For the first 50 years of my life, my perfectionist self mistakenly believed it was all about knowing more, getting it right, planning, attempting to prevent bad things from happening, and keeping all of my chicks in a row. It took me this long to discover that the JOURNEY is all that matters. This quote from Gilda Radner sums it all up:

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Secret Cottage Tour

When rain forced us to cancel our plans for a biking tour of the Cotswolds, I made a last-minute booking for "The Secret Cottage Tour" instead.  I want to thank the rain, because 
I can't imagine a better tour of the Cotswolds than this!

Before this trip, I had never heard of the Cotswolds.  I came upon them when I was 
googling places in the English countryside.  The Cotswolds is an area of @800 sq.
miles of villages from the middle ages, remarkable churches, rolling green hills, baaing
sheep, beautiful gardens and idyllic thatched-roof cottages built with local yellow limestone. It actually feels like you have gone back in time.  It has been designated an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" in England, with regulations to maintain the character and intergrity of the region.  For instance, if a cottage has a thatched roof, you cannot update it - it must remain thatched.

After picking us up at the railway station at Moreton-in-Marsh, we were loaded into a 7 person Mercedes minibus.  On our way to the Secret Cottage, we stopped at an ancient church and graveyard next to a large manor house.  

Across the road was a field with hundreds of baaing sheep.  I had never heard anything like it before. So pretty!  We proceeded a short distance down the road to the Secret Cottage.

The cottage was originally divided into three separate dwellings, each with a large fireplace for cooking and heating, and a winding staircase to the upper level.  It has been transformed into a one-family dwelling where the Simpsons now live with their family. 

Upon entering the cottage,  Polly Simpson greeted us with a warm smile
and a farm table brimming food displayed on Spode china.  We were given
a tour of their home (no pictures allowed except in the kitchen) and left
about 1/2 hour later with a full tummy and ready to venture out into many picturesque

Life in the Cotswolds is slower paced - MUCH slower.  Many of the 
country lanes we traveled were wide enough for only one car.  The 
speed limit signs were indicative of this much different lifestyle.  The
signs also demonstrated the friendliness and politeness of the people. 

Everywhere you looked, there were flowers!

The tour guides were beyond excellent - very knowledgeable about the
area and its history, friendly, and very willing to man the camera
for any of the guests wanting pictures.

It is common for the cottages to have names:  "The Grey Cottage", "Mill View Cottage".
We saw one named "The Cottage With No Oven", 
and not to forget "The Secret Cottage" which the tour was named for.

The name Cotswolds has a meaning, as do the often odd-sounding names of its hamlets and villages.  "Cots" are sheep enclosures and "wolds" are gentle hills.  In medieval times,
the area was known for its wool trade when over 500,000 sheep grazed the hillsides.

"Chipping" relates to the old English word for "market",  
so the the town of Chipping Norton  meant "market town in the north".

"Slaughter" meant "boggy place, hence how the villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter got their names.

It was a feast for the eyes!  Footbridges across streams, mills, enchanting stone cottages...

We hardly noticed that it was drizzling!  I felt like we had been 
transported back to a different time and place.  
Peaceful, quiet, enchanting.

We walked through this pub in Chipping Norton.  There were mugs
hanging from hooks on the ceiling.  It was explained that years ago,
patrons of the pub would hang their own mug on the ceiling and use it
whenever they went there.

We also noticed many old telephone booths that had been
converted to defibrillator stations.  Since pay phones are no
longer used,  thousands of the red phone booths 
around the country have been repurposed as lending libraries,
mobile charging stations,  coffee booths, and in this case for 
defibrillators available to save the lives of residents and visitors.

We commented that there don't seem to be very many windows
on most of the thatched cottages, and the windows are very small.
The tour guide explained that the people that lived in the cottage would
get up early in the morning and leave to work at the manor house,
and come home after dark.  They were hardly there during the day,
so the lack of natural light made no difference.

Here is a close-up of the roof!

We returned to the Secret Cottage for a wonderful lunch and for high tea in the
afternoon, with clotted cream and scones.  

At the end of the day, we were taken back to the train station
to board the train back to London.  We had smiles on our faces
and dreams of returning to this fairy tale place once again!

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