This morning I was awoken by the cooing of pigeons and the gentle chiming of the church bell up the street in the village square. Can you think of a more idyllic way to greet your morning? I can’t. That is why I love the Cotswolds. I knew I probably would, but really, if I could live anywhere other than in the Vancouver area, this would be it. How can you not appreciate an area where the towns are named things like Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Lower Slaughter, Shipston-on-Stour, Oddington, etc.
Not only that, but everything looks like the Shire. I have been half expecting to stumble across the occasional hobbit hole in our days here but no such luck. It is said, however, that J.R.R. Tolkien did a walking tour through the Cotswolds and no doubt it inspired his vision of the pastoral ways of the Shire. In fact, here in Stow-on-the-Wold, our home base for the Cotswolds, there is a church door guarded by two trees that many believe was the basis for Tolkien’s famous sketch of the door to Moria.
Our other favorite thing about the Cotswolds is our B&B. Run by James and Carol (and their dog Snoop), it is a traditional Cotswold stone building with head knocking ceilings that even I feel like I have to duck for. The rooms are cozy and comfortable, and we get fed a hearty English breakfast every morning prepared by James. Perfect for heading out for a day of walking.
The one downside to the Cotswolds is the bus system. Let’s just say it is precarious at best and we spent a lot of time walking, and less time seeing some of the sights we were hoping to get to, but that’s alright because the walking in this part of the world includes some beautiful scenery. We bought a map that shows pretty much every little public footpath and walkway crisscrossing the Cotswolds, which proved indispensable because a lot of the paths literally go through the middle of grazing fields (watch out for cow patties!) and in and out of countless gates and styles. The markers typically are at the gates and look something like this:
You definitely have to look closely for the markers because they are easy to miss! Our second day here we walked about 16 km to the Cotswolds farm park, which specializes in rare breed farm animals, as well as demonstrations and education about farming. Best part for me, holding a duckling and seeing a sheep shearing demonstration!
Another great thing we stumbled upon was the Cotswolds Falconry Center. I’m not sure what we expected going in but we were blown away by the birds! They had pretty much every bird of prey you could think of: golden eagles, owls of all kinds (even snowy owls and borrowing owls), peregrine falcons, buzzards, vultures. The list goes on and on. There was also flying displays in which they showed the birds natural hunting methods which was really amazing.