Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds - 2017
September 2017 by Kathi Jacobs
8 SEPTEMBER, FRIDAY - After driving 80 miles from Heathrow to the small crossroads named Ready Token in Gloucestershire, we found our snug little home for the next two weeks, Lavender Cottage.
Ready Token, a Gloucestershire hamlet in the Cotswold Hills, is quiet and peaceful. It lies very near The Welsh Way, a trade route used by the British during the Iron Age. There is evidence that it was used and improved upon by the Roman Army after the conquest of Britain as a link betwwen Akeman Street and the Fosse Way.
TRAVEL TIP: I cannot say enough good things about VRBO.com. For nearly two decades, Wayne and I have used this direct booking website almost exclusively in all of our travels. It is a secure, easy to navigate website which includes a wealth of information, extensive pictures, maps and reviews – as well as online payment (this is extremely handy and a big improvement over wiring money to vendors in European countries.) Also, you communicate via email directly with the property owner or manager when making your reservations. We have NEVER had a bad experience with VRBO!! Also, for those of you who like getting your money's worth in travel, you will find that on this site you can secure 4-star accommodations for about half what it would cost to stay in equivalent hotels or inns. AND, you have your privacy and almost always off-street parking for your rental car.
9 SEPTEMBER, SATURDAY - We spent a good bit of the day familiarizing ourselves with local roadways and country lanes. Whenever possible, we've learned (the hard way) to take the “long way round” and stay on A roads and B roads as they are well-marked and wide.
TRAVEL TIP: For safety's sake and for good mental health, we normally avoid anything designated by the SATNAV as “unnamed road” for one main reason. These tiny lanes, often devoid of laybys or pullovers, are very often used by local farmers driving massive tractors with long farm trailers. So, as beautiful and romantic the idea of such a lane, the reality often means that the less-encumbered vehicle (that usually means the visitor in the rental car) is the one who has to back up sometimes for as much as ¼ mile until you find a layby. Not fun, and pretty scary! Having said that, these unnamed roads or lanes are marvelous good fun in the late afternoons or early evenings for a stroll.
10 SEPTEMBER, SUNDAY - Up early this morning to head for Saint John Parish Church, Cirencester Cathedral for their 10:00 AM Eucharist. It was quite a special opportunity to worship in the very same spot where my Great x 8 Grandfather was christened in April 1635. To watch the red-cassocked choristers process and, after a short pause, the Crucifer and the Priests, and then to sing with the parish congregation was a treat that will, in the years to come, be a cherished memory. Having been to morning services and evensong in many of England's major cathedrals, I feel so much “a part of” in this church.
After the service we explored the streets of Cirencester to see if any were "film worthy." Scouting a new location for "just the right shot" requires much walking.
11 SEPTEMBER, MONDAY - The weather for the past few days has been very temperamental. In our business, we are impacted by some conditions beyond our control (weather and overcrowding of filming locations most especially,) but decided to go to Fairford today. Fairford, a small and well-tended town on the River Coln, is a very friendly place and its residents are outgoing and often willing to engage in conversation with visitors.
Wayne and I spent a good hour planning and pre-walking the virtual walk and taking still pictures along the way that could later be utilized for publicity on websites and box art. In the early afternoon we met a nice couple on the High Street who invited us to the Town Council offices and the four of us had a good long chat.
After many rain showers and aborted attempts to film, we finally succeeded in the late afternoon. The walk ended with the short circular path through the ancient churchyard of Fairford St. Mary the Virgin Church.
Before leaving this sweet little town we went inside the church to view one of the only surviving complete collections of Medieval stained-glass windows in all of Europe.
When the church was re-dedicated in 1497, these windows were created over the next 15-20 years. The St. Mary stained glass window collection consists of 28 brilliantly-colored windows displaying biblical scenes. Their creation is now attributed to Bernard Flower, a Flemish glassmaker who served as glazier to King Henry VII in the 15th century. In 1642 at the commencement of the English Civil War, these windows were carefully dismantled and hidden just before the arrival of the Roundhead army in Fairford. It is hard to fully comprehend the quick thinking and efforts extended in earlier centuries to preserve what we see before us today.
It was a privilege to see them and to meet Jane and her father, an RAF pilot who was “minding” the church that day.
12 SEPTEMBER, TUESDAY - A quick trip to Gloucester to first visit the Gloucestershire Archives and see (and touch) the actual leather-bound 16th century Baptism Manuscript which contained the date and name of Kathi's Great x8 Grandfather's baptism in Cirencester Cathedral. Afterwards we explored, photographed and filmed this historic town and Cathedral.
