Adventures in Cirencester

Monday night

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

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.

Those who know, know!

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!

Wednesday

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.

Cycling on one of two Roman Roads in the area

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.

The Roundhouse at Cerney Wick
The house in which Ralph Vaughan Williams was born (now a private residence)

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.

Thursday

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.

Lx

Road tripping in the Cotswolds

Monday morning soon dawned after a groggy night in Gandalf. A little too much overindulgence perhaps for my birthday celebrations resulted in a broken sleep as we both tossed and turned with indigestion in the early hours. Still, we’d had a brilliant day in Chipping Norton and were excited about our adventures to come today.

We left the delightful Nuhulme Certified campsite around 10:30, and as we had no firm plans hit “trendy places” on the Garmin Campervan Sat Nav device.

Our first stop; a point of interest just a couple of miles down the road was the Rollright Stones, which absolutely blew us away. They are a collection of amazing (and large) prehistoric megalithic monuments built from large natural boulders found within about 500m of the site. They consist of a large Stone circle, which legend goes, is impossible to count how many stones make up the circle, and if you do manage it three times you have to make a wish; a kings stone and three whispering knights.

They are sited with a beautiful backdrop of Cotswold countryside and we found the whole site extremely atmospheric. Roadside parking made this site easy to visit with Gandalf, and there is a suggested donation of £1 pp.

From here we continued a short distance to Batsford Arboretum. Wow. What a splendid way to get our steps in for the day. The autumn colours were at their peak, and we thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the Arboretum drinking the colours in. We were exceptionally lucky with the weather. The blue sky provided these autumnal trees with the most perfect backdrop and we both agreed that this was the best display of Autumn colours we’ve seen in the UK.

After a quick lunch in Gandalf, we continued to the tiny village of Lower Slaughter. Parking here was a bit more problematic- the village is tiny and very traditional, and understandably doesn’t cater so well for tourists. After a couple of loops backwards and forwards though we got lucky and timed our pass through with someone leaving.

The village of Lower Slaughter is just beautiful and brims with Cotswold beauty. There is a small stream that runs along the main road and with lovely little cottages sat in front of it, and a beautiful under slung working mill, it’s just perfection. We would have loved to have had a drink here but sadly both the mill tea room and pub were closed.

From here we made our way to Bibury, another very small traditional village with some picturesque National Trust managed cottages, Arlington Row .

Arlington Row was originally built in the 14th century as a monastic wool store. It was later converted in the 17th century into a row of weavers’ cottages. Parking here was available, although it was very busy with tourists and Instagrammers striking poses!

Sadly the weather took a brief turn here so we didn’t spend a great amount of time exploring Bibury, but, we managed a hot sausage roll from the local stores!

After a brilliant day of exploring, it was time to find our way to the campsite via a quick food shop.

One of the best features of the Garmin Campervan device is the ability to shape our route to include places such as supermarkets and farm shops etc. At just a very quick press of the button we discovered a Tesco Extra pretty much on our route (but not visible enough for us to have found it without us knowing it was there). It saves us a lot of time, where we used to have to find addresses for supermarkets and then find where they are on the route. It also came into its own today as several times we were without phone signal meaning Apple and Google maps were impossible.

We are thoroughly enjoying using it for our road trips 6 months on!

We arrived at Cirencester Park C&MC club site late afternoon, first impressions are good. More on our adventures in Cirencester next time!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in the Cotswolds – Part 1

Friday

October half term is here at last and we can press pause on work for a few days and recharge. I’m not going to lie; the last week or two have been stressful. Covid has become rife in some of our schools and whilst we’ve been able to carry on (thankfully for the bank balance) emotionally it’s been a rollercoaster to say the least, and quite frankly we’re feeling like, somehow, we’ve successfully dodged the bullet. For now.

Keefy and I worked as a true team over the last few days, we’ve both had very little free time, so with any spare ten mins we had here and there being carefully booked out to pack items and tick off our to do list. As such our clothes have been packed in bags since Monday, the wine and beer and gin have been touring in Gandalf around Norfolk as we’ve gone from school to school, the bikes were loaded on between lessons yesterday and therefore all we needed to do this morning was load the fridge and drive off, which was good as we were both a little bit fragile from some early birthday celebrations with friends last night!

