Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Seeing England on two FEET!! June 2, 2010

Joe asked me to find a place less touristy, more relaxing and with nice scenery to go this past weekend and I think I managed to do that. We spent three nice days in the Cotswolds region of England. One of the most picturesque areas of the whole country. If you haven't read my previous blog, please go back and read the last paragraph as I explained the Cotswolds region in more detail. I also explained the walking trails and how we were using a special map for public trails to explore the countryside.

When we left home Saturday it was raining. It hasn't rained here in weeks, but on the first day of the bank holiday weekend we get rain! I wasn't too concerned as we were just driving, but was a little worried about the rest of the weekend. We had planned a couple days of exploring on foot and rain would put a huge damper on our plans!

By early afternoon we got to our destination, the city of Moreton on Marsh. Moreton means a "moorland settlement". Moorland is land with rolling hills, covered in heather, bracken (leafy ferns) and moss. Marsh comes from the word "henmarsh", marshy land where wild birds are found. The rain had lightened up and there were people scurrying everywhere through the little town. Our hotel was right on the main road, town center. The Redesdale Arms is a 17 century Inn where the stables were made into 24 separate guest rooms years ago. It was the perfect location and a nice place to stay.

We headed out that afternoon with our umbrellas to walk up and down the main street. There were lots of different shops and art galleries. We had previously asked the hotel receptionist to give us a name of a local friendly pub and she recommended "The Black Bear" immediately.

A lot of the nicer restaurants in the towns and villages don't open for dinner until 6:30 or 7 so when you are hungry at 4:00 you have to wait. Pretty much all the bars and restaurants are called pubs here in England. Unless you are talking about a fast food place (not many of them) or a sandwich or tea place. So we went over to The Black Bear to hang out for a while. As soon as we walked in all the people at the bar turn to look. It was obvious that they were all locals. I was looking for an empty table and found none, with everyone still just looking at us, I walked up to the bar and stated the obvious, "can we could get a drink"? (Joe always leaves the breaking of the ice issues to me.) Everyone kind of chuckled and the bartender (Jim, the owner) hearing my accent immediately asked us where we were from. When we said the Washington, D.C. area his eyes really lit up. Apparently he lived in DC for 18 years. He played for the Washington Diplomats Soccer team (now defunct) and had many good friends who played for the Washington Redskins back then. John Riggins, Joe Jacoby and the rest of the "hogs" who happened to be the stars in the 80's while he was there and much loved to this day. Those were our heydays for the team and Joe's favorite players of all time. He also met Cal Ripken, Jr. and was invited to the private suite by the owner of the NY Rangers hockey team and met Howard Cosell there. He and Joe were soon chatting it up about the good ole days. The other locals at the bar were making motions of "here we go again" towards Jim who loves when Americans come in so he can relive his American life. He loved it in the states and only came back because of his aging parents. He kept saying "what are the chances of you coming to the Cotswolds and meeting a local person who used to live in DC"? We later googled his name (Jim Steele) and found that he was also a soccer (football) coach here in England before going to America and had made quite a name for himself.

We had made a friend and settled ourselves up at the bar. He bought us a couple of drinks and took me out back to see his garden, which was beautiful. We watched England football on the four TV's, made more friends, and cheered on their local teams who were playing. It got quit loud with "go lads" and "come on lads you can do it" among the cheers and groans. Later we ordered dinner and decided to stay for the horse races that they had for entertainment. These consisted of a big movie type screen put up and a projector set up. Then they showed old races (including pig races!). They took bets from the patrons on each race, betting usually a pound ($1.50) on a horse that you chose. After the betting they'd play the tape of the race and the whole place would scream and yell, everyone yelling for their horse, until the race ended. Whoevers horse won usually came away with about £5 ($7.50) They had 8 of those races. The races they were showing were old from all over the world so there was no way to know the outcome. The whole thing was a fundraiser for their local football team. We had gone in there around 4:00 pm and didn't leave until 10:00. It was a fun way to spend a rainy day.