13 SEPTEMBER, WEDNESDAY - After a bedtime thunderstorm with heavy rain last night, we awoke this morning to blue skies and sunshine streaming into our large bedroom windows. Lavender Cottage faces open pastureland and, in the early mornings, I often see the handsome black stallion galloping across the field. I always enjoy our time spent in England, especially those quiet moments of reflection over a cup of fresh coffee. Living in the frantic pace of the 21st century, it is times like this that I am so very grateful for rural, pastoral settings like this one on Hartwell Farm.
Later - Wayne and I had a good, full day today. We returned to Fairford for Market Day to first film and photograph the market and before leaving, we bought fruit: peaches and fresh pitted cherries, and baked goods: a Lardie Cake with raisins. Just as our experience a few days ago, we were warmly welcomed by vendors and townspeople alike and very much enjoyed our time there.
Then on to Lechlade-on-Thames where we pre-walked the route and then, between showers, filmed two segments for a virtual walk. Lechlade has a population of about 3,000 people plus a small boating community. After our walk along the Thames, which passes over the Halfpenny Bridge (above - so named because the charge to pedestrians in the late 18th – mid 19th century was a halfpenny), we had tea and a “bacon buddy” at the Council Tea Shop before visiting some antique shops during the periodic rain showers.
TRAVEL TIP: Whenever you have the opportunity to be in the small Gloucestershire villages, take time to visit the thrift/charity shops. The majority of these are run by volunteers and the proceeds go to worthwhile charities much in need of financial assistance. Also, you can find some really neat and quirky things in these shops! Since the English weather was much colder than we had anticipated, we often stopped in to buy warm knit caps and knitted scarves: for not much more than a halfpenny!
From Lechlade-on-Thames we drove to Burford and, although much too crowded to film this afternoon, we walked the streets and alleyways to determine where we could film. We plan on returning very early tomorrow morning to avoid the crowds. Burford has very historic buildings with upmarket shoppes and eateries. We had an interesting chat with Lynnette, today's volunteer in Burford St. John the Baptist Church, built in 1170 with spire added in 1475. We researched and pre-planned our virtual walk scheduled for tomorrow before heading home to Ready Token.
14 SEPTEMBER, THURSDAY - Up at 6:00 AM this morning and soon on our way to Burford for early filming. This town is a strikingly beautiful place and our mission of a virtual walk was accomplished before traffic spoiled the magic. Wayne always takes whatever time is necessary to achieve a filmed walk up to his very high expectations: no matter how many times it takes to film and even refilm it (and we had to re-shoot several segments today for various reasons). We both strive to return from any filming trip with videos that give our customers a sense that they are “really there.”
Tonight we returned to Fairford, having been invited the day before to the “Sing Along” at the C of E Primary School. We met the director, Claire, and her parents and we helped set up chairs in the auditorium. As a choir member in our church at home, I was astonished that 83 singers showed up for the occasion (we won the “prize” for coming from the greatest distance!) Claire divided us into three groups: soprano, alto and low voices. We sang for an hour, then took a break for tea and biscuits, and then sang until 9:30 PM. Lovely, friendly people and we had a marvelous time! For more information, look up www.asplashofred.org.uk/.
As we were driving home, a white owl flew in front of our car. And, when we reached the cottage, a beautiful sunset lit up the night sky: a really great way to end a memorable evening...
15 SEPTEMBER, FRIDAY - After looking at various Cotswold maps, we decided to head to Adlestrop, a tiny village which time seems to have forgotten and months ago, during our extenive research, we chose to film.
This small corner of the world was the province of the James Henry Leigh family who owned the land and maintained the church parish, and who lived in the manor house (now Adlestrop Park.)
Rev'd. Thomas Leigh and his sister were godparents to the English novelist Jane Austen's (1775-1817) brother and sister. Due to this connection the Austen family visited Adlestrop on at least three occasions (Jane's mother, nee Leigh, was the first cousin to the rector.) Thomas Leigh inherited Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, a magnificent estate on which the Austens went to live as a result of the Leigh generosity.
So, with this history and the ever so small population of a scant 120 persons, the lovely honey-colored Cotswold stone cottages and green landscape and beautiful vistas – not to mention another parish church – we thought we had found a real gem. We pre-walked our filming route, taking lots of still photos before returning to the car park for our filming gear. As luck would have it, the rain began and, even though we waited.... and waited.... and waited, it continued throughout the rest of the day, but we were both happy that we had done our due diligence today.
We planned on returning on some future, brighter day and complete the filming of Adlestrop.
