Friday, June 26, 2015

Shutford Day 5–In Which the Sheep are VERY LOUD, we Picnic in the Cotswolds, and there are Standing Stones

Our cottage lies, officially, in the Cotswolds but to really experience the area, we had to drive 40 minutes west into the rolling hills and farms that make up this region.  The village names here are ridiculous: Chipping This and Chipping That, Lower Slaughter and Greater Badger, Upper Swell, Little Oddington, I could go on and on. We drove through tons of them on our way with just one stop which was to look at a dead fox that was on the road. It looked like it had just been killed and we all felt sorry for it.


Serena got us to Chipping Camden in record time and I had the benefit of feeling like a Indy driver at the end of it. The roads here are about two inches wide and everyone drives like homicidal/suicidal maniacs so to arrive alive at one’s destination is considered an achievement. Well, by me anyway. We needed a restorative cup of tea after the fox incident and fortunately Chipping Camden’s cup ranneth over with tea shoppes (you have to spell it like that here or you get struck down). We found a very sweet one with an outdoor garden (what other kind is there?).



English Cake Culture is at its most intense at these places; cakes of all shapes and sizes are displayed on a trolley in the room and you are pretty much expected to order cake with your tea. The days offerings were also on a menu which noted that they were available 24/7. I like the Coffee Sponge which is described as both ‘rich and light’ at the same time. Nicely done.


I will admit I skipped the cake although I wish now that I had tried the parsnip cake, just to say I had.

After tea we wandered the town and had a bit of an unexpected shopping spree as the stores were unique and not expensive. I found this cow painting which I loved (but did not buy.) He’s clearly had too much parsnip cake.


Chipping Camden is an old wool market town, like most of the Cotswold villages, and had a VOD (that stands for Very Old and Dusty if you are just joining us now) covered market area that dated from the 1200’s


Basically it looked like the second little pig had built it and I have no idea how it is still standing all these hundreds of years later.

The tea was wearing off by now and so we bought some picnic supplies and headed just out of town to Dover’s Hill, a beautiful natural amphitheatre with amazing views almost to Wales.


It’s also, I learned to my delight, the site of the Cotswold Olimpicks (sic) an annual  games event that has been held at this location for hundreds of years and used to involve things like jousting and sword fighting but now is more like sack races and egg-and-spoon. We had missed this event by a few weeks but held our own cherry stone spitting competition as well as a time trial for tying the cherry stem in a knot in your mouth using only your tongue. I am pleased to report that I won both these events while Zoe and Terra lolled around on the ground looking like they might be in a painting


The only blot on this scene of pastoral bliss was the noise from a flock of sheep who were having their hair done in the next field. They were SO LOUD as to be ridiculous. There was nothing for it but an investigation so over we went to ask them if they could keep it down a bit as they were spoiling the moment for us. Some of them stopped for a few minutes to check us out but started up again as soon as possible.

At this point, please imagine yourself watching a video of a bunch of freshly shorn, confused, very loud sheep, all standing around wondering what just happened. I would have posted such a video myself if Google would let me into my YouTube account...

They were clearly telling us to leave so after a short walk along part of the Cotswold Way, a 100 mile trail that is very popular around here, we left Chipping Camden for the next village, Stow-on-the-Wold (not making that up either!).

It was a little disappointing in that it reminded me of Government Street, but it did have a VOD set of of original village stocks which were on their last legs, being hundreds of years old, but still worth a look.


Sorry about the terrible picture but, if you’re not familiar, the top piece of wood was lifted just enough to allow an unfortunate soul to place his head and hands in the holes provided. The top piece of wood was then dropped back in to place and secured, effectively trapping the prisoner in place. He or she was then left there to do penance for whatever crime was committed. The villagers would often assist in the process by hurling rotten fruit and vegetables at the prisoner. Nice.

Eyes were starting to glaze over as I completed my lecture on 16th Century penal code so it was time to go home. I had seen on a map (yes, an actual paper map) that there was a site of Standing Stones on our way home, so I took one last opportunity to go off about something really boring, and dragged everyone there. It’s hard to get really excited about what is effectively a bunch of rocks, but I do think there is something intriguing about the fact that in 2500 BC a bunch of Neolithic men were able to hew these giant rocks into shapes, and then move them, sometimes many many miles, to a chosen sight, and then stand them in place in such a way that they are still standing thousands of years later.




Yep. Still standing.


Still there.

Apparently this set of stones, known as the King’s soldiers or something like that, is uncountable, or so legend has it, and if you can count them three times and get the same number each time, you can have any wish you like. I challenged the girls with this task and Terra got 47 to Zoe’s 73, but then they got tired of counting, and tired of Standing stones in general so we left.

But not before having a look at the King Stone which is across the road in its own circle of stones.


It was also just standing there…

Back in the car we made it home and went straight to the pub for dinner. We were planning on having another quietish day the next day in order to prepare for our whirlwind tour of Paris, Munich and Salzburg over the next week. We did end the day with a trip to see Pepsi and Fergal (horses) just up the road. They were much more interesting than the standing stones although likely much more expensive and not as long lasting…

See you soon for a no doubt edge-of-your-seat thrilling recount of our travel day to Paris. I’ll do my best anyway.

Wanks for kneading (just go with it)



No comments:

Post a Comment