Attempting an escape from the over commercial ridiculousness that is Christmas in the 21st Century, we set off for the Cotswolds on 23rd December, meandering gently down the country to our holiday cottage for the week, in Oxfordshire.
We stopped in Broadway, Stow on the Wold and Burford along the way.
Burford, a small town on a steep hill with the usual selection of ancient golden Cotswold stone buildings leaning against each other, proved an interesting stop in the rain.
We quickly found ourselves in the basement of a grand building, mooching through stalls of new goods and second hand bric-a-brac, when I heard the strains of the Coventry Carol, and was drawn to a side room, where tables laid with jewellery and other trinkets were being sold to raise money for a breast cancer charity.
I spotted this watch and was surprised to find it was for sale for just £3, it does have some issues that are not obvious but overall is in good condition. I love watches in general rather than jewellery and especially non battery ones. I'm particularly partial to 60's and 70's cocktail watches, and have a gold colour one I bought on ebay many years ago. It was a must have and the OH bought it for me!
We carried on to our holiday cottage for the week, an old converted barn in a very small village, but with a fabulous view.
The following day, Christmas Eve, we decided to head out to a nearby Medieval manor house, via a Roman villa, North Leigh.
North Leigh is the remains of a two thousand year old villa which had underfloor heating in 11 of its 16 rooms. It is a free to enter site managed by English Heritage. Not much remains of the building from above ground, but the footprint is clearly visible as you approach downhill towards it.
I can imagine what those Italian natives must have thought as I stood there in the biting December wind. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.
The pillars holding the floors up and allowing the hot air to circulate are still obvious, two millennia later.
The villa was abandoned when the Romans withdrew from Britain in the 5th century. The building you see on the right in the photo above was constructed to protect the original mosaic tiled floor from the elements.
The information board gives a better idea of the overall look of the floor
As the building was locked, I pressed the camera up against the window and was surprised to get such clear shots
A last walk around and a look at the clearly defined rooms
We drove further in to the countryside, along single track roads with few passing places and finally came upon the village of Minster Lovell. Through the churchyard we found the hall, it was quite a surprise to see it was so big, as again, it was free to enter.
Original cobbled pathway
Minster Lovell hall as you see it today is the remains of a medieval manor house built around 1430 by William, Baron of Lovell, after his return from the French wars.
At the time William was one of the richest men in England thanks to good fortune and good marriage.
William's son John was a servant of Henry VI and a prominent supporter of the Lancastrians and duly rewarded with the position of master forester in the nearby Royal forest.
His own son Francis, was a favourite and ally of the Yorkist Richard III, and King Richard visited Minster Lovell frequently during his short reign. Francis Lovell attended the coronation of Richard III and was made a Viscount by the new king.
However, he was so close to the king that resentment grew in court towards him and two other favourites. Following the death of Richard III at Bosworth, the whereabouts of Viscount Lovell remain unknown to this day.
After Bosworth, the house was forfeited to the crown under Henry VII and used by the Tudors to house noblemen until it was sold in 1603 to a lawyer, Sir Edward Coke.
The river Windrush passes close by.
Descendants of Coke lived in the property until it was abandoned and part dismantled in the mid 1700's
39 feet high walls in the hall, complete with patchy plasterwork
Walking in the footsteps of a king.
It's my birthday tomorrow, the 3rd and I am 51 (eek!), so we are off out for a meal somewhere, and I have requested a day of chazzing, can't wait!
Join me soon for more tales from the Cotswolds.