Thursday, March 5, 2009

What would you think if you came across a town named Slaughter?

Call me what you like - I was a bit too emotional to write this last night.
Given our comments on the WWI war memorial here yesterday, last night was very poignant. The play was titled For King and Country and was the story of young man of 23 being court martialled for cowardice and desertion during WWI. The actors were excellent and the whole portrayal from Adam Gillen as Private Arthur Hamp as a bewildered and youthfully trusting naive young boy from the country through to the hard headed Medical Officer Captain O'Sullivan (played by Patrick Drury) and the President of the Court (played by David Yelland) brought home just how horrific these instances were. In truth, there were 306 young men in the British and Commonwealth forces so executed. Now, with Antony in the Army and in service overseas, there is a terrible thought.

There are beautiful drives through the Cotswolds area and half the fun is in just turning down any of the single track access lanes and wandering through the countryside.
However, recognising that most people do not have unlimited time to relish in the wandering, the regional tourist people have put together an itinerary guide called The Romantic Road (sold for £2.45) to showcase the best of the area.

Today we set off on 'A Road for Today' which took us north from Cheltenham. Now, would you think that 73 goes into 20? Well I am telling you it does . . . We drove a total of 73 miles and yet at the furtherest were just under 20 miles from Cheltenham. We visited a total of ten small towns, villages, hamlets and gosh - what do you call something that is smaller than a hamlet? We started at Winchcombe then through Stanway and Stanton, Broadway then Snowshill, into Chipping Campden then skipped across to Lower Slaughter and then Upper Slaughter before back-tracking to Moreton-in-Marsh. Finished at twilight back in Cirencester to capture the photos we missed yesterday.

At Winchcombe we went into St Matthews Church that dates back to the 15th Century but that has some elements from an earlier church that dated back to to 700 AD on this site. Some of the brass plates that have been reset from earlier memorials are just amazing and we see the most amazing cello that is at least 200 years old and remarked to be made by a local carpenter or even the cellist - because of its rustic and less than perfect construction but gee - it has lasted all this time! An orignal tapestry Royal Coat of Arms, the most amazing candelabra and mosaic remains from a long gone abbey are other inclusions.

Ever since Anne and Mick got back from England on their last trip and I saw Anne's photos of Lower Slaughter (whose name incidentally refers to mud, not blood) I have wanted to go there and yes Anne, it is a truly beautiful little town. When we got there, we stopped at the Washbourne Court Hotel for afternoon tea. We ordered coffees and one Classic Afternoon Tea (one serve) to share on the advice of the waiter. And thank goodness - there is no way we could have finished one each.

A slate tile was presented on which there was one scone with a pot of fresh raspberry jam and a pot of clotted cream so thick we literally had to cut it with a knife, a piece of lemon teacake, chocolate cake and carrot cake, 2 hard sweet biscuits, one chocolate and one peanut and three sandwiches - egg and mayonnaise, salmons and cream cheese, and chicken and spring onion - see what I mean about not being able to eat one each!

This area is just so romantically beautiful. The streets are narrow enough to need passing cars to pull in for oncoming traffic. The homes, churches, markets and halls are mostly constructed in the local sandstone with timber windows set with leadlight. In the hamlets there is a uniformity to the homes, while outside the villages there are large manor homes that must have been testament to the wealth of some of the population. There are sheep in the meadows and cows on the hills - it all sounds like something out of a song doesn't it? And it looks like something out of a postcard.

Lower Slaughter sits around the River Eye and is criss crossed with stone and timber footbridges under which ducks paddle furiously just to stay still in this fast flowing stream. It winds its way through the village without a single fence blocking access, so it is very picturesque. This is probably the most beautiful of the villages that we have visited today, although all of them have their own special charm.

We are two weeks early for most of the attractions that seem to open for the season on 15th March - Sudeley Castle, Hailes Abbey and the Model village at Bourton-on-the-Water. Michael did manage to get photos of some though - from a distance.

We finished tonight with a meal at Hassan's Indian Cuisine back in Cheltenham. This meal will certainly be added to the Best of list - it was absolutely delicious.
We shared a bowl of dhal and chapatis
Mains and accompaniments
Jinga Mossala (King prawns roasted in their shll in the tandoor then coked in mild spices with fresh cream and a touch of butter for a silky finish) Michael
Lamba Tiika Balti (A selection of strong aromatic spices, herbs onion, tomato and coriander) Maria
Chana Buna (Chickpeas cooked with fresh tomatoes, onion and spices in a reduced sauce)
Bindi Bhaji (Fresh okra cooked in light spices)
Pilau Rice and Pappadums and a tray of condiments that included Yoghurt with Mint, Mango Chutney, Lime Chutney, Diced Onion, Tomato and Cucumber
We shared a Pistachio Kulfi and finished with Espresso Coffees.

The nice touches were the silver service from the waiters, the lemon scented hand towels after our mains and the blooming lilliums in the ladies toilet. A wonderful meal in a lovely setting. Very recommendable.

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