16 SEPTEMBER, SATURDAY - I awoke at first light, fully rested, and watched the dawning of day from my perch at the kitchen window. When I put on the coffee and checked on the clothes in the laundry room, a little bird was cheerfully singing at the back door. I'll take that as a good sign! This was a good day, and a different one. Again, one of the greatest joys of independent travel is the ability to come and go as we please; to make last minute adjustments when desirable or necessary; and to be ever ready to take advantage of “the road not taken.”
This was "Film and Photograph Old Trains Day," to wit, the two steam locomotives and diesel train which make up the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. This line traces its history back to the height of the Victorian era when the legendary Great Western Railway held sway over what was then mass transportation. Among the Great Western's achievements was the Honeybourne Line, the original line running 28.75 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon to Cheltenham. Wayne and I rode the complete currently-existing line (about 12.5 miles one way) from Toddington (once over the Stanway Viaduct on the diesel train) to Winchcombe to Gotherington past Bishop's Cleeve to Cheltenham – and back - all the while filming background plates! TRAVEL TIP: purchase the all-day Rover ticket and you can then ride as much as you like on all three of these wonderful trains – good fun!
Today, from the trains, we shot "Background Plates" to sell. Background Plates are shots that can be used by TV stations and motion picture studios as moving exterior backgrounds for scenes shot in a studio. The actors are placed in front of a green background and the background plate we shoot is added electronically behind them. When done correctly, it looks extremely realistic. Today's background plates can be used for an interior train set and would replace what the audience sees out the window of the train. We sell a lot of these various Backgound Plates, our most recent background plate sale was of a night street scene in Paris to the CBS soap, "The Young and the Restless."
Riding a steam rail train is a delightful experience, chugging and steaming along at a maximum speed of 5 mph. We met many of the older GWR volunteers, all really friendly and most anxious to share the story of their railway. We, along with Britishers of all ages, enjoyed a wonderful day out thanks to the countless, unsung volunteers who have spent a good many years of their lives working on this great railway. In their own words from the little 3GBP guidebook: “The friendly line -everybody you meet working for the railway today is a volunteer: the driver and fireman, the guard, the buffet staff, the people in the shops and cafes. They all work together to make your day special and because they are immensely proud of what they have achieved over the past 30 years. We have a high reputation for our friendliness and we want you to have a great time today.”
Another noteworthy fact: “All profits are directed back into the extension and improvement of the railway and we use them to fund the repair, refurbishment and renewal of our rolling stock and infra-structure.” A very nice day indeed – God love the British!
17 SEPTEMBER, SUNDAY - Today we returned to Cirencester to film a Military Parade marking the 900th Anniversary of the founding of the Cirencester Abbey. Wayne filmed the military parade in 4K - Ultra High Definition.
Afterwards, we drove to Stanway to film another segment of our Cotswold Villages Walk - Volume 3 video. Our first two Cotswold Villages videos - Volumes 1 and 2 - filmed in 2006, have been very popular with our customers and have sold extremely well. That was the main reason we wanted to film a third volume of the video series. This is the walking path into the small hamlet of Stanway.
This hamlet is home to Stanway House and this is only its impressive stand-alone gatehouse.
18 SEPTEMBER, MONDAY - Today we drove 21 miles to Adlestrop and were finally successful in filming our walk through the small village. Having pre-planned the walk in detail a few days earlier made the filming easier. In the process we met three very nice people: two fellow travelers from the Netherlands and a lovely old gentleman who was doing spot cleanup at the Village Hall. So many of the hamlets, towns and villages of the Cotswolds depend upon the generosity of time and talents of their residents; Ernest Johnson is one such person and we thoroughly enjoyed our long chat.
After returning to the car park, we ate our lunch on a bench in front of the Village Hall, enjoying the sun on our faces and happy to be in this sweet little village. In addition to the Jane Austen connection with Adlestrop, there is a famous poem written by Edward Thomas (1878-1917) who tragically died in WWI. His train, an express, stopped here unexpectedly and during the brief delay he penned this sweet poem, known and recited by English children to this day (above).
Filming completed in Adlestrop, we next drove to Lower Swell and then to Naunton to film in both villages. In Naunton, lying on the ground next to the church, we saw the above note with Free Apples offered.
19 SEPTEMBER, TUESDAY - We spent the early part of the day reviewing and logging our footage from yesterday in Adlestrop, Lower Swell and Naunton. It's vital that we know exactly how much usable footage we've shot. When we return to the States, we must have enough footage to edit down each separate planned video to 1 hour and the more footage we return with, the more flexibility we'll have in editing. We will combine this with Stanway footage.