The next day was a beautiful day, perfect for our first walk. Our hotel desk gave us a small walking map of Moreton on Marsh which was a little more detailed than the large one we brought. He told us where to start and sent us on our way. I had such great hopes for these scenic walks. We were supposed to come to two villages along the way.

We started off walking through farmland and meadows. It is a little disconcerting when you are walking right through a person's farm. We were VERY nervous when we had to walk through a herd of cattle to get to a gate. They just stared at us and mooed a little. We felt like any minute a farmer with a gun was going to come running at us telling us to get off his property. But its not like that here. These trails have been around forever and they are public walkways. Its like that all over England and takes some getting used to. The maps were a lot easier to read when we were sitting in our room planning our route. Once you get out there in the middle of nowhere and try to figure out where a landmark is and which way you should go on a trail the whole thing is a lot more confusing. We walked through fields, woods, up hills, roads, more fields and NEVER saw one village (except in the distance beyond the hills). It was very hard, to say the least. I was getting worn out and Joe had to carry my backpack and his on the hills! Thank goodness we had water. I had asked him if maybe we shouldn't bring the water since it was heavy and it was a nice day out. He insisted on bringing it. Thankfully!! We drank every drop. The routes are supposed to be circles so that you end up where you started without walking the same trails twice. We just couldn't get a handle on where we were and were afraid to get too far away so we ended up backtracking and coming back the same way. We were gone four and a half hours and the best I can figure we must have walked about 6-8 miles. It's a lot harder walking on trails and such than streets! We did see beautiful scenery and the day was just perfect so it was all good. I was a little disappointed about the villages, but you live and learn I guess. We went out for a nice dinner and called it an early night.

                                   Some of the nice gates put there for the public along the way.

                                                 Joe carrying both our backpacks!

The next day after breakfast we had to check out. I had a walk I had found on a website already planned for on the way home. It started in a village only a few miles up the road. I was very excited for this walk as it was short (2 miles) and had an intriguing description: "A loop to the north of Todenham, crossing pastoral countryside. There are medieval relics to see such as Lower Ditchford and Ditchford Frary villages as well as the visible furrows in the fields. There is also a ford on this stretch but don't fear, there is a bridge over to the west. Parking is just down the hill a couple of hundred yards southwest of the village hall." What's not to love about that? We were still pretty worn out from the day before so a 2 mile walk would be perfect to stretch our legs and I couldn't wait to see the medieval relics!

We found the village and the village hall and the parking down hill from it. The public walk sign was right there so we headed out. We started out walking through a farmer's field. After a short while we saw big brown humps lying in the field a head. I said to Joe, "what in the world are those brown things". He said, "they're cows". Well they were the biggest cows I've ever seen. They looked like buffalo from a distance. As we got closer they all stood up and stared at us. It was a little unnerving to say the least. Once we got closer and they stood up of course they didn't look like buffalo but they were tall and big! I still took pictures. These experiences are a big deal for city people! The next field was full of sheep! Some were young. It would have been nice to be there a couple months earlier right after they had their lambs to see them as babies. They trotted away from us with baas and mehs as I got more pictures. Then we walked through a very big field of some kind of harvest. We didn't know what it was. We got all the way across the field and couldn't find any gate. Joe walked way down to one end and finally found the path with a little bridge to cross the creek. I was waiting for him to find it before I walked all the way down there. Thank goodness he happened to pick the right direction, otherwise he would have had to walk all the way back and then up another direction. After crossing another meadow we came to a dirt road. Our map showed that we should turn right on the road. We walked and walked and ended up at an abandon farm but it let out onto a paved road. We were soon greeted by a friendly little dog and shortly came upon the little house where the dog lived. There was a young man outside so I asked him what village we were in. "Great Wolford" he said. That didn't sound familiar at all so I asked him if he knew where Ditchford Frary Village was. He looked puzzled and said he'd never heard of it! Now what! I had to ask again to be sure. Joe walked a few paces up the road and saw a sign that said, "Todenham 1 1/4 miles". We were very confused but really had no choice but to walk the road back to Todenham. We weren't up to another long haul like the day before and with absolutely no idea which way else to go we walked back to our starting point. As soon as we got back I whipped out my big map and found Great was the exact opposite direction of the way we were supposed to go! We soon found there was another public path down the road and across the street from the one we had taken! We didn't have a compass AND didn't see the other path so didn't even realize that we took the complete opposite direction from where we should have. I was SO disappointed as I really wanted to see the old village. We even tried to drive there but it didn't even come up on our GPS. It was funny because the one we had taken had a bridge and the road where we thought it would be and everything. We are going to go back again and walk it. This time we'll bring a compass and know exactly where to go! Otherwise, we had a nice uneventful walk, probably more like 4-5 miles though!