We had a decent journey to the Cotswolds, with a brief stop at Deddington because we passed a deli and butchers and couldn’t drive by! Somehow we ended up with a very modest haul- I blame the hangover, but we managed to get some local sausages , game burgers and a local gin and whiskey miniature.

My beautiful birthday flowers have come on tour with us. Thanks Keefy

We arrived on site, a very lovely C&CC Certified Location on the outskirts of Chipping Norton just after 3pm.

The campsite, Nuhulme, has a shower cubicle and toilet so we made the decision to use these rather than set out our tailgate awning this weekend. When we spoke to the owner we were surprised to learn that we are the only people booked on this weekend. So no worries about noisy neighbours!

Once set up, we settled in for a long chill. Dinner was a pre home made pie which we heated up in the Remoska along with some roasted veg and mash. Delicious! After which we hit the sack – at 8:50pm!

Saturday

We had a great sleep last night and enjoyed a chill again for the first part of the morning. We utilised the on site shower cabin to freshen up – its nice to have this option rather than using the awning and 12v shower at this time of year – before prepping tonight’s dinner, a Cotswold sausage cassoulet in the slow cooker, and enjoying a bacon bap.

Keefy got the bikes off the rack whilst I washed up, and despite a lazy morning we were on our way for an explore by 11:30am.

Our first port of call was the next village along, Salford, where we admired the pretty Cotswold stone masonry,

before we made our way on back roads through Churchill and then Kingham.

Both beautifully quant and unspoilt, Kingham was declared the prettiest village in the UK at one time and has a lovely green which picture perfect cottages, some thatched.

Best of all a pub, two in fact, but so popular they are, we were unable to eat lunch in either with no booking. We did manage a drink outside under the heater at the Plough; Keefy enjoyed his first Hook Norton (the local) ale and I had a Cotswold G&T.

We continued on to Bledington where we succeeded in grabbing a table at the charming Kings Head in front of the fire where we enjoyed a light lunch of open chicken chipotle and slaw sandwich. I tried another gin, this time one from the village distillery before we made our way back via Chipping Norton to the campsite.

Gandalf smelt delicious, the sausages were cooking a treat in the slow cooker. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling and reading before enjoying dinner and some more chill time.

Today has been a perfect mix of exploring and chilling. Something we need more of!

Sunday – Lydia’s birthday 🎂

After a terrific sleep, we both woke up to glorious blue skies – a treat as it went against all the weather forecasts! Today was a special day in Gandalf, it was my birthday and waking up in a huge open space with absolutely no one else around was the most perfect start to it! (We’re not antisocial, I promise)

The day started with bday cake, presents and tea, before donning our walking boots – I was proudly in my new boots, a welcome and generous present from Dad and Jenny, thank you.

We made our way into Chipping Norton – about a mile or so on footpath,

for breakfast and cocktails at the terrific Bitter and Twisted bar (extremely dog friendly) and enjoyed a scrumptious full English accompanied with a cocktail each.

Following our lazy brunch, we followed the historic town trail around Chipping Norton, admiring the many Cotswold stone buildings along the way, and of course enjoying a few pub stops on our way. Chipping Norton was very dog friendly by the way.

After a good few hours ambling the streets, we walked back to Gandalf for a chill and more cake! I’m reading a gripping book at the moment (The Light between two oceans) and therefore a couple of hours of undisturbed reading time with nice views was a real luxury!

As the sun set, we donned our glad rags and got a taxi back into town, for a delicious evening meal at the Blue Boar, a historic pub with a wonderful game menu. The meal was splendid and I couldn’t believe how busy the pub was for a Sunday night. Thanks goodness Keefy booked! Jazz was spoilt rotten by the bar maids, it’s so great to be in such a dog friendly part of the world.

I was on high alert for celeb spotting; apparently Chipping Norton is a magnet for the, with Jeremy Clarkson, The Beckhams, David Cameron, Amanda Holden and more all residing close by. Jeremy Clarkson’s famous farm and farm shop is also on the outskirts of Chippy – and next to the C&CC club site for those who are interested.

Tomorrow it’s time for us to wave goodbye to what’s felt like our own private retreat. We’re off to Cirencester club site via a bit of a mystery sightseeing tour. We’ve had a great time based here though and it’s been a great place to unwind yet enjoy some bday celebrations in civilisation too.

Thanks Keefy for spoiling me rotten, I’ve had a brilliant weekend ❤️

Until next time

Lx