Travel: Why you should explore The Cotswolds this autumn
Adam Jacot de Boinod
- Credit: Pit Kitchen
It’s all thanks initially to the prosperity from wool in the Middle Ages.
It brought perpendicular churches and stone manor houses for which supreme craftsmen and stone masons developed a style and harmony.
They used the local limestone which weathers to the colour of honey, giving the pleasing impression of ripe old age.
The manor houses with their stone-mullioned windows are often thatched and the uniformity of the stone is offset with sage and celadon doors and window sills throughout the villages with a respectful care for the environment.
Just outside Chipping Norton in the sleepy village of Church Enstone is The Crown (www.crowninnenstone.co.uk).
Here I stayed and was guaranteed a peace and quiet tempered only by hooting barn owls and chiming church bells.
Above this characterful pub with a low-beamed, oak-panelled bar is a tasteful set of five bedrooms.
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Mine was quaint and cosy with its beautiful bed linen and modern, classy bathroom.
Truly a rural idyll.
After a wholesome breakfast on my pine table graced with freshly-picked flowers I set off from The Crown’s picturesque garden and found a footpath to Neat Enstone and Clevely to immerse myself fully in the timeless charm of this gentle landscape.
Later, five minutes' drive away, I reached Great Tew with its ironstone cottages in their tranquil setting within a wooded valley beneath a feudal manor.
Here was the picture postcard Cotswold village with its beautifully rendered stone respected throughout the walls and houses to give harmony to the green and golden fields.
It’s bang next door to the long driveway that announces Soho Farmhouse (www.sohohouse.com/houses/soho-farmhouse).
Part of the members’ club countryside portfolio it complements Babington House in Somerset and here, with its green bikes and light blue shuttle buses, I was welcomed at night by a stunning pit fire.
Only 90 minutes from London are these stunning film-set villages, uniform in their celebrated stone (which gives it an advantage over the Chilterns).
Tourists come also to Bourton-on-the-Water which resembles a smaller version of Ghent or Bruges, to Bicester Village for its shopping outlets, and to Blenheim Palace for its sheer opulence and splendour.
They come also for the market town shops of Burford, Chipping Norton and Woodstock which offer interesting curios, antiques and second-hand books and all are reassuringly familiar of the English country town scene.
But for the secret delights you have to dig and delve deeper.
Everyone will have their favourite village or hamlet as so many are typical of what the Cotswolds represents.
Some have intriguing names such as Little Rollright, Guiting Power, Lower Slaughter and Gagingwell.
Others have geographical features in their names such as under-Hill (Ashton), on-the-Wold (Stow), on-the-Hill (Bourton), on-the-Green (Hinton) in-Marsh (Moreton) and on-the-Water (Bourton).
I particularly loved my drive from Kingham around the arcane glories of Idbury and the rolling sweep that is Little Barrington. I got lost amidst the cattle grids of Radford and the mill at Kiddington.
One night I went to The Scenic Supper (www.thescenicsupper.co.uk), currently based at Todenham and soon to relocate for the rest of this year outside Stow-on-the-Wold.
It’s the brainchild of three schoolfriends who find glorious locations in which to serve up their magical meals.
Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy their four-course lunch or six-course supper. In a field and inside seven dark-wood raised glass houses that seat two or four people it has all the vibe of a mini-boutique festival with air con and blankets.
I looked straight out of my glass cabin over healthy, handsome cows, golden fields and beyond to the rolling Brailes Hill and Clump while swallows flew over the little piglets that gambolled by the car park.
I arrived at sunset time to experience the ultimate romantic sundowner.
The unhurried taster menu brought home the experience to be savoured as waiters hopped up and down the slope to deliver their ‘paddock to plate’ servings.
It was clear that great thought had gone into every course like wonderful presents waiting to be opened.
On arriving at the lovely village of Kingham and, well-positioned just beyond the impressive expanse of the village green, is Kingham Plough (www.thekinghamplough.co.uk).
This is the place for a romantic getaway.
It’s cosy and has all you need for a comfy, joyous stay.
Of the six rooms mine was above the main arch and had vintage furniture, soft mohair blankets and a free-standing bath at the foot of my bed.
Who doesn’t love a king-size bed and country air to wake up to horses’ hooves and a little bottle of fresh milk outside the door?
The vibe in the dining room felt hearteningly well-lived in as I sat beneath beams reminiscent of a converted barn amongst eclectic paintings offset by and gracing the midnight blue walls typical of an art gallery.
From its extensive menu I particularly recommend the woodfired aubergine, sundried pepper and kalamata ragu with bulgar wheat and ezme yoghurt. Only to be followed by a mascarpone panna cotta, Kingham strawberries and shortbread crumb.
I walked through the village and past its outskirts a mile away down a bridlepath to reach Daylesford (www.bamford.com/uk/pages/cotswolds-daylesford-farm).
With its organic shop, spa huts and restaurants delivering the healthy food grown onsite it’s another highly fashionable destination though with a more mature crowd than Soho Farmhouse.
Just outside Salford and up a beaten track in a hayfield is the Pit Kitchen, Cornwell Estate (www.pitkitchen.co.uk) the enterprise of brothers James and Adam Thomas.
It’s set at the top of a hill making it all the more special an event as it unfolded like a secret garden.
Like The Scenic Supper it respects the stripped-back and stark beauty of nature.
A stunning and sensual plantation of floral wilderness, surrounded by butterflies, bees and elephant grass amidst a meadow of yellow, purple and white flowers bobbing in abundance in the breeze.
They offered food influenced by London’s street food dining scene consisting of soups and sarnies by day and a middle eastern cuisine cooked over an open fire by night to satisfy five long wooden tables worth of happy eaters of which I was one.
The prosperity of the Middle Ages has prevailed with affluent inhabitants nowadays in their spacious ranch-like farms with grand gates and drives across this fecund, well-tilled patchwork of fields highly reminiscent of Tuscany (without the cypress trees).
And here likewise I had sensed the paradise of unhurried labour and embraced the culture of eating off the land.
Plan your trip
The Crown at Church Enstone - doubles from £120 - £170 per night for two people year-round on a B&B basis. www.crowninnenstone.co.uk
The Scenic Supper closes at Todenham Manor Farm ore-opens April 2022. From November 10th - 18th December, The Scenic Supper is hosting its winter pop-up at The Stone Barn at Fir Farm, Lower Swell, Gloucestershire for lunch and dinner Wednesdays - Saturdays. For more info and to book visit www.thescenicsupper.co.uk
The Kingham Plough - Doubles on a B&B basis from £145 a night. To book visit www.thekinghamplough.co.uk