If you prefer not to drive yourselves, consider booking a tour with Tim Harrison. Tim runs a bespoke touring business and can arrange tours in the Cotswold area and further afield for you. Most of his tours are in and around the Cotswolds, the area he knows and loves best. Visitors particularly enjoy Bath, Oxford, Stonehenge and as well as many secret hideaways, which few people know about, other than the locals.
Here Tim shares with you a lovely ciruclar tour from Snowshill.
Tim’s Circular Tour from Snowshill
Naturally I think this is the prettiest village in the Cotswolds. It’s where I live and Farm and where I grew up.
With the Snowshill Arms on your left, look out for Snowshill Manor and gardens.
As you pass, notice also the use of the Staddle Stones in the wall. These were un-earthed from the Rick-yard when this dwelling was converted from a barn to a house in the 1950’s.
Snowshill Forge is a typical Cotswold Forge and was originally built in the early 1600’s. In the 1930’s it was bought by Henry Ford and relocated to Greenfield Village in Michegan USA. Up until that point, the same Cotswold family had lived at this and worked this Cotswold ‘Smithy for 300 years.
Drive down the hill towards Broadway. At the bottom of the hill look out for St Eadburgha’s Church named after King Eadburgha a King of the region of Mercia in the 700’s. This church was one of the first churches to be updated from an 8th Century wooden Anglo Saxon Church to a Stone built church in the Norman style.
Apparently William the Conqueror was astounded that our English churches were built of wood when in his native Normandy all churches where built in stone as a sign of wealth and as a sign of respect to God. The conversion of this church began in 1091 and is probably the oldest building in the Cotswolds. The stone font possibly dates from 7th Century.
Just near here is a little secret garden that belongs to Pinkie and Alistair. Their home is a former Silk Mill that Pink’s parents owned before them. Pink’s mum was a potter and turned and fired her pots in the mill before it was later turned into a house. Pink, who is an accomplished artist and water colourist, has her studio next door. It’s well worth a visit but do ring first 01386 858330.
One of these the Lygon Arms, is steeped in history. It is intriguing to think that, during the Civil War, King Charles I conferred with his confidants here and Oliver Cromwell actually slept at The Inn. Formerly known as The White Hart, the Inn was privately owned from 1532 until the mid 1980’s.
Broadway has been inspirational to a number of writers and artists including: J.M. Barrie,Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar, John Singer Sargent, Alfred Parsons, Frank Millet, and William Morris of the Arts and Crafts movement.
When you have finished exploring Broadway, and with the Lygon Arms and then the Swan Hotel on your right, drive towards Evesham, turning left towards Cheltenham before you leave the village. After a few miles, look out for signs on the left to Stanton village.
Stanton comprises a number of 16th and 17th century houses as well as a restored, medieval cross and a church in which some Norman work is still evident. Stanton is a typical Cotswold sleepy village with no signs of commercialisation or shops, except for The Mount Inn, which stands on a mound at the end of the village with spectacular views across the Vale of Evesham towards the Malvern Hills .
There has been a house on the site of the present Stanway House for over 1200 years, which has always been owned by the “Tracy” family. Originally it was a wooden Manor House built around 800 AD, then in the early 1200’s a stone house replaced it.
This house was destroyed by fire in the 1500’s and the present house was rebuilt in the same spot, in the Jacobean style in the late 1500’s. Notice the stone Gatehouse with its formidable Wooden gate at the entrance to Stanway house.
Stanway cricket pavilion was designed and built by JM Barrie the author of “Peter Pan”, in 1919. Throughout the 1920’s Barrie spent much of his summer at Stanway House. Notice how the whole building has been built on “Staddle Stones”. These were originally designed to keep the rats out of hay ricks: the rats and the mice could not run up the stem,
under the lip of the stone and thus into the hay. Rainwater also drains nicely of the curved surface and the height of the stones keeps the hay clear of any flood water.
