Welcome to my blog

This is it! I've given up work -retired from the rat race and am about to start on a 10 year adventure, doing all those things I've been meaning to do but never had the time to do them. I've offloaded my responsibilities and it is now my time. So follow my adventures and see whether I actually manage anything!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016


We had a relaxed morning in the cottage before driving to Cheltenham for lunch. This was no ordinary lunch but a dining experience at a Michelin star restaurant, Le Champignon Sauvage. I forgot to photo all the courses but here are a few. Once we had chosen from the menu we were each given a couple of hors d'oeuvres one was a samphire based appetiser and the other was a cheese based one. Both were delicious. Then we were treated to another appetiser of parsnip mousse topped with chopped apple and walnut.

Our starters followed. This was M's starter which had lamb as the main ingredient but I can't remember the other ingredients. I didn't take a photo of mine as I was too busy eating it but mine was pea and mint soup with ham hock and poached egg, It arrived with shredded ham on the plate with a poached egg on top and then the soup was poured on the ham.  It was fabulous.

My main course was grey mullet on fennel tart. Seemed a pity to mess it up.

This was M's dessert of chocolate fondant and raspberry sorbet.

Mine didn't look as attractive as M's but it was just as delicious. I had poached peaches in a peach mousse with sorbet.

To finish we had all these petit fours to share between us. It was fun trying all the different flavours. It was a terrific meal and excellent value for money. We had the set lunch menu at a cost of £32 each. It was fine dining at its best.

Afterwards we wandered around Cheltenham. It has lots of Georgian houses in Cotswold stone giving the town a very elegant experience.

Lots of individual shops,

Cheltenham Ladies College

The Rotunda where the spa used to be but is now a bank.

We very much enjoyed our visit to Cheltenham and it lived it to its description of being an elegant, Georgian town.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Stratford upon Avon

About 15  miles away from where we were staying in the Cotswolds is Stratford upon Avon, famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. A mile or so outside the town in the village of Shottery is the childhood home of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife.

It is a well preserved 16th cent Tudor farmhouse. The house remained in the Hathaway family until 1846 when financial problems meant they had to sell but the family continued to live in the house as tenants when it was bought by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust until the last surviving member of the family died in 1910. Being within the family meant that very few alterations had been made to the property. A fire in the late 60s badly damaged part of the cottage which the Trust restored.
The thatched roof is so thick and looks as though it has been replaced in the last few years. Thatching generally lasts from 20 to 60 years depending on the type of vegetation originally used and its exposure to severe weather conditions.

Although this bed has gone through various renovations it still has the features of a late 16th cent or early 17th cent bed, This was probably the 'best bed' in the house to be used by guests.

The headboard is decorated with inlaid parquetry typical of the 1580s/90s. On either side of the parquetry is a carved figure playing a musical instrument

This bed was also owned by the Hathaway family. It is a rare example of a bed from the 1500s and is possibly the 'second best bed' that William gave to Anne in his will.Along with the bed Anne would also have received a large sum of money following his death. The best bed is likely to have been the visitor's bed so the second best would have been the marital bed.

The farmhouse would have had a number of fires in the house to keep it warm but in the kitchen next to the fire was an oven probably used for bread making.

 The house looked beautiful in the sunshine with its large vegetable garden. In the extended garden is a small sculpture area. One was a wicker structure where you could sit and listen to Shakespeare's sonnets. Didn't take any photos as I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere.

(google image)

Our next stop was Stratford upon Avon and we were just in time to visit Shakespeare's home before it closed. Shakespeare's father was the Mayor of the town and lived in this large house which is actually three houses made into one.

His father was a tanner and we were shown how his father would have tanned animal skins to make gloves. He was a very skilled man and made a range of gloves  from fine kid to rougher workmen's gloves. Urine would have been used in the tanning process and the smell from the tannery would have permeated the house.

Walking around the house it is interesting to see how colourful and decorative the cloth is that hangs on the walls.

The Birthplace Trust has recreated the decor as it would have been during Shakespeare's time.The trust was set up in 1847 to prevent the American showman P.T. Barnum from buying the property and shipping it home 'brick by brick'. The Trust was helped by having the backing of Charles Dickens who helped to raise the £3000 needed to buy the property.

This  window was formally in the birthroom. It became traditional for pilgrims to etch their name into the glass as a symbol of their visit. The earliest recorded date is 1806. I think one of the names is that of Dickens but I couldn't find it.

The town is built by the River Avon and next to the river is the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre. I had booked the tickets months ago to make sure we could experience everything Stratford has to offer by attending the theatre in the evening.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre riverside view 2010 by Peter CookWe saw one of Shakespeare's lesser known plays, Cymbeline which was also being filmed that night to be shown live in cinemas throughout the UK. It would never rate as one of my favourite Shakespeare plays but it was a good experience and made the day in Stratford that bit more special.

Sharing with Our World Tuesday

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Cotswold villages

From Oxford I drove to Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds. We were staying in an old two bedroomed cottage within a few minutes walk of the village. It was the perfect location for visiting lots of places within the Cotwolds. The Cotswold is designated 'An area of Outstanding Beauty'. The region covers 790 square miles of rolling hills, honey-coloured stone built villages, historic homes and castles and some beautiful gardens. On our first day I took M to some of the more attractive  villages starting with Bourton on the water.,

The main street through the village straddles the river Windrush with its series of low bridges.

It is a very popular tourist area and there are numerous shops and cafes on either of the river. We stopped for a rest and had tea and toasted teacakes in one of the tea shops. A very English thing to do.

There is a motor museum there but we didn't venture inside. However alongside the Museum  was a beautiful scene with the river rushing past the stone buildings.

We drove on to the next village of Lower Slaughter. There is also an Upper Slaughter but it is not so picturesque. The word 'slaughter' is from the old English word for muddy place. This village  has  the Eye stream running through it.

There are two small bridges crossing the stream and at one end of the village is a water mill. The original mill wheel can still be seen inside the mill which was built in the 19th cent. It was last used commercially in 1958. Nowadays there is a small museum in the mill as well as a craft shop and cafe.

Driving through more of the beautiful countryside we came across a sign for Hailes Abbey. I had not heard of it before but we turned off the road to have a look. Founded in 1246 by Richard, the brother of Henry III, one of the wealthiest men in the country.

The ruins we can see today are all from the main Abbey buildings. As well as the Abbey there were farm buildings, orchards and fishponds.

You can still see the remains of stone benches.

Victorian graffiti can be seen on a number of building stones.

We finished our day at Broadway, one of my favourite villages. I just love the way it nestles within the rolling countryside.

Sharing with James at
Weekend Reflections