I live in Manchester, the third biggest city in England and, while I love the place and love city life, I sometimes forget about the rest of the country. Places like Manchester, Liverpool, London and Birmingham are sprawling metropoles, built up and beautiful in their own way. The city is full of life, with every single activity you can think of resting gloriously at the end of your fingertips. The city is bustling full of people from all walks of life. City dwellers are rarely stuck for something to do.
City life is definitely not boring – that’s why I love it.
Yet there is a part of me that seeks tranquillity and as I get older, I find myself thinking about more serene pastimes and thankfully there are places close by where I can enjoy that side of life too.
Such was the case on my birthday a week or so ago. Mrs PM and I decided to explore an area of England that we had only ever seen through the windows of a car as we drove through it on our way from one city to another.
This time, I wanted to sample country life, the polar opposite of city life.
I have sampled this before, visiting areas like North Wales, the Lake District and the Peak District but I had never visited the Cotswolds, an area in the southern part of the Midlands, that covers six counties. It is located just south of Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, in the north stretching as far as Bath in the south west and Oxford in the east. The maps below give you some idea of where it is.
I had been to Bath in the south but spent most of the time in the city itself rather than exploring the countryside. We chose the north part of the Cotswolds and a little town called Chipping Campden, with a population of just over 2,000 people situated 135 miles south of Manchester (around two and a half hours in the car).
Our accommodation was provided by a small hotel on the main street, which also doubled up as a pub and restaurant.
The first thing I truly noticed here was how calm, relaxing and peaceful it was. We had arrived fairly late and after the sun went down we went for a short stroll around the small town to get our bearings.
It didn’t take long.
The pubs and restaurants were housed in beautiful buildings made of a honey coloured stone that perfectly illustrated the stereotypical small English country town, complete with thatched cottages.
It was wonderful.
The next day we drove from Chipping Campden for a walk from the even smaller town of Broadway to Broadway Tower, a ramble through the Cotswolds countryside, a distance of around five miles. The weather, for once, didn’t let us down. I was expecting rain but all we had was a typical cloudy and slightly cold day but not one single rain drop ruined our walk.
On the way we saw magnificent views of the English countryside as we climbed to Broadway Tower, the second highest point in the Cotswolds. We stopped for coffee just before we arrived at the tower and listened to a conversation amongst a lively group of pensioners who were walking to keep fit. I was amused because they were all country folk and quite posh, discussing party politics and evangelising about the current Prime Minister and her ministerial appointments in a way that you would never hear on the streets of Manchester.
The view from Broadway Tower itself was wonderful and it wasn’t so high that it would trigger my fear of heights.
After the tower we walked back to Broadway, where we found small shops selling traditional country items, in particular tweed clothing that you would rarely seek in the cities. Moreover, to validate the twee image of the town, some of the people were also dressed like traditional country folk. We even saw a group of Morris dancers.
Later, in the evening, we had a hearty meal in a different pub in Chipping Campden before retiring for the night.
The next day, we enjoyed a full English breakfast served by a waiter who personified the traditional image of an Englishman, complete with polite comments and even a wry smile at one of my jokes, which exposed his true mask after trying to portray himself as formal with a stiff-upper lip.
I almost said “Caught you,” but opted against it after a level one look from Mrs PM.
Later we embarked upon a slightly smaller walk in the countryside surrounding Chipping Campden, passing some very nice and very large houses that probably served as country retreats for rich people living in the Birmingham and South Midland area. We walked past farms, through fields, along country lanes and public footpaths passing other walkers who greeted us with a pleasant “Good morning.”.
It was so peaceful and serene with clean country air, hardly a car in sight and a relaxed gentle atmosphere around the place.
Part of me wanted to stay, to become a member of the country folk and abandon the city forever. When I thought more about this, I realised that deep down I am a city man and I would have to say goodbye to this delightful area of England. The city offers so much more and I would miss that. Yet as I get older, I think I also need to immerse myself in the countryside more, spending weekends away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the hassle of work life. Such trips serve a perfect purpose; to calm me down and make me appreciate fully the country I live in.
Here are some photographs that hopefully give you some idea of what I am talking about.
|A cottage in Chipping Campden|
|Just to prove that Broadway Tower is British|
|Spiral staircase in a turret|
|Dry stone wall|
|Strangely carved bushes|
|Chipping Campden Town Centre|
|A church in Chipping Campden|
|A lovely view of English countryside|
I hope you like them.