A few Saturdays ago I was somewhat shocked to find myself sipping Pimms by a stream in the sunshine in the English countryside. Shocked because I felt as though I had left Melbourne just a few hours before and yet here I was; ensconced in a vignette of Cotswold life so achingly beautiful and perfect and seemingly quintessential that I truly felt as though I had stumbled onto a movie set.
It had been, in fact, some 35 hours earlier that we had left Melbourne for this most green and pleasant of lands . But long-haul flights do funny things to your perception of time. Cocooned in the warmth and half-light of an aeroplane cabin dimmed for sleep, time seems to compress as you fly from afternoon into an ocean-crossing night that stretches for 20 odd hours.
The trip started brilliantly before we had even touched down. The sun was rising just as we flew in to land at Heathrow. Out of the window the first thing that came into view as we pierced through the clouds was green farmland with the Thames, gleaming a dark olive in the weak dawn light, snaking in a thick band through the countryside.
I’m somewhat obsessed with rivers. Especially rivers so old and venerable as the Thames so it was miraculous for me to be able to follow this vast waterway virtually from its mouth, up through green fields until it glittered below in its familiar loop in the very centre of London itself. As the sun rose higher and gave bright colour to the landscape below, we cruised over Hyde Park and began to circle.
I literally had my nose pressed against the glass of the window as I drank in the scenes below me. Deeply green fields, mist lying in the lowest depressions and occasionally something truly spectacular like a castle with its own lake. A lake so large it had formed its own weather system and two small clouds were reflected in its mill pond-still surface. Or a small town with cathedral on a river, the white points of which reached skyward in gothic peaks.
But back to terra firma.
By 7am the dulcet tones of our GPS had guided us to Bibury, a charming Cotswold village. We did a three hour loop walk through the town, the nearby woods and fields. It was utterly beautiful.
English countryside. There. is. nothing. like. it.
I confess that I cried. About 6 times. I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and a deep-seated sense of being so ridiculously fortunate.
Feeling pretty tired after that we decided to head for the place we were staying: Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter. When you are saying “Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter” you have to do so in a Penelope Keith-type accent. It’s the law.
On our way we saw a sign to the remains of a Roman villa from the 3rd century. We detoured. I was in heaven: nerding out on Roman history in the middle of an Elysian setting.
Continuing on along tiny country lanes lined with stone walls and flower-filled hedgerows we arrived in Upper Slaughter.
It is a tiny little town.
As we turned into the main street a sign read “Upper Slaughter summer fete – today 3-6pm.” I looked at Andrew in disbelief. It was too good to be true. “If there is British bunting and a church jumble sale, I will die” I said.
Then I died.
And then I died again because in addition to the above there were rubber duck races along the rush-lined stream, a Pimms stall AND Morris dancers.
So you’d forgive a lass for sitting in the sun with her Pimms and pinching herself. And you’d forgive her if she shed another little tear at the sheer perfection of it all.
The next afternoon we wandered down to the stream again. In Australia you would see the grass strewn with cigarette butts and crushed beer cans. Of course in Upper Slaughter, all that remained was this:
a neat pyramid of empty Pimms bottles. LOVE.
I have a few more UK posts coming up. Stay tuned to see whether Loooords of the Manor was as frightfully as it sounds, a little more of the stunning Cotties plus a quick trip to Bath (where I again totally nerd out on all things Roman), and then on to London.
But first, tomorrow I’ll be posting a quick craft tutorial. It’s been a long time between crafty drinks hasn’t it?