Loooooords of the Manor and a last glimpse of Upper Slaughter


If you’re off to Old Blighty, I can highly recommend two things to get you in the mood:

1. The tv series The Tudors. If Jonathon Rhys Meyers can’t get you in the mood then you may be clinically dead; and

2. Hilary Mantel’s book “Wolf Hall”.

Lords of the Manor garden

Both deal with the same infamous period of history: the bloody, head-strewn reign of Henry VIII. The Tudors is a visually stunning (although only partly historically accurate) soap operatic portrayal of the period whereas Wolf Hall, while still a work of fiction, is a far more dense but less dramatic account told from the perspective of Henry’s advisor Thomas Cromwell.

They are both brilliant and deeply evocative and so I was pretty much beside myself when I learned that our hotel in the Costwolds, Lords of the Manor, was a former rectory that once formed part of one of Henry VIII’s properties.

It’s a charming, atmospheric building with lots of period features; exposed wooden beams, tiny casement windows, creaky floors.


This is Upper Slaughter Manor which is next door and was the main building of the larger estate way back when.

Upper Slaughter Manor

Can you not imagine Henry thundering down that driveway on his horse? Looking all the while like Jonathon Rhys Meyers thanks instead of the slightly paunchy, pale fellow made famous by Hans Holbein.


We took these photos very early in the morning so the light really brought out the depth of colour in the lichen-splattered stone and illuminated the golden lettering.


Dinner in the Michelin starred restaurant within the hotel was a revelation. To be honest, I did not have the highest hopes because the photos I saw on their website made me think there might be a bit too much foam and tricky stuff going on. In fact, our dinner here was one of the best of my entire life. Clever but without being tricky for tricky’s sake, every single mouthful was a study in balance and flavour.

We started with canapés in the garden.


After that we moved inside to the restaurant proper and had dishes the highlights of which were lobster, quail, pigeon and turbot. To describe the food with just those four simple words is criminally reductive but I could never do justice to the sublimity of their taste and complexity withy mere words.

Lords of the Manor enormous trees

The cheese course was yet another highlight.  We had a choice of over 20 cheeses,  most small-batch and locally produced. Among other things we chose a Stinking Bishop. Wouldn’t have mattered if it was aged in a cow pat, there’s no way I could have gone past a cheese with a name like that. And it was stinky and delicious. The other standout was called May Hill Green, another Gloucestershire cheese, with a rind covered in chopped nettles. I’m a tad obsessed with nettles and this too was a study in balance; the mineral tang of the nettle offsetting the creamy cheese perfectly.

Lords of the Manor side front

Chamomile tea rather than a post-prandial coffee was the order of the jet-lagged day and we had that sitting out on the lavender-ringed terrace with a small and perfectly formed macaron (as if we needed anything after the cheese AND dessert) at 10pm just as  dusk began to creep in. What that meant, in keeping with general perfection of the day, was that the stone walls glowed with an amber hue, the grass and sky took on a deeper green and blue and I sighed pretty much the most enormously contented sigh of my entire life.

You can’t quite see the terrace in this shot but this is the aspect we were looking over as we sipped our tea and contemplated our great good fortune.


Next morning, I rounded out my perfect English countryside experience by having kippers for breakfast (much to the chagrin of the otherwise worldly Italian water who told me he had to hold his nose as he brought them to the table).


My childhood literary experiences were littered with vignettes of  kettles boiling on the hob, mugs of hot, sweet tea brewing, kippers in the pan and toast browning slowly on a fork over the fire. So no trip back for me is ever complete without kippers. It’s a nostalgic nod to the England of my young imagination. Smothered in brown butter and chopped parsley, they were bloody delicious.


The other pictures that punctuate this post are from Upper Slaughter; the church, picturesque churchyard and surrounds.

Cotswold's beer

Although the Tudors tv series features lots of shots of beautiful countryside as Henry makes his way hither and thither, if it’s a novel set in the Cotswolds you’re after then it’s hard to go past Miss Read’s Thrush Green series for evocative descriptions of a fictional but immediately recognisable Cotswold idyll. This is very much a novel from a different time and world; lots of “terribly”s, “horrid”s and tea-times interspersed with descriptions of babbling brooks, scented Spring meadows, wild rose-strewn stiles and cathedral-cool woods . It makes a charming escape.

Madonna keeping watch over grave

I know this is a long post – forgive me – I hope it hasn’t bored you and might even have brought you a speck of pleasure of the arm-chair traveller variety.  It was just SO.VERY.PERFECT.

Next stop: Bath then on to London. I’ll try to keep them shorter, I promise!

An idyllic weekend in the Cotswolds complete with English summer fete

Arlington Way Bibury

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.

Bibury house and garden

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.

Bibury Lane

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.

Cotswold's wall

By 6am, my handsome husband and I were in our rental car and headed straight from Heathrow out into the English countryside. Cotswold's meadow

Walk in Bibury

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.

Ash copse

English countryside. There. is. nothing. like. it.

Stone manor bibury

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.

Sheep in field in Bibury

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.

Stone wall in meadow

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.

Roman ruins - Chedworth Villa

Continuing on along tiny country lanes lined with stone walls and flower-filled hedgerows we arrived in Upper Slaughter.

Cotsewold's wall and road

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.

Upper Slaugher fair river view View-from-slope-to-Upper-Slaughter-fair

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.

Morris dancer

Duck race on the River Eye

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.


Fete Upper Slaughter

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:

Pyramid of Pimms bottles

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?