Friday 6 April 2012

The last peep

This will be my last 'Cotswold Peep'. It's been many months since I posted here and I've realised that I've simply not got the time to keep two blogs going. Exciting things are happening and sometime this year, with luck, we will be moving over to the even more gorgeous county of Shropshire, next door to Wales.

It is lamb-time here and it seems right to end this blog with new beginnings. Because things never do end really, they just start somewhere else.

I'm really looking forward to a whole new area of countryside to explore. Of course, I'll be keeping my other blog going, and will be posting any other Cotswold/country things there, such as my latest post about the Uffington White Horse. The road goes on - and I'll be down it somewhere. Maybe around the next corner, with a small picnic and a couple of boiled sweets in my pocket.

Many thanks to everyone who's ever read, enjoyed and commented on this blog - I hope I've managed to share a little of my huge love of the area I've lived in for so long and it would be lovely if you joined my explorations of our new home, when we get there.

Sunday 13 November 2011

The stones at Rollright

(Please click image for larger wide-angle view)

The Rollright Stones are situated on a high point overlooking our part of the Cotswolds, near Chipping Norton. A bleak spot at most times of the year; I have never been here without feeling a chilly blast which strips away any remnant of sun warmth.

This area includes a few ancient artifacts and the main one is the Neolithic circle known as 'The King's Men' dating from around 2500 BC. As far as stone circles go, it is rather small, but very pleasing to look at.

Legend has it that you can never count the stones and get the same figure - if you do manage it three times in a row, you get a wish. We tried it, and failed - it is almost impossible to do, as there are piles of stone which could be one, two or several counts, depending on who is counting! But as you can see from the well worn track, many people try. The agreed figure is seventy seven.

The stones are limestone, which is the bedrock of this part of the Cotswolds and have been weathered into grisly contortions.

It is possible to hire the stones for ceremonies, weddings, even as a film set. There had been some kind of *happening* recently, for we found - in the centre of the circle - the remains of a small fire, with a bouquet of foliage, some strewn pennies and, tucked into the crevice of a nearby stone, a flower.

A short walk takes us across to the 'Whispering Knights' - actually a 5,000 year old dolmen or burial chamber. Also facing the elemental blast from across Oxfordshire, the winds whip around the stones, making it a melancholy spot for a resting place.

In grand, royal solitude, on the other side of the road, stands the King Stone: the King whose men stand in a circle across the way and whose knights whisper conspiracies against him.
Here it is warmer, as a copse of trees acts as a wind break. More prosaically, little is known about this stone, except that it may be Bronze Age. Although only a minute's walk from the circle, the road splits the counties and this megalith stands in Warwickshire.

To read more fact - and legend - about the stones, please visit -

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Sweeping & rolling

Those precious late summer/early autumn days when there is faint tang in the air, yet it is still hot during the day.

Now that the cricket season is over, our days off can be spent rediscovering old and much loved tramping grounds.

These are all snaps of the stunning scenery around the Salperton Estate. There are decent footpaths running around it and they lead one through majestic, bosomy fields and valleys.

Above, our halfway stop, the picnic view.

Our walk is a good four and a half miles and as it nears the end, so too the afternoon begins losing heat and the air starts to feel moist and chilly.

We finish our ramble in the estate proper, the frigidly grand Salperton House pretends that we commoners are not there. It keeps a proper and dignified distance.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Thwarted at Cornwell

Autumn is every so gradually smearing a moist, dewy finger over the tail end of summer. But still we are getting glorious sunny days, made even more beautiful for the knowledge that they will soon be gone and winter will be making yet another unwelcome visit. Marjorie and I were long over due for a spin, so yesterday we headed over to investigate the little village of Cornwell (as in Cornwell, Oxfordshire, not Cornwall at the Westerly tail end of Britain). So good to be rolling gently along the lanes again.

It's nearly eight miles away and there was a horribly long hill to climb up. We walked, up it, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, until we found a down bit. However, our visit was to be all too brief.

There is just one tiny road running into Cornwell, along the side and eventually leading to Moreton-in-the-Marsh. All a nosy wayfarer can see are tantalising glimpses of lovely gardens and gorgeous old houses.

Cornwell, I soon discovered, was pretty much off limits; the only lane I could see which led into the heart of it proclaimed belligerently that there was 'no public right of way - private!' So I passed along, taking what snaps I could and hoping that this at least was allowed and they would not set the dogs on me.