Today we are off to the small village of Icomb (pronounced EYE -cum) to film.
And the day went well. The weather was brilliant, the traffic practically nil – and we even had 2 ladies clip-clop down the village lane on horseback while we were filming – perfect! Icomb is an idyllic English village with a war memorial and a parish church with the effigy of a knight lying in state.
And, as you enter the church, a greeting tells you to, "....Be Grateful To The Strong and Loyal Men Who in The Name of Jesus Christ Builded This Place of Worship..."
Leaving the village, we noticed fresh flowers on a bench in the center of the Icomb. The note on the back said simply, "Miss You Pat" and was signed by Andrew, Susan, Cameron, Anna, and Mike.
We finished filming by the late afternoon and celebrated with a proper pub lunch in Stow-on-the-Wold at The Talbot. A trestle table with pew bench complete with comfy pillows and a view onto the main square gave us an excellent vantage point from which to enjoy...what else? Fish and Chips.
There followed a productive hour spent in Nick O'Keeffe's Evergreen Livres bookshop where we purchased several antiquarian books, most beautifully illustrated.
Home to Lavender Cottage in the twilight to find our lawn freshly mown and two very pretty vases of fresh flowers left on our doorstep. And just after going upstairs, Wayne called from below and told me to look out the back window. Lo and behold, I counted 19 quail in our back yard!
20 SEPTEMBER, WEDNESDAY - We spent time this afternoon filming in the village of Blockley, villages being larger than English hamlets yet smaller than English towns. We were last here eleven years ago, before “Father Brown” made the village famous. And yes, because Wayne and I are big fans of BBC drama, we wanted to return for some photographs and video footage of the late Norman parish church, circa 1180.
Blockley was originally owned by the bishops of Worcester and began an era of prosperity in the 19th century with the manufacture of its 6 silk mills (at its zenith this complex employed over 500 workers.) The silks were used to produce ribbons for Coventry. The other notable fact was that Blockley was one of the first villages in the world to have electric lights in the 1880s. We spent the rest of the afternoon filming in Blockley.
21 SEPTEMBER, THURSDAY - Our last day in the Cotswolds and, since today's weather predicts steady rain and therefore filming would be problematical if not impossible, we decided on a visit to a country house near Tetbury – Chavenage, an Elizabethan manor house. Many things set this tour apart from the rest, but here I will only take time to hit the high spots. First it is the filming site of one of Wayne's favorite BBC TV Series, "Grace and Favour" (known as "Are You Being Served Again" in the States.)
And this room, minus the billiards table and light, is often used as a dining room on the new BBC TV Series, "Poldark."
The man who greeted us at the front door introduced himself as George, our tour guide. He was actually being quite modest, as he is the son and heir of the current Lord of the manor. He was so gracious and unassuming that one would never have known his pedigree; in fact, he referred to himself on more than one occasion as a farmer. His tour, which lasted nearly two hours, was simply brilliant: well-delivered, enthusiastic without being over the top, historically knowledgeable, and humorous. George was especially considerate of the elderly ladies in our group, bringing them chairs and assisting them up from the deep couches.
His little black dog, a sweet old girl, followed her master from room to room on the tour. When we reached the family chapel, the dog hopped in my lap where she remained for 15 minutes.
Chavenage has been used for several movies and BBC series – all among our favorites: “Grace and Favour;” a Poirot with David Suchet; “Barry Lyndon,” a Stanley Kubrick film; and one of my absolute favorites, “Poldark” with Aidan Turner. At the end of the house and chapel tour, Wayne took pictures of the grounds and I went in to tea (served by the Lady of the manor herself – very friendly and dressed in jeans and a sweater. I sat at the big round table closest to the large bow window with two charming ladies, Rosie and Jillian, best friends since their college days. We all enjoyed a good chat about England, America, family and genealogy.
22 SEPTEMBER, FRIDAY - We said goodbye to Lavender Cottage in Ready Token at 9:15 AM to drive the 226 miles to Falmouth, Cornwall. The sun was shining as we turned left on Welsh Way.
Continue Reading - Part 3 - Cornwall and Devon Blog
About the Author - Kathi Jacobs and her husband, Wayne, are the owners of VITA Digital Productions, a video production company specializing in creating Virtual Walks, Virtual Jogs, Virtual Cycling Scenery, and Virtual Cruises on scenic rivers. With over 50 different Virtual Experience Videos to choose from on vitadvds.com, VITA Digital Productions is the leading producer of Virtual Experience Videos in the world.