We now know it better, and it is even lovelier than we thought. Today we returned from five days based in Broadway visiting Claire, our elder daughter, who is now working there as a veterinary surgeon. Trip Advisor web site recommended The Windrush B&B in Broadway, and it couldn't have come up with a better choice. It was delightful - Darren and Anthony welcomed us as valued house guests, the room was comfortable, clean, and tastefully appointed (as was the rest of the house) and the B&B in general and Anthony's breakfasts in particular have rightfully won tourism awards. Very highly recommended; here is their website:
on Tuesday 24th May
Darren welcomed us with tea and home made cakes which we took in the garden in the sunshine. Claire arrived shortly afterwards to show us some of the stunning scenery and villages in the area. We set off up Snowshill out of Broadway, routed along the edge of the high ground, to a structure we had spied from afar as we had approached Broadway; Broadway Tower.
Last winter the GWR suffered an embankment collapse at Gotheringham. With help from their insurance company but still involving a lot of debt that collapse was repaired. Then, following the winter's appalling weather, a second embankment (Chicken Curve) north of Winchcombe collapsed. This time the damage was worse and there is no help from the insurance company. These collapses, together with the cancellation of all the railway's 'Santa Specials' because of the terrible weather, almost bankrupted the railway. Individuals have donated funds, volunteers provide free labour, and most amazing of all many other heritage railways have run and are running special events to raise funds for the struggling GWR. But as soil experts take core samples at Chicken Curve, the railway is divided into a northern section based on Toddington station, and a southern section from Winchcombe to Cheltenham Racecourse.
A 1950s diesel railcar runs the northern section, leaving Toddington station to travel south as far as Chicken Curve, then reversing back to Toddington before proceding north to Lavenham, which is as far as the northern extension of the line to Broadway and Honeybourne has got. Work on this extension (which might eventually reach the original end of this line at Stratford-on-Avon) has temporarily ceased due to lack of funds caused by the two embankment collapses. The railcar then returns to Toddington station.
I drove the few miles to Winchcombe station to sample the longer, southern section of the railway. This is steam-worked, and when I visited Stanier 8F locomotive 45160 was running services. This locomotive was built in 1940 by North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow, and shipped to Turkey. The Turks called them 'Churchills' after the British Prime Minister, and in 1989 the 'Churchill 8F Locomotive Company Limited' repatriated 45160 to UK and it was restored at GWR.
Next morning (as forecast) dawned wet, and after another of Anthony's top quality breakfasts I called Claire; "is that the old git's taxi service?" I enquired. Shortly afterwards my phone rang; "taxi for the old gits outside now" said Claire. This being a wet day, we needed to do some 'indoor' sightseeing. First stop was Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe, where we met this guy....
The Pheasant garden was home to quite a few of these guys and gals. Some of them even found their way up 90 feet or so to the tops of the trees
Sudeley was OK, but there wasn't a lot there except mannequins, information boards, and some ruins. After lunch we headed up out of Broadway to Snowshill Manor, a national Trust property and as interesting and quirky as Sudeley had been predictable and bland. But first, on the way up Snowshill, we stopped off at this church for a look around.
St. Eadburgha's church is listed in Simon Jenkins book 'England’s Thousand Best Churches' and is described as a 'well mannered church which has turned its back on the famous village, as if appalled at its capitulation with tourism.'
From its position nestled neatly at the foot of Snowshill it may seem as though time stands still for this ancient church, now marooned from the village.
Chris and Claire in St Eadburgha's churchyard
The manor was owned by Winchcombe Abbey from 821 until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. It then passed to the Crown, and was given as a gift to Katherine Parr, wife to King Henry VIII.
Since then, many alterations and additions have been made by the house's many owners and tenants. By 1919, the manor was a semi-derelict farm. It was bought and restored by Charles Paget Wade. Ironically the neglect that the house had suffered from was exactly what attracted Wade. A house with no modern additions or alterations was the ideal place to display his historic and unique collection. He insited on candle light rather than electric light to display his artefacts, and the Trust have continued this with use of low light (electric these days) both to preserve the delicate coulous of the collection and to present it as Wade intended.
Wade and his wife lived modestly in a cottage beside the manor, the Manor itself being reserved for his collections and for entertaining.
Part of the garden at Snowshill
The following day was the last we'd be together and we decided to spend it at The Cotswold Farm Park, or as BBC 'Countryfile' viewers will know it; 'Adam's farm'.
By mid afternoon we'd explored the Cotswold Farm Park and returned to our favourite tea room in Broadway, Tisanes, for some Ceylon tea (for me - the others had their own pot of choice from the many available). Having had only a sandwich at lunchtime we were a bit naughty and enjoyed something from the Tisanes sweet cabinet (lemon meringue pie for me!).
We were invited to eat at Claire and Dave's house, so they went home to get the meal ready and after some last minute shopping we returned to the Windrush before driving over to the house at Evesham. The meal was delightful, and afterwards Claire produced something called a Wii. Was this some strange Geordie invention (I though it was pronounced 'why-eye')? Apparently not. It goes by the unlikely pronunciation of 'wee' (are they serious? why didn't they go the whole hog and just call it a 'p*ss', which must be what they are taking?). It is a computer game system. I was quite good at 10-pin bowls, rubbish at archery, and didn't bother with golf. It does have a 'flight simulator' but this involves nothing more than pretending the control console is an aeroplane and 'flying' it around. The on-screen aeroplane image just does whatever you do with the console.
The system's complex modelling of the golf game, and ludicrously simple (let's face it, they didn't even bother to be serious) flight sim tells me that a Wee is not for me!
We bade Claire and Dave goodbye, and next morning after the last of the Windrush's excellent breakfasts, we had a look at an arts and crafts show in Broadway Village Hall before hitting the road for home.
The Cotswolds are lovely. Perhaps too lovely? One can have a surfeit of honey-coloured stone and idyllic villages set in a postcard-landscape. But I think I could get used to it!