Gandalf the VW is nestled beneath the autumnal hues on a lovely woodland glad on the edge of the Cirencester Park C&MC club site. During the summer months we’ve been trying to avoid club sites where possible, finding them a bit busy for our liking but now with Autumn firmly here and Winter on its way, we like the reliability of nice hot showers in a heated block and hard standing spacious pitches. With the nights drawing in we find them quieter than the summer months- as the sun drops fellow campers seem to retreat back to the cosiness of their own units rather than making noise outside. (I promise we’re not antisocial- we just like some peace and quiet to recover from the noise we encounter teaching music in and out of school during term time)
Our first evening here was spent enjoying long hot showers and a simple supper of chicken fillets in the Remoska and vegetable rice. We’re still recovering after a crazy half term so the Remoska has come into its own, being able to just dump food in it with zero effort and watch it cook with absolutely minimal effort is just what we need right now.
We spent the evening reading and enjoying the stillness of the campsite, whilst digesting our exciting day of exploring the Cotswolds today.
Tuesday soon arrived and we awoke to more dry weather after some rain during the night. We showered before our morning tea as the club site facilities are closed between 10:15-12:15 (I’m sure there is a calculated reason for this schedule, but it always feels a strange point in the day to close; particularly a two hour closure this early in the day!) but regardless, anticipating a queue we decided to get on with the mornings ablutions which worked well.
After breakfast we made the short walk under the underpass and to the Roman Amphitheatre site. Cirencester (or Corinium Dobunnorum as it was known as then) was a Roman inhabited town, and actually had 18,000 Romans living here in its day (interestingly it only has 20,000 population now according to the Corinium Museum). The Roman Amphitheatre which was sited here was a large one, seating 8000. Whilst there is nothing structurally to see now, you get a very good idea of its size and it’s shape remains with steep banks still encompassing the arena.
From here we picked up a published walk, the Cotswold Gateway walk, which took us through some pretty woods and back under the underpass and down into the town centre.
As we became closer to the town the building became prettier, once more with that flagship Cotswold stone gleaming in the autumnal sunlight (well it did when the sun popped out from behind the cloud!)
Keith visited the Corinium museum whilst I dog sat in the cafe next door.
He really enjoyed the museum and learnt some bits and bobs about Roman life in Cirencester; and saw some interesting artefacts. His stand out item was a rare bronze table lamp that was made in Italy but found here in Britain. He also learnt that Romans typically would start an evening meal with a mouse kebab – they would eat anything and everything. This made us both recount fondly our visit to Wuhan and Beijing several years ago, where the markets all sold bats, Scorpions and spider kebabs. Of course that market in Wuhan has become well known more recently for other reasons hasn’t it.
From the museum we went in hunt for lunch. Cirencester appears to be exceptionally dog friendly and there was no problem in finding a place to eat. Sadly Covid has left the hospitality industry struggling with service staff and therefore it took us a couple of go’s to find a pub serving food without a huge huge wait. We did find a nice place on the very pretty Blackjack street through and their Cotswolds Poutine was absolutely delicious.
After lunch we continued with the walk we were following which took us through the Abby Gardens to see the 12C Norman arch, and a surviving section of Roman wall.
We then broke away from the published walk to explore the town centre some more
before making our way back to Gandalf via the very grand and typically Georgian Cirencester Park.
We did nearly get stuck here as the gates close at 5pm! Luckily a warden spotted us and waited for us before he locked us in! In hindsight we should have navigated away from the published walk earlier today and used this route into town rather than along the road as per the published route.
Nevertheless; we’d had a great day exploring. Cirencester is smaller than I’d imagined but prettier. I feel like it’s possibly missed off when people come to the Cotswolds, despite being the “Cotswolds Capital” which is a shame as it has a lot to offer including some lovely independent shops and quaint, picturesque lanes.
Of course, if you’re a Roman History enthusiast like Keith then it’s an essential place to visit. The highlight for me was definitely seeing the amphitheater site.
