and More Village Exploration
Monday, July 26—We forego the full English breakfast in favor of cold cereal, yogurt, flaky croissants, toast, and tea. Again we saw Sally at breakfast and had a long chat before making our preparations for the day. We enjoyed our two nights at Warwick House, but had to switch to a new B&B for our last night in Moreton as Charlie had a group coming in taking all the rooms.
Kymalton House, our new B&B, is on the other side of town, but thankfully we know to take the back footpath through the neighborhoods.
We dropped off our bags, and set off for the TI (Tourist Information) to check the bus schedule and make our plan for the day. It’s hard to decide which few things to see and do when you want to fit everything in!
Bus schedule and day plan in hand, we went to wait for the bus to Stow-on-the-Wold. It was already lunchtime by the time we arrived in Stow, and we decided to try one of the local pubs, The Queen’s Head.
The Queen’s Head interior is a good example of a typical English pub with dark wood and comfortable corners, but as soon as I saw the back courtyard there was no question where we would be eating.
Then came the food. Oh, the delicious food! Baguette with baked cheese round and cranberry chutney, garden salad with homemade house dressing, and a big bowl of chips (fries). See the clear liquid? That’s more of that delicious lemonade. Surprisingly, malt vinegar on chips is actually kind of good.
When we first arrived at the Queen’s Head, we were the only people in the courtyard, but that soon changed. Two dogs even joined us, with their owners, of course. We met a new breed of dog we’d never heard of before, a lurcher. There was also a fantastic sign taped to the inside of the front door that read:
CHILDREN MUST BE KEPT
UNDER CONTROL AT ALL TIMES
Next stop: Stow’s TI to see about ordering a taxi to take us to the Cotswold Farm Park, which happens to be out in the middle of nowhere. We made arrangements and went back up to the main square to wait for our ride. John picked us up and we quickly realized that he thought he was supposed to take us to a different park in the area. “No problem,” he said. “I think I know where this place is.”
Thankfully we weren’t paying by the meter as we ended up with an impromptu, meandering tour of the countryside complete with commentary on all manner of subjects.
At last we made it to the Farm Park! After making arrangements to be picked up again in a couple hours, we made our way inside where we bought two small bags of feed pellets along with our tickets. Jeff was particularly excited to see all the animals. The Cotswold Farm Park has lots of kid-friendly activities, but specializes in rare and endangered breeds of local animals with a goal of preservation, conversation, and education.
I loved these signs in the demonstration barn:
Notice the four horns on this next one. From the educational sign: “Joseph’s coat of many colours is thought to have been made from the wool of Jacob sheep and The Bible certainly records advice given by God to Joseph’s father Jacob, on how to breed spotted lambs, including using only spotted rams (Genesis 30 & 31). This is probably the first written record of selective breeding!”
And last, but certainly not least, the famous Cotswold sheep. Again, from the educational sign: “Brought to Britain by the Romans these sheep once roamed the Cotswold Hills in their thousands and were known as the ‘Cotswold Lion.’ The hills take their name from the sheep. These were the “wolds” or bare hills, of the sheep “cots” or sheep enclosures. During the middle ages their wool was sold to produce great wealth, enabling the local merchants to build beautiful manor houses and churches.”
It had been threatening rain most of the day, and the skies opened up on us just as we were finishing. Thankfully it was just a quick downpour, and it was dry for our next stop. Our next taxi driver took us to the large village of Bourton-on-the-Water, known as the “Venice of the Cotswolds” for the stream that runs through the middle of the village.
While less than a foot deep, the stream is technically River Windrush. Our taxi driver told us that they play a football match in the river every summer. Not sure how that works exactly, but it sounds like fun!
Next we took the bus back up to Stow-on-the-Wold to finish exploring the town. Rick (that’s our Rick Steves’ England 2010 guide that was our constant companion) told us that a visit to Stow was not complete until you locked your partner in the stocks in the town square. Who were we to argue?
The church is one of the highlights of the town:
However, the real highlight of the church is this door around back, flanked by two ancient yew trees:
Tolkien fans, what do you see? Perhaps the entrance to Moria? Tolkien hiked all over the Cotswolds, and many believe this door to be his inspiration for the door to Moria. How cool is that, really?!? Apparently some also view it as, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…”
About 20 inns in England claim to be the oldest in the country, and this is one of them:
After exploring Stow, we bought some ice cream and chocolates, which we ate while we waited on a bench near the stocks for the last bus of the day to come and take us back home to Moreton. When the bus didn’t show, we realized that we’d read the bus schedule wrong. We were waiting for the last Saturday bus time… but it was Monday. After critiquing the schedule layout (like good TPC grads), we scratched our heads and tried to figure out what to do. We were only one town over from where we needed to be, but about 5 miles away. After some thought, we decided our only course of action was to find someplace to let us borrow a phone and call for a taxi.
We entered what looked to be a very nice hotel, and were soon directed to a pay phone. Thankfully we had a sheet of local taxi companies that we’d picked up from the TI in Moreton. The pay phone itself was somewhat confusing. Jeff had to wait until someone answered on the other line and then immediate drop a coin in the slot. It was unclear how much money paid for how much time. Once he reached someone, he had to call back multiple times because the phone kept cutting him off. Of course, the taxi service wanted to know specifically where we were and we didn’t know. So I went walking as fast as possible out to the front of the building to find out! Finally we had someone coming to get us in about 10 minutes so we walked back out to the entrance. About 10 minutes later, a lady came scurrying out to us, asking if we’re the Americans who called the taxi. Apparently the hotel had three entrances, and taxis come to the back one. Of course. At this point we’re just glad to be getting home—even if it was for the price of a taxi rather than two bus fares.
Our innkeeper at Kymalton, Doug, had already taken our bags up to our room when we got back. And what a lovely room it was—tastefully decorated and with a view down into the front garden.
For dinner, we tried to go to a little Thai restaurant we’d been hearing great things about, but they were sadly closed on Mondays. Instead we went to ASK, a popular Italian chain around the U.K.
We ordered garlic bread for an appetizer, and when it arrived were surprised to see what was essentially a baked pizza crust with olive oil and crushed garlic. It was very good, just not American garlic bread. Another surprise was Jeff’s strawberry “Freshly Made Milkshake”—just milk with strawberry syrup mixed in. My drink was a sparkling pomegranate and raspberry Fruitiser—delicious. For the meal, I ordered the Estiva pizza: baked with tomato and mozzarella, and fresh out of the oven, topped with baby mozzarella, prosciutto, and a layer of fresh rocket (arugula). Jeff had a grilled chicken and pasta dish. Both were delicious.