Stanway Brewery at Stanway house is one of only two breweries in the UK that is log fired. Its ale can be bought in the Crown and Trumpet Pub in Broadway.
Stanway Tythe Barn was built in 1315 to store the 10% physical tythe, a tax that the Church levied on all produce from farmers and small producers alike.
Winchcombe and Sudeley Castle
King Charles 1 found refuge here during the Civil War, when his nephew Prince Rupert established headquarters at the Castle. Following it’s ‘slighting’ on Cromwell’s orders at the end of the Civil War, Sudeley lay neglected and derelict for nearly 200 years. King George III was among those sightseers who came to admire its romantic ruins.
In 1837 Sudeley was rescued by the wealthy Worcester glove-makers, Brothers John and William Dent, who began an ambitious restoration programme which was continued by their nephew, John Coucher Dent, when he inherited the Castle in 1855. John’s wife, Emma Brocklehurst, threw herself enthusiastically into Sudeley’s restoration, at the same time forging strong links with the nearby town of Winchcombe. It is the results of Emma’s dedication that are so evident in the gardens and exhibitions at Sudeley today. Sudeley is now the home of the Dent-Brocklehursts and Lord and Lady Ashcombe (Henry D.B’s parents). The Dent-Brocklehursts have commitments to the continued preservation of the Castle and its treasures and the ongoing restoration and regeneration of the gardens.
Next to Naunton Village. Naunton is a delightful elongated village spread out along the floor of the deep Windrush Valley. The church has a handsome perpendicular tower with pinnacles and gargoyles and the interior has a beautiful carved early 15th-century stone pulpit and font. The tranquil River Windrush meanders through the village and a charming 17th-century dovecote overlooks the stream.
Built in the 1600’s, this amazing building was once owned by the whole village. Doves and pigeons entered the building through the dove holes in the top, enticed by the warmth given off by the in-wintered beef cattle. The local villagers then enticed the birds to lay their eggs in the 960 pigeon holes built into the walls.
Throughout the laying period from March to October the local working class people harvested 10’s of thousands of eggs for themselves and their families. As well as allowing some of the young to develop to squabs before using them as protein food, the eggs were eaten fresh, pickled and dried and powdered for winter use. The villagers being mindful to always allow enough birds to breed and rear their young to maintain around 900 breeding pairs.
Around 50 to 60 pairs breed here today. No eggs are harvested to my knowledge and the building is now a charitable trust!
Onward now to the Slaughters!
Upper and Lower Slaughter
Upper Slaughter lies at the head of a little valley. The village church, St. Peter’s, is built on top of a little hill and has some wonderful views of the river Eye from the far end of the Churchyard. In the early 1800’s the rector of the Church, F.E.Witts, wrote ‘The Diary of a Cotswold Parson’, which offers an interesting insight into the life of a Cotswold parson.
He was also Lord of the Manor at the time and lived in a fine 17th century Manor House which is now the Lords of the Manor Hotel. Built in a honeyed Cotswold stone, the house enjoys splendid views over the surrounding meadows, stream and parkland. A copy of the book can be bought from St. Peter’s.
On to another favourite village, Lower Slaughter. Slaughter is from the word ‘slough’ which means waterway. Look for brown trout swimming up river and notice the old Water wheel which was used to grind wheat for bread. The Bakery, now a museum was behind the Wheel. The Slaughters Country Inn serves a very fine cream tea.
Next make your way to Broadway Tower. Lord Coventry had the folly built in 1799 and gave it to his wife as a wedding present. It is the built on the highest point of the Cotswolds, 1025 feet above sea level. It was a favourite place of William Morris who stayed in the Tower many times in the late 1800’s and a floor in the Tower is dedication to an exhibition of the man and his work.
If you are feeling energetic and the weather is nice, climb the tower as the view is well worth it. Otherwise it’s now back to Snowshill and Sheepscombe Byre.