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Springtime in the Costwolds – A Feast for the Senses

We have been enjoying a springtime sensory extravaganza.

Sounds

Each morning we are woken early by the incredibly beautiful the dawn chorus. The birdsong gets more complex over the first few weeks of the spring as a mixture of migrant birds arrive for their summer holidays.

Soon the air is filled with the sound of cheeping chicks, when food is delivered to nests by hard-working parents.

Spring days are punctuated by high-pitched bleats from little lambs, answered by deeper baas from watchful mothers.

Smells

The air smells fresh and is filled with wonderful fragrances.

We pop into Broadway to check on the gnarled old wisterias in the high street every few days, so that we don’t miss the wonderful smell of their divine pastel flowers when they emerge.

Hubby’s favourite is the aroma that wafts over the fence from the buds on the neighbour’s poplar trees.

I love to sink my nose into the blossoms on lilac trees dotted around the village.

Woodland walks are rewarded with the sweet smell of violets – best appreciated by getting a nose close to the ground – well worth the muddy knees.

Sights

It’s wonderful when colour returns to the village after the drab, grey winter.

Snowdrops appear first, followed by bright yellow daffodils.

Then the world erupts into colour as blossoms appear on cherry, plum, apple and pear trees.

Clematis flowers cascade over walls and fences. Wildflowers pop up on verges and across the meadows. Bluebells form a brilliant carpet in the woods.

Birds fly sorties collecting moss and twigs for their nests.

Male birds  flirt with females by puffing up to make themselves look more eligible.

Touch

A mild, warm breeze replaces the winter’s icy blasts.

Nettles along paths need to be given a wide berth, otherwise they sting like crazy leaving an area of skin that buzzes for 24 hours afterwards.

The ground is soft and warm and yields gently when turned to plant soft, new seedlings.

Tastes

In April we start to prowl the farm shops in the area looking for the divine local asparagus – so wonderful that an Asparafest is held in its honour. It’s absolutely delicious and for the next few months is a reliable and consistent fixture on menus at home and in local eateries.

Wild garlic pops up on woodland floors. The leaves add a subtle, interesting flavour to frittatas, omelettes, salads and a host of other dishes.

Fresh chives, mint, nasturtium flowers and the first crop of lettuces form a base for spring salads, accompanied by garlic mustard (Jack by the Hedge), which is foraged by hubby.

We love springtime in the Costwolds – it makes us feel alive again.

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Yellow, Orange and Gold

The colour palette in our corner of Worcestershire is shifting again. Over the last few days the colour of the leaves on the trees around Bredon Hill has started to change into the yellow part of the spectrum. Autumn has started.

We popped into the Batsford Arboretum near Bourton-on-the-Hill yesterday. It’s a great place for tea or a light, informal lunch. They have a good selection of hot meals and sandwiches and there is usually a gluten-free option or two in their delicious cake selection. The restaurant is in a beautifully designed modern, wood and glass building. It’s light and bright inside and outside is large deck with stunning views of the Cotswold countryside.

We hadn’t planned going into the Arboretum, as we thought that autumn had not quite got going yet, but as we were there, we decided to go inside anyway. Good decision! It was a warm, clear, still afternoon and perfect for a walk among the trees. The aptly named Golden Mile was a spectacular succession of yellows, golds, bronzes and oranges, with bright red acers thrown in for good measure. The low autumn sunshine filtering through the leaves was quite breathtaking. We left feeling wonderful and so pleased that we’d decided to pop in and have a look.

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Walk From Hailes Abbey

We recently did Walk no. 15 from our “50 Walks in the Cotswolds” book. This 5 mile (8km) circular walk starts at Hailes Abbey near Winchcombe and crosses fields to the villages of Didbrook and Wood Stanley. It then joins the Cotswold Way and heads across beautiful, rolling hills to Stumps Cross and past a stone monument and the ruins of an iron-age fort at Beckbury Camp. The monument is a good place for a little break and a chance to take in the superb views of the Cotswold countryside. The path then heads down the hill towards Farmcote (a visit to the village requires a little detour) before returning to the Abbey.

The walk takes in two simple, but beautiful churches and the much grander, ruined abbey.

Hailes church is opposite the abbey and well worth a visit. It contains the remains of wall paintings from the 14th century and original floor tiles rescued from the abbey.

St Faith’s chapel in Farmcote village is a sweet little building in a stunning setting. It has a pretty stone font, medieval roof timbers and the remains of a Saxon arch.

Hailes Abbey is owned by the National Trust and managed by English Heritage. It was founded in 1246 and was a powerful Cistercian abbey until 1536, when it was closed under Henry VIII’s Dissolution policy. It is reputed that Thomas Cromwell (not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell) watched the destruction of the abbey from a vantage point on the hill above. This spot at Beckbury Camp is now marked by the stone monument which we passed on the walk. The abbey audio tour that is included in the entrance fee is quite fascinating. It describes the history and day-to-day workings of the abbey. We were amazed to see the 750 year old toilet/drainage system still in working order. The abbey ruins are in a tranquil spot and very beautiful. A good place to rest and reflect at the end of a super walk.


Lunch at Tisanes

One of our favourite places for a light snack or afternoon tea in the Cotswolds is Tisanes, a super little tea room in Broadway.  We love the atmosphere, the food and the efficient, friendly staff. There is an entire menu devoted to loose-leaf teas and they have a good selection of coffees. We can’t resist the sandwiches filled with warm, runny brie, bacon and avocado. They do traditional cream teas and always have a good selection of delicious, freshly-baked cakes.  This is quite a special place if you are on a gluten-free diet. The sandwiches are available on gluten-free bread, and the gluten-free victoria sponge cakes, scones, toasted teacakes and other goodies ensure that tea-time is a treat for everyone.