Dinner tonight was another Remoska special! (We’re getting lazy!) We cooked up some Game burgers which we picked up on our route into the Cotswolds last week along with chips.
They were AMAZING! I’m not sure if we’ve had game burgers before but we said if our route home takes us past that butchers then we’ll be stopping to stock up our freezer!
After another great nights sleep (we’re really catching up on rest- hurrah!) we woke to grey but dry skies above. Todays plan was taking the bikes for an explore of the wider Cirencester area. We ended up having a fairly early (for us) start! Waving bye to Gandalf as early at 1015am was unusual for us!
We took inspiration from a published bike ride but adapted it slightly to include a couple of Roman Roads.
We had a lunch stop at the newly reopened Crown Inn at Cerney Wick, which was absolutely amazing by the way, and passed lots of lovely Cotswold countryside on our 33 mile – yes, 33 mile *shocked* route.
Our particular highlights, other than lunch of course! – we passing a couple of traditional Cotswolds Roundhouses, and even more amazingly, and totally spontaneously, passing one of our favourite composer’s birth house- we’re talking about Ralph Vaughan Williams, composer of The Lark Ascending plus many more who was born in Down Ampney.
We really enjoyed the cycle, and were impressed with ourselves at the distance we covered. Having the electric bikes has transformed our travelling.
Once back at the van, we took early showers and had a chill (for a change!). I finished another book and Keefy enjoyed a couple of films. The site is so peaceful at this time of year, it really was a great place to unwind and we’ve enjoyed our stay here immensely.
Time to pack up Gandalf sadly! Not having the awning up made our pre departure routine much quicker, and we were on the road for 10am. We pre booked tickets to National Trust Chedworth Roman Villa as a stop on our journey home – we’ve visited here before but it must be 10 years ago, so we felt it deserved another visit. It’s not dog friendly so Jazz had a chill in the van whilst we donned our walking boots for an explore.
We are so pleased we returned as the exhibition has been updated and we couldn’t remember much from our previous adventure here.
The highlight was unquestionably the bath house. The remains of the brick and underfloor heating system are brilliant, and you can get a fantastic feel for the layout and atmosphere of what used to be the Bath house in this large residential Roman estate.
You can also see the original spring, which would have been the reason why they built a villa here in the first place. We found that really interesting – it’s still dispensing water now despite being a small trickle.
From here we made our way to Chastleton House, another National Trust property. En route we made an impromptu stop at a farm shop, distillery/ brewery and smokehouse to have a nosey. Upton Smokery had a fantastic selection of smoked items- so we brought some trout for lunch, and the distillery and brewery had a taproom so we had a swift “one for the road” which resulted in me buying some gin as it was absolutely delicious. The staff were great and showed us around the brewery as the brewer was actually mid brew!
We drove past Jeremy Clarkson’ farm shop ‘Diddly Squat’ which was RAMMED so we gave that a miss before arriving at Chastleton in time for a car park lunch of cheese, smoked trout, sausage rolls, scotch eggs. All delicious!
Chastleton was also not dog friendly sadly so Jazz had another rest in the van whilst we nipped down to the house.
Chastleton is a unique insight into the Jacobean period- the entire house is a time capsule as it hasn’t changed since the 1600s. It has a tired feel to it- something which the National trust are embracing to show it in its authenticity of when it was lived in as a private residence. There are some fine examples of Jacobean decor, which is unusual as most Jacobean interiors got updated in the Victorian era- this did not as the family who lived here lost their fortune and therefore couldn’t afford to make any changes.
The whole place had a somewhat mysterious feel to it but we enjoyed our visit. Following our visit here we hit the road back to Norfolk. We’ve got a few more days of half term but have a few bits happening in the village that we are organising for Halloween so we are making our retreat back home in time. We’ve had a brilliant break and very much enjoyed our time in the Cotswolds.
We’ve got a few things planned for the next few weeks, including some winter camping, so it won’t be long before we are back out and about!
Until next time.