A sunshine symbol on the weather map cemented our plan for a much talked about Cotswolds road trip. Two places were purely for a walk and spot of sightseeing but one of the locations was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me.
In some ways Chalford Hill feels like something you would see in Yorkshire or Derbyshire for a Hovis advert. Nestled on the side of the Frome Valley in an Area of Outstanding Beauty in the Cotswolds is Chalford Hill.
My lovely Grandma Ann lived here in the late 60s/early 70s. It is a bit of a bizarre story really or, maybe, partly where I get my wanderlust from. My Grandmother and Grandfather were pub landlords in Kent during the war and up until the late 50s when my Grandfather died at a relatively early age. She then ran a shop for a few years before making the huge leap to buy a small piece of land and have a Colt bungalow built in Chalford Hill, Gloucestershire from a couple who used to come into the pub in Kent.
A Colt bungalow is timber framed cedar shingle clad – a very eco Grand Design Granny! After a quick bit of research Colt houses and bungalows are still being built – who would know?
The couple who I knew as Mr and Mrs Scawn (a very respectful child!) lived in a large caravan on the same plot on the side of the valley with amazing views. I remember making what was a mammoth journey in those days down to Chalford Hill with my parents and brother (and later brothers) but not such as a mammoth journey as the Scawn’s son and daughter-in-law who cycled the 133 miles to see their parents. My abiding memory of arriving there is my Dad squeezing the car down between the dry stone walls of the tiny lane which was more like a wide footpath that she lived on.
It is only recently that I have read that the lanes where originally only tracks for the pack donkeys who used to deliver the coal, bread and other supplies to the residents during the 30s. According to an article I read recently – this custom has been reintroduced.
Jonno did a brilliant job navigating me around the “shut your eyes and hold your breath” tracks -and I think we did find her bungalow but having been extended/made over and with a lot more mature shrubbery it was hard to tell for sure. I think I need to do some more research and do a return visit. In case you were wondering, my Grandma Ann only lived in Chalford for about 3 or 4 years. I think, for her, it felt too remote after previously being so part of her original community and close to family in Kent.
After a beautiful sunny drive through the Cotswold countryside, we arrived at our next stop-off, Bourton-on-the-Water. The huge coach and car park gave us an indication of how busy this hot-spot on the tourist trail gets in the summer months. We walked through to the centre of the town and were immediately wowed by the very picturesque River Windrush complete with Christmas Tree perched in the middle.
It is a very shallow river running under 5 little footpath and road bridges. A lot of the coffee shops, gifts shops and so on were shut for the winter but will no doubt open their doors for the 300,000 or so summer visitors they receive. We had a nice walk around the town and along the waters edge and finished up with a coffee and a bun in a little cafe.
A return trip may also be needed here because in the warmer months there is a six a side game of football played in the river. Goalposts, players and referee are all in the river and, apart from trying to score a goal, I think the main aim is to soak the spectators.
Another draw may be the Cotswold Motoring and Toy Museum which opens again in February, if only to see Brum – the popular TV programme that features a happy little yellow car that ventured out when his owner wasn’t looking.
En route to our last stop-off, there was a whole load of conversation about why some towns are named as” …..-on-Thames” or “…..on-Avon” as opposed to “...on-Water“. A boring chat you may think but do you know why? Anywho, it was Lechlade-on-Thames that we were heading for.
It is sort of at the junction where the River Leach and Coln meet the River Thames. It is the highest navigable part of the Thames and you can follow the Thames Path all the way to London (Bridges of London Challenge) . There was a large riverside pub and marina and one or two canal boats moored up.
By now the sun was dropping so we only managed a walk around the town, church, the Halfpenny Bridge (so called because that was the toll to transport goods further up the Thames but charges were removed in 1839 after a bit of a revolt). Overall it felt like a place that is probably transformed in the summer with pleasure boaters stopping off to wander round the town and quench their thirst at The Riverside pub.
Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds are beautiful in the winter but to enjoy them in all their glory I think a return spring or summer trip is on the cards and pinpoint the actual location of Grandma Ann’s home, although I fear we may need to go with the bicycle or donkey option.