Cornwell village is privately owned, part of the Cornwell Manor Estate, and as the
AA walking guide puts it, 'smugly holds on to its secrets'. Co-incidentally, it was worked on by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis, more famous for his pet project of the bizarrely wonderful village of Portmerion in North Wales, which I recently visited. I would have loved to have seen some of his additions, but alas, it was not to be.

So I wandered back through the only route accessible to me, taking a few furtive and unsatisfactory photographs.

Even this rickety old chicken hutch had to be shot with a zoom and me standing on tiptoe to get as little of the barbed-wired fence in as possible.

Feeling somewhat cheated, Marjorie and I pootled homewards, stopping for a rest at the generously proportioned village green at Kingham. Public to all and sundry, thankfully.

In the end, an orchard with nice looking cows in it turned out to be the snapshot of the day. Later I discovered that there is a church on the far edge of Cornwell which I could have looked at, but I think next time I'll find somewhere more welcoming to visit.

*Later edit - there is a little more on Cornwell with some pictures on this blogpost here.

Sunday 17 July 2011

The Doom at Oddington

Tucked away on the edge of a small Cotswold village is a quite extraordinary church, though it you would not guess this from the outside. St Nicholas at Oddington. I cycled out on Marjorie recently to see for myself. The church is located outside the village, as it is no longer the central place of worship, the original village being abandoned in the early 18th century and located further up the hill, possibly due to the usual cause of the Black Death.

Looking like a typically picturesque Cotswold church, it has an interesting graveyard and some unusual Restoration era tombstones, which are shown on my other blog here.

The South door inner archway is Norman and has an interesting serpents head detail at each end - maybe a reminder of why you are attending worship?

The stone benches inside have deep grooves which are said to be where arrowheads were sharpened. (Churches this old were also commonly the main defensive building and weapons stored in the porch roof).

So far, so quaint and historical. But when you enter the church proper, your breath is taken away by this -

What is thought to be our country's largest surviving Doom wall painting, dating to about 1340. I was literally rooted to the spot: imagine the effect it must have had on the original devout and largely illiterate Medieval congregation. Like all Dooms, this one shows in graphic and often lurid detail, the consequences of sin and the rewards of righteousness. The Godly are summoned to Heaven on Judgement Day by welcoming angels;

Christ sits over all in Glory.

For the Damned, sinister demons execute all manner of grisly tortures, to be endured for all eternity. Once you get used to looking at the (now) sombre tertiary tones it's quite easy to work out what torments are going on.

This part of the Doom is of a later date (1520) and there has been some speculation as to what this figure represents. The church pamphlet suggests that it is a reference to a contemporary play by the writer
John Skelton, 'Magnificence' and it's various characters.

Seen with Jacobean pulpit nearby -

Looking down towards the 'newer' Early English Chancel -

Elsewhere there are traces of more decorations on the Early English archways here - the vivid turquoise blue coming from copper salt pigment.

But the Doom is not the oldest paintings to be found here - they are inside what was the original Saxon nave (where I am standing to take this photo) and chancel, and is now the South Chapel. It's easy to see how small and intimate it once was. (Note the old gurney, just to the right, a cheery little reminder of one's own mortality).

Inside the chancel which is also the bell tower and if you look beyond you can see on the far wall, to the right, some pale patterning. The first altar stone is still there as well.

A closer look shows trellis work and faces - as with all my photos, they are quite large, so do click on for detail.

There are always many layers to a church, and sometimes more recent relics can be just as touching as the antiquities - I love this little bell ringer's prayer, maybe about 30-40 years old, and probably barely moved since the day it was placed there.

And another *recent* treasure, this screen separating the old South Chapel from the main nave, looks quite plain and unremarkable, until you learn that it was made by
Peter Van der Waals, an Arts and Crafts craftsman who worked in the Cotswolds at the beginning of the 20th century. As the church was being restored at this time, 1912, it must have been part of the restoration process, but I am speculating here.

After a very long time of pottering and wonderment, Marjorie and I cycled back towards Oddington. What had been a clear blue summer sky was now clouding over and we had eight miles to cover.

Needless to say we didn't make it. Two miles from home, the rain caught up with us. I arrived home drenched, but happy.

For more reading on the marvellous church and it's paintings, please visit here.

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