If you’re staying with us at Lorien Cottage, why not pay a visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens? The thirty-minute drive from Swalcliffe is enjoyable itself, and whether you’re a green-fingered gardener or like me, not so much, this trip makes a lovely day out. The gardens are set on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment, and the views are stunning; from the swimming pool lawn, the Malvern Hills can be seen beyond the Vale of Evesham. The gardens are the creation of three generations of female gardeners, having been started by Heather Muir in the 1920s, continued by Diany Binny from 1950 and now looked after by Anne Chambers and her husband. In fact, we learnt that the Chambers family live in the house; how lovely to think that Kiftsgate remains a family home as it was always intended. Despite the hot, dry summer we’ve had so far, the flowers looked absolutely stunning, thanks to the hard work of the Chambers. You may come away with some inspiration for your garden or a newfound passion for horticulture.
Visitors to the gardens will find plenty to explore, with a beautiful wild garden and an orchard with apples, quince and pear trees, where we were told tulips complement the apple blossom in spring. Then there’s the new water garden, created from an old tennis court which was left derelict during World War II with seedling roses allowed to grow there. The court was later resurrected, much to the disappointment of those who loved the display of roses. Now a striking water feature, the modern, minimalist design contrasts with the abundance of colour everywhere else. The Drive is lined with lime trees, the oldest of which date back to the early 18th century. More recent replacement of weeping limes produce a sweet scent in late summer that permeates the whole garden and which the bees find irresistible. The rough grass underneath these trees is yellow with daffodils in spring. The other side of the drive is the south facing Bluebell Wood, which we were told is an amazing sight in May; we will definitely visit again in spring. By the time you’ve finished exploring and climbed back up to the house, you will have earned a cup of tea in the tea room, run by Lutti Bates. Lutti provides a homely, yet professional, food offering with the emphasis on sourcing as much produce as possible both locally and seasonally. Enjoy a traditional cream tea, or if you’re anything like me, deliberate over the array of cakes for a long time before opting to try two.
The Oxford Sculptors Group will be exhibiting their member’s work throughout the gardens at Kiftsgate between the 4th and 22nd of August.
You cannot venture to the Cotswolds and miss the quaint delights of Chipping Norton. Located just a twenty-minute drive from Lorien cottage, is this stunning historical town brimming with character and amazing shops.
We couldn’t resist taking a trip to the well-renowned antiques mecca ‘Station mill’, an Aladdin’s cave of curiosity. Venture across the ground floor level to find French antique mirrors and chandeliers, that would have most certainly once taken pride of place in a stately chateau. Perhaps paintings are your thing or one-off pieces of hand decorated furniture? Here you are most certainly sure to find it. We take the stairs to the next level where we are equally impressed with our findings, it really is like stepping back in time. A sweet shop od different items and styles, so much to take in. Be warned, if you plan on doing some interior shopping for back home, Station Mill will most certainly warrant a large vehicle or courier, there is just too much to choose from!
After making some very unnecessary purchases, we decided to have some lunch in the little café located within the centre. Fresh bread and a variety of fillings made for a great sandwich. Once we had grazed and were ready to continue exploring, we headed to the high street where it didn’t take us long to stumble upon Rosie B interiors a little shop full of wonderful cushions, candles and homewares. Further up the hill and more independent shops such as Mash, perfect for a smaller easier to transport keepsake or souvenir.
Once we had walked the high street and popped into all of the delightful shops, we decided that we deserved a nice glass of wine. Where better to settle down then the quirky named ‘Bitter and Twisted’ a fab pub with cool furnishings and a welcoming atmosphere, although it was a bright sunny day, you can also imagine retreating to this little spot in the winter when the weather is taking a turn and a hot toddy is the order of the day.
People travel for miles to sample the infamous Broadway Deli Scotch eggs and onion marmalade, so visitors to Yew Tree Cottage will be delighted to discover it right on their doorstep. Willersey High Street is littered with amazing eateries and shops, and this independent delicatessen is one of our favourite places to pick up a few bits for supper or stop for a sandwich. You can find the lovely team in the historic St Patrick’s building in the middle of the high street. They work with suppliers from around the world, as well of lots of local farmers, and there’s a real focus on the quality and provenance of their produce. The nice thing about buying local vegetables is knowing that your tomatoes and asparagus will be fresh and bursting with flavour.
