Our Cotswold adventure began today!!! So what is conjured up in your mind when you hear of England's Cotswold region? Well, for me, I always saw it in postcard picture fashion with green rolling hills dotted with white sheep, outlined by dry stone fences which separate animals from crop fields. A consistent patchwork of England's most idealized setting is what it would be.
You know what---it is absolutely that! It does not disappoint, at least, not on this first day's foray. It is as if an artist had picked up a pencil and gently sketched curves onto a canvas and then painted it in deep greens and earthy browns adding at last miniature herds of sheep as seen from a distance. Wonderful! Superb!
We spent last night in a B and B in Cheltenham. Our room led out onto a garden area which made you feel like you were already in the country. The only problem was we were given the room with two single beds. Our host kept telling us that it was the best room in the house but, hey, we really wanted one queen bed. We were a given a lesson in perspective when we discovered that two Norwegian women had had can unexpected change to their hiking plans and were staying longer than anticipated. It seems like they were crossing the street in Cheltenham and one of them was hit by a car! Her arm is now casted and in a sling; her face is crusted with scabs and stitches. Now this was and is one of our nightmares; we are so obsessed with not getting run over that it often takes us five minutes to cross a mildly busy intersection. You know the people who wait for the green man to come on before crossing the street--TOURISTS, we call them--well, that's us now. Greg and I were really taken back by this and so having two single beds didn't seem so bad after all. .
Now for a little history on our starting point. Cheltenham was named after the river Chelt which flows thru the town. It became a popular resort in 1788 when King George III spent five weeks here drinking the mineral waters.
The Pittville Pump House was one such location. After that people would come for the waters but, also, for the musicians, the theatre, and the wide promenades built for strolling in your finery. It was during this period that the Regency style of architecture became dominant in this town. A further impetus to growth came in 1815 when the first horse racing Festival was held.
While it was originally flat racing that was popular, one now finds Cheltenham or more correctly, Cleeve Hill, the home to the annual steeple chase. Horse lovers, it was quite exciting to actually see steeple chase jumps set among the green rolling pastures.
We began our walk at Cheltenham and ended up at Winchcombe 8 3/4 miles away. Greg and I were nervous--what if we got lost? What if we couldn't decipher the instructions in our hiking book? At this point the directions were just words on a page. “Carefully cross the road and enter Gravel Pit Lane opposite; after 200m turn left along a track before Brookfield Farm flanked by fences. As the track bears right cross the S (stile) on the left next to a FG (field gate) and follow that path bearing right to a footbridge (ignore the S on your left).” There were four pages of directions including portions of maps (highlighted in red) plus photographs of especially tricky sections. As it turned out we muddled thru just fine and tomorrow we will fine tune our navigation skills. One particular problem was that I kept loosing my place in the directions so, instead of looking for the S, I was looking for the KG.
Along our journey thru this gorgeous country side we spied sheep,
groves of trees, fertile fields,
brambles with berries on them,
freshly plowed lands,
quaint houses, and old churches and
cemeteries. Quite a lot for our first day out!
While our walk was over for the day, we still had to find our B+B. We found it on Winchcombe's main street, High Street.
It is called Wesley House (I could find no data that stated that John or Charles Wesley ever stayed here) and was originally a 15 Century merchant's house.
Besides having lodging accommodations, it also has a restaurant and a bar. It is a timber building which is unusual since many are of the buff, honey colored limestone found in this area. It looks like it is arcing towards the middle! Oh, how to describe the feeling of being here? A catch in my throat and a flutter in my stomach as I looked at the façade. I touched the vertically lined timbers and wished for a mental transposition back to the 15C. It didn't happen but there is something mysterious and alluring to Wesley House. I could not believe we got to stay here!
To reach our room you had to wind your way up a narrow, steep staircase. At the landing you then had to step down and choose the correct passage to navigate to your room.
I didn't tell you, but G and I celebrated our anniversary here. What a special place!