Look at the beautiful lilac!

We got home early afternoon on Monday from the weekend and basically turned into vegetables for the rest of the day. Me especially of course. In fact Tuesday was something of a lost day too Joe even admitted he was tired on Tuesday too. However he always looks at exercise as a good thing and the harder the better. I wanted the pretty scenery and the exercise was sort of a necessary evil. I never dreamed that hiking like that could take so much out of you. I remember the hike that my nieces and cousins went on in Montana a couple of years ago that just about killed them. I was supposed to go with them and had realized at the last minute that it was just going to be too much for me. Thank goodness! I understand more now, and their hike was much harder than our walks were!

Now it is Wednesday and we are leaving for London tonight when Joe gets home from work. His company has three stores in the London area and promised me he'd take me the next time he goes to visit them. It is a two hour drive so we will stay in a hotel while there. He will visit his stores on Thursday and Friday and I will SHOP! I have been waiting for a chance to shop in London, uninhibited by Joe who hates to shop. Tomorrow morning after he goes to work I will have to go down to the London tube (their HUGE underground subway system) near the hotel and  learn how to take it to where I want to go. 

His company will pay for the hotel for Wednesday and Thursday because of Joe visiting the stores. Then I talked him into staying Friday night so we could go see a play and then come home Saturday. I ordered tickets yesterday to see Les Miserables at the Queen's theater in London's west end. It has been here nonstop for 25 years making it the longest running play in the city's history. We've always wanted to see it, never dreamed we'd be seeing it here! Melanie was so envious when I told her. It's her favorite play of all time and she wants so badly to see it in a big city like this or Broadway. She will get her wish if she comes out to visit us.

Well, I have to run.  I am supposed to cut the grass again before we go!  This will be my 3rd time!  Joe has no choice when he can't get it done on the weekend.  Last time I left a big triangle uncut in the backyard.  I don't know how I did it, but I'll never live it down.


  1. Kathy,
    I am so enjoying reading your blogs and you are so detailed it feels like being there. Lori Graybill

  2. It seems like you always take pictures of Joe walking away from you. :) Great post. I really enjoyed the pictures. You need to get yourself a little Flip camera so you can post videos now. Did you get the video of Mackenzie I emailed you?

  3. Awesome blog Kathy, thanks! I agree with Tamara, a Flip is a great invention, so easy to use. We loved having one on our Australia trip.

    Les Miserables is one of our favorites too. We have friends from college who's son traveled with the Broadway touring company of it when he was 9! Exciting. Enjoy.

  4. On Kathy's comment of her cutting the grass, if you can imagine looking at a maze from above, then you will know how her lines look in the grass! I have to admit, after her third time cutting, she did a good job. I know she would be as critical as me if I attempted to do laundry. It took me years to get the nod of approval on how to fold a towel!


  5. Kathy,

    Pam and I really enjoy reading your posts. We look forward to reading them. They are very well written. Love the photos.

    Matt & Pam
    Charity Ct. (and, formerly, Lake Anna)

  6. I can just picture you and Joe hiking, you complaining all the way! I love the pictures, I am lerning so much about the UK. By the way, don't you think you should have a basket for your bike so you can bring groceries, etc. home? Can't wait to hear about your trip to London - I saw Les Mis at the same theatre and thought it was great. Talk to you soon - Cathy Hunter