Day 2 of our Cotswold adventure and we had to decide whether to trek 11 miles or 9. We decided to go the shorter way and what a good decision it turned out to be as it meant we could dawdle at Haile Abbey, but more about that later. After making our way thru Winchcombe by following directions such as “Turn left following the path between some properties to a KG (kissing gate) and enter the field. Continue straight ahead along the stone path over two footbridges following the River Isbourne to a KG at the far end. Cross the road and turn right along the pavement for approximately 100m until you reach a Cotswold Way signpost and the pavement ends.” G and I are having a little bit of difficulty in anticipating what a 100 meters is and what is not that distance. I am pretty sure that G will catch on to it quicker than I will.
Anyway, we were able to find our way and on thru rolling hills, fertile fields and little clusters of houses we went.
Have I mentioned that the people here seem to be up in arms about dog poo. If it's not being picked up or if picked up but not disposed of properly, warning messages appear. We found this one in a salt bin on a country road where a cluster of houses stood.
On we marched until we reached the dividing point for the long or short hike choice. At this junction we discovered Hailes Church and Hailes Abbey. Both were sparkling gems.
Hailes Church is a small village church founded in the 12th Century. It is dark and dank but it had 13th Century pictures that you could still see the colors and shapes in. I think God must have been smiling on them since G and I have rarely seen unrestored murals of this age in such good shape.
Hailes Abbey was a delight to explore. It was a Cistercian monastery that was begun in 1246 with the financial aid of the Duke of Cornwall. At that time, monasteries were in the country far from the hustle and bustle of larger cities. Hailes monastery became extremely wealthy over the next 300 years coming to own 13,000 acres and 8000 sheep. While wool contributed to the coffers, at least of equal importance was the pilgrims who made the journey seeking solace and healing from Christ's blood, a vial of which was at the monastery. This continued until 1536 when King Henry VIII began his campaign to rid England and its empire of all monasteries and nunneries. Why? Because the Pope refused to grant him a divorce from Katherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. The Abbot of Hailes Abbey petitioned the King and asked him not to destroy the property as it held the reliquary of Christ's blood. Henry VIII had the vial examined and declared it was congealed honey. He then destroyed it and the abbey.
We spent close to two hours here learning about day to day life in the monastery. It was time we could not afford to lose if we were taking the long route. Lucky us, we had the alternative of the short way. Parts of the cloister, kitchen, chapter house (the Assembly Room of the Abbey where business was conducted, confessions heard, and punishments meted out) and parlour have been partially restored. It was in the cloister, the courtyard surrounded by the covered walkway that the monks conducted their main activities of gardening, meditating, studying and writing.
On we went to Broadway which we soon discovered was a busy little village. It was a staging post between Worcester and London. Here, drivers could get fresh horses and travelers could eat and find accomodation for the night. It is in pristine condition. Clean, quaint, honey colored limestone buildings front their High Street providing tourists with food and lodging.
Our night's rest would not be on this street but off of it in a converted barn. It was most delightful and charming. Dove Cottage was its name and it was derived from the little cubbies in the barn that were used for raising doves. I have never stayed in a more interesting or historical place. The ceilings were low, the dark brown beams exposed, and the stairs steep.
Our room was cramped with no visible sign of a restroom.
Surprise, oh, surprise, we opened the closet door to find steep, winding stairs that took you to a loft the size of the bedroom. Our wonderful bathroom was up there. It had a long white tub and no shower. You filled a pitcher with fresh water to rinse your hair. The owner, besides giving us tea and cookies on arrival, had left notes around the rooms giving a history of the structure as well as items in it. We were sleeping in history!