By sundown I’d be counting this day as one of the highlights of the year. I set out to delve deeper into the corner of the country that raised me, that I left and that I returned to once again. The Cotswolds. And the best part? Summer has only just begun…
Of course I had a plan; I knew which places I’d be covering. But what I most looked forward to was everything that waited for me in between – between the place names, the routes and the postcodes.
As distinctive as its name, the small market town of Chipping Campden draws walking boots and a hunger for the best of the countryside like bees to honey. Maybe it’s the abundant honey-coloured limestone houses that are suggestive of the enduring idyll that, if ever forgotten, is remembered again when spring returns. Well, we’ve remembered again, and I’ve returned… Houses glow in the bright late morning: some thatched, many small and humble – all of them, though old, proudly framed in all manner of bright flowers and greenery. These are the sorts of towns and villages that have a special relationship with the vast green stretches of countryside surrounding them.
They knew the way to my heart when they recommended I check out a certain little cafe nestled by a stream just off Sheep Street. The Camden Coffee Co. was quietly signposted. I got the impression it had the sort of local reputation which meant it didn’t need to throw itself out onto the High St, calling every man and his dog to its doors. With fresh lavender tumbling out of recycled jam jars, reclaimed church seating and antique Singer sewing machine tables, Camden Coffee Co. knows how to make an impression. A little shelf overflowing with classics; relaxed lighting; soft background music; jar upon jar displaying freshly prepared cakes and pastries; good coffee and a friendly lady pouring it. This was my kind of place!
Before I moved on, I thought I’d go in search of St James’ Church, another point of interest I’d planned for. About a 10-minute walk saw me rounding a few corners and then it was before me, its entrance path shaded by the bright green broad leaves of overhanging trees. To the side, the close hum of the groundskeeper’s lawnmower. I followed the path around to the side, admiring the tall old panes of stained glass (some panes were also being maintained towards the back of the church). Quietness was kept intact here. There was a calm throughout which culminated in the view I found at the far graveyard: the weathered headstones set firmly before another slice of Cotswold perfection.
The simple beauty doesn’t wane when you arrive in Broadway; if anything, it’s all the more apparent. Now, at kate & tom’s we’re very used to seeing stunning houses all across the UK. It’s something we’re lucky enough to be a part of day in, day out. Nevertheless, some of the houses in this quaint little town left me genuinely wide-eyed and saying out loud, on at least a few occasions, “Wow!”
I was wandering down the High St, letting plans go for the moment as I soaked it all up. That was when I came across the famous Broadway Deli, a cafe/restaurant/deli/florist known by many to be not only a highlight of Broadway, but of the whole county. With cosy interiors stocked shelf upon shelf with some of the best local produce and goods, this little gem attracts everyone who happens to pass through. I only wish I’d had more money to spend! With mouthwatering vegetables and fruits piled high and chilis hanging around as long as the multitude of tourists and locals, I knew I’d be back before long!
Well, I’d ended up in some kind of paradise, that same that comes about once in a while when you’re privileged enough to be amongst its recipe. The journey to my next stop consisted of some of the best roads I’ve ever ridden along. I ate up those winding, bright, dusty, unmarked B-roads and lanes hungrily. Just as I was getting used to the riding, forgetting even where I was headed, I came to the top of a gradual rise and there it was – Broadway Tower, splendid and neat in all its age and size, barely comprehensible, but realer than ever.
Before heading up with my ticket to the tower, I made myself comfortable at Morris & Brown, the Broadway Tower cafe, set a short walk away where the parking is located. I had everything: the views, the seating, the sun, my notebook, camera and a good cup of coffee. I honestly don’t think it gets much better than that. The sun on my back, I looked out into what surely was the proof of the start of summer. And what better place in the world to really live in it than the Cotswolds? Broadway Tower is smack bang on the Cotswold Way, another aspect of the Cotswolds which is dear to me. Dog walkers, local sheep and deer – I was amongst what postcards try to convey. This was all that was best of the countryside, and I basked in it.
I couldn’t return home to Cheltenham and the intrigued questions of my colleagues before stopping by the renowned Mount Inn in Stanton. So it was back on the bike, back along those roads steeped in beauty – nearly empty, clear, warm and with views to either side you’d have to see to believe. The Mount Inn commands an unbeatable view across the county from a high vantage point. So of course that was where I spent the next half hour with my (delicious) lunch of choice: a fresh Double Gloucester cheese and pickle baguette with side salad, accompanied (of course) by a pint of the best local beer, Donnington BB. Again, the moment I found myself in was rich with birdsong, sun, incredible views and the low hum of likeminded walkers and locals taking time out to make the most of the weather and how it can complement such a place as this.
Well, that was it for me. And what a day it was. Just one day in a whole summer of days… Roll on the weekend!
See below for more images of my mid-week travels through the Cotswolds. Feeling inspired? See our impressive collection of houses in this part of the country and book your next Cotswold adventure!