Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Cotswold encounters Oct 12

What a glorious little period of weather we are enjoying! Despite having a new job I needed to get to grips with, Hercules and I could not resist taking ourselves out for a spin. After a clear, cold night, the air had a snap in it, but the sun was hot on the back of my neck. I cycled to a village across the way, to pick up my indulgence for the month; the latest edition of
Selvedge magazine. I cannot pretend that the countryside is a Jane Austen idyll; rural people have cars - they need them - and the streets were designed long before automobiles were even dreamt of.

I noticed on my way out that it was after eleven, and I should be at home, toiling in the studio. But as I had my Selvedge and a bottle of mango juice, I stopped at a favourite stile to enjoy the sun. I leaned over the gate and a friendly red setter lolloped over, soon followed by his mistress and two other setters. We got into conversation, as you do when there are only two of you in a half mile vicinity and three dogs happily snuffling in the long grass.

She was the farmer who's fields these are. She was there to put a chain on the gate, and a stern notice to whichever horse rider had been illegally using a footpath. If you think this is heavy handed, consider the poor walker, trying to tread a small footpath which has been churned up and rutted by horse's hooves, without wrenching their ankle. Footpaths are footpaths, and there are more than enough bridleways for riders
and walkers to enjoy.

We chatted about her dogs, which were rescued and re-homed. The sad tales of how they came to be with her made my blood run cold. She walked on, followed by three bouncing coppery hounds and I flipped through Selvedge, happy to see one of Ann Wood's gorgeous owls featured. Can you see it, just to the left of the right hand page?

As I resumed my journey, I heard a friendly 'goodbye!' from behind the hedgerow, and replied in kind, feeling as though I had added to my collection of nice people. I was musing on what to have got lunch, when I cycled past a box. It was sat in the path, in the sun, minding its own business. In my very British way, I almost left it where it was. But then curiosity got the better of me.

It was addressed to someone in a nearby village. I pass many post vans on my morning travels, so I picked it up and clamped it under my arm, thinking I would pass it on to one of our nice posties. It was a rather wobbly journey home, cycling single handed.

I didn't find a postman. Back at the cottage I checked the map and, realising that the village was only 3 miles away, decided to pop out again and deliver it myself. Hercules squeaked and my knees groaned, but we set off again, on different route. This is a long, punishing climb and I only managed two-thirds of it.

It was such a gorgeous day that I didn't mind in the slightest being out again. When I reached the hamlet, I pootled up and down, searching for the property.

In the end I found some men working on a barn conversion.

They directed me to the correct address, only seconds away. By now I was starting to feel a little foolish - should I not have simply left the box at our Post Office? I entered the gates and stood in a courtyard, not knowing where to go next. A car drove up and I was able to explain my mission to a young man, who seemed surprised, but took the box to a side door. A lady came out, delighted to have her parcel, but rather baffled as to why it had been abandoned in a local lane. I left feeling less silly and happy to have done a good turn.

I was right next to a house which has long fascinated me; it looms coldly in shadow, tall and foreboding, unlike any other building in the vicinity. I took the chance, on leaving, to take a shot of the mysterious topiary opening, which beckons darkly like Bluebeard's dungeon.

Now it really was time to get home and to work. I'd had the best of the day. The sunshine was hazing and clouds were banking up.

The way back is much easier than the outward journey and all the views are on the riding side. I stopped to pick out familiar landmarks and place myself.

Ah, there it is - our own little village, half asleep in a nest of trees.

Down the long, long hill we sailed, Hercules and I. A flock of seagulls patterned the sky, following a tractor ploughing the fields and a pinky brown kestrel hunched hungrily on a telephone wire.

We were home.


  1. Oh Gretel....when can I come visit? You make me feel as if I am biking with you. I should be very sad if you ever stop blogging ;-) If you would not mind, I would like to mail you something I made. Please let me know where I can send it.
    your friend across the pond,

  2. A lovely story! I wonder who set that box down, and why? Hmm.

  3. What a lovely journey? And I'm curious - is the second photo down, with the church in the background, taken in Kingham? Please tell!

  4. Great post. Lovely photos. One of the things I like about living in a rural area is that people are happy to stop and talk. Try talking to a stranger in the city and they look at you as if you've escaped from an asylum.

  5. You ARE a good deed doer ! I hope you got proper thanks for your kindness.

    The photos are just beautiful.


  6. PG, I just kept thinking of more and more comments as I read about your morning rides on the valiant Hercules.

    Lovely to meet the lady who'd rescued those pups, and also lovely to see all that incredible landscape and let your mind open up in reply.

    Then, you dear person to rescue the parcel and see it to its intendend recipient...still a bit of mystery as to why it was where you found it.

    Loved that topiary entranceway.

    You must be super fit by now after all these excursions round your beautiful countryside.

    Best wishes! xo

  7. The mystery of the dropped parcel! Although we are all aware of the encroachments of modern life, your pictures and words really do create the sense of a rural idyll. It was very civil of you to play postie. I felt a bit guilty about spending so much time in the garden yesterday, but then these crisp autumnal days really are treasures to be spend outside.

  8. MmmmmmMmmmmmMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..........

  9. Hey, that was fun! :) I love your writing and pics, feel as if I'm there that helps :) I also liked your 'good deed'. Loved your post :)

  10. oh, that was a treat as usual, Miss!
    I ate an entire chocolate bar while I read of your bike ride across the country side... is it possible there are less calories consumed if you are reading of exercising while eating?


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