The Extraordinary Visit to the Cotswolds
Report by Glen & Brian Heaton


12th – 16th May, 2014
Cotswold Holiday

And it rained in Bicknoller when we joined the coach on Monday morning. This was our first holiday with WSNT and as new boys didn’t know what to expect but Sue hurried us up because we were going to be late at the Kings Arms, Taunton. As it was we pulled in at 8.40, bang on time – an efficiency we were to expect for the rest of the week. Mike drove the coach happily up the M5 to our first surprise. We stopped for coffee at the brand new Gloucester service station which had only been open for four days and was quite different from any other. Appearing to be underground it was ultra-modern and very ecological - quite a new experience even the prices were up-to-date but well worth a visit

Chipping Campden was our first port of call, where local guides took us around this charming Cotswold Market town. By 2.30pm the sun was shining and we were at Sezincote House close to Morton-in-Marsh and, after a squeeze through the narrow gate, we were confronted by a remarkable mansion with domes and minarets in the Hindu and Muslim style dating from 1807 and now a warm friendly home being lived in by its present owners Edward and Camilla Peake.

Old Bell Hotel By 5.45 we were unloading our cases at the Old Bell Hotel, Malmesbury - the oldest hotel in England founded for the Abbot Walter Loring’s guests in 1220 – but thankfully updated since then.

“…everyone was friendly, the sun shone …”

Badminton House, the home of the Duke of Beaufort, occupied much of Wednesday. The Vicar, Christopher Mulholland, conducted our group with intimate stories of the Somerset family and its associations with horses. We even saw the original Badminton bats and shuttle cocks made from Champagne corks. The present house dated from the early 17th century, an impressive Boteler pile which defies description as you will imagine; another wonderful day.

Burford

And the sun continued to shine as Sue had predicted. Thursday’s first stop was Bibury with its medieval alms houses and fish farm which provided sterile brown trout for restocking rivers through-out the country. Then to the uphill town of Burford on the A4 - another delightful village with houses of golden Cotswold stone. The day concluded with a fascinating visit to the Cotswold Wildlife Park with its collection of meer-cats which disappeared every time a helicopter passed. And then home to another superb evening meal at the Old Bell. Sue was keen that we should see as much of the Cotswolds as possible before we turned for home so a morning stop in Bourton-on-the-Water and then a visit to Batsford Arboretum where most of us enjoyed lunch in the new café before exploring the extensive grounds where many of the trees were in full flower. The return journey was not uneventful due to an earlier accident at Bristol where two motorbikes and a car collided during the afternoon causing a long tailback. Mike our driver, tried a diversion on to the M4 but was caught up in another traffic jam. But what a wonderful week away; everything ran smoothly, everyone was friendly, the sun shone and what an interesting and varied selection of places to visit. Thank you, Sue, for your organisation and minute by minute detailed planning. Glen and I will certainly hope to join you again for another inspirational tour.

Report by Glen & Brian Heaton
Pictures by Ivor Jones

Click Camera image for more pictures in a slideshow

After an early breakfast a town guide took us on a fascinating tour of Malmesbury. The Abbey church was rather disappointing as most had been demolished by the collapse of the stone spire and tower in the late 15th century. Abbey House Gardens were magnificent being constantly re-designed and maintained by the ‘Naked Gardeners’. Around every corner was a surprise sculpture or a raised fishpond where “Dora the fish lady” fed a 1.5 m long sturgeon by putting her hand full of food down into his throat!

Chavenage House

The highlight of Tuesday was our visit to Chavenage House “An Elizabethan Jewel” dating back to 1564 where we were delighted by the whole Lowsley-Williams family, the owners since 1891, each making a contribution to our visit. Sue warned us that the whole family were characters which they really were! We were delighted at every turn by our guide Col. David Lowsley-Williams, father of the family, who was the spitting image of Winston Churchill – even to the humour – opening doors into more and more astonishing secrets of the house which he obviously adored. The rest of the family were always close at hand ready to tell us of the many TV programmes which had been filmed there from Poirot to Barchester Chronicles and then providing tea for everyone.