The café serves home-cooked food with many vegan and gluten free choices, meaning there’s something for everything. Grab a coffee to enjoy on the terrace in the sun, or ask for it to takeaway if you’re on the move. If you’re anything like me, you may find it hard to resist ordering one of the very tempting pastries as well. They offer a special meat-free sandwich every Monday, with a nod to an increasing number of conscious consumers looking to reduce their meat intake. Of course, there’s plenty for the carnivorous amongst us too. Their special sandwiches change daily, and I would go so far as to say they’re a far cry better than anything you’ll find in Pret. One day it might be pastrami, Gruyere cheese and wholegrain mustard on the menu… while the next it will be rare-roast beef, local vine tomatoes and horseradish crème fraiche, back by popular demand… or perhaps you’d prefer salami, pesto and melted Brie?We recommend starting your Sunday with their Big Breakfast… perfect fuel for a day of hiking (or shopping). Treat yourself to sausages, bacon, roasted tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, black pudding, baked beans and scrambled eggs… and a stack of hot, buttered toast. You’ll have to get up early to be first in the queue though!
The first time we visited Willersey, I knew we had to pay a visit to Broadway Tower. Having been a bit of a history geek at school, I was keen to see the exhibitions as well as the views from the top. Visitors can enjoy the work of William Morris and learn about how the Tower was involved in the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as learning about how the Tower played a role in World War II and the Cold War.
Entry is a very reasonable £5, making this an affordable family day out. They won’t let you buy your dog a ticket for the Tower, but luckily Will only wanted to stretch his legs and lope around the expansive grounds. I think the history lesson would have been rather wasted on him anyway.
We picked a beautiful day for it; the skies were clear and blue, and the views did not disappoint. From the top of the tower, you can see for miles around; a photo simply doesn’t do it justice. Your vantage point affords you views of sixteen different counties, stretching as far as the Welsh mountains. Wandering back down, I couldn’t leave the gift shop without making a few purchases. Handmade lavender soap from the nearby Snowhill Farm and some peanut butter fudge to take home as gifts.
We stretched our legs with a leisurely walk around the country park, before retreating to the Morris and Brown café. We enjoyed a lazy lunch in the sun, eventually leaving armed with a few bottles of local ale.
Two miles from Yew Tree Cottage lies Broadway High Street. With ample parking behind the main road, it’s easily accessible by car. Take a leisurely stroll along Broadway High Street to explore the array of independent shops and enjoy fish and chips from Russells. Unwind with a drink on the terrace at The Swan, in a prime position opposite the village green, where you’ll see children chasing after footballs. The recently refurbished pub is renowned for serving delicious dishes from a team of talented chefs. The terrace area is a great place to soak up the atmosphere of the summer concerts and festivals regularly held on the green, while the winter months play host to a series of live music nights in the warmth of the pub. Pop next door to Cheltenham House Antiques, selling lovingly hand-picked pieces of furniture, fine art and silver wear. The wisteria-draped Bakehouse serves artisan coffees and fresh, regional dishes. With gift shops scattered along the high street, there’s no excuse to go home empty-handed!
Just past the pond, you’ll find Willersey Stores, selling seasonal produce as fresh as if you’d picked it yourself. Let the smell of baking bread hit your nose as you enjoy your morning coffee, or treat yourself to an all-day breakfast, ready for you whatever time you surface. The adjacent Village Café will happily provide you with pastries, pies, and cheeses if you’re packing a picnic. You can hire an electric bike from the store, complete with helmets, route maps, and locks. What better way to explore the nearby countryside?
The Bell Inn sits a mere few minutes from Yew Tree, a traditional Cotswolds pub serving home-cooked food and real English ale. The Bell is also home to Beau, a French shorthaired shepherd dog.
Famed not only for its natural beauty but for being a place of historical significance, what better way to mark your trip than by taking a piece of the past home with you. The nearby village of Chipping Norton is a treasure trove of antique furniture and vintage items, and you can be assured you’ll come away with something completely unique, taking pride of place in your home for many years to come.