As I mentioned here, Cotswolds is a gentle haven for travelers, wanderers and those looking to connect with themselves. Every village will leave you a bit surprised, happy and relax your weary mind. I have already mentioned about the three popular villages of Bourton on Water, Lower Slaughter and Chipping Campden. Here, I continue with other lovely villages and various attractions we had the pleasure to explore couple of weeks ago.

Stow-on-the-Wold:

Cotswolds attractions

Cotswolds attractions

 

Located on top of an 800 ft hill, Stow-on-the-Wold is a small market town and civil parish. This village was once the business centre of Cotswolds as several exquisite fairs were held here which attracted the best of local business. The first annual fair was established in 1330 by King Edward III. It was held for seven days every August but by 1476 was replaced with two five-day fairs.

The aim of these annual fairs was to establish Stow as a place to trade, and to take control of the unpredictable passing trade. These fairs were located in the square, which is still the town centre. Today, this square is filled with a plethora of antique shops, specialty wool shops and indigenous fashion shops. Stow is definitely a paradise for treasure seeks. Unfortunately, by the time we reached here most of the shops were closed which meant that my purse did not get any chance to become light.

Another main attraction of Stow is the St. Edward’s Church (pictured above). I am one of those people who finds an ancient church (and even cemeteries) extremely romantic and this 11th century Church is certainly one of the most romantic Churches I have ever visited. It is intimate, cosy and a strong sense of character to it. Definitely not to be missed.

Blockley:

Cotswolds

 

The village of Blockley was once the centre of silk production with several silk mills burgeoning here since the 18th century. The legacy of its silky past continues with most street signs named as one mill or the other and its collection of golden hued buildings.

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Cotswolds

Aside from the rather enjoyable walk along the beautiful countryside; take a trip down to the charming Norman Church (SS Peter & Paul Church) located at the centre of the village. This Church dates back to 1180 and was featured in last year’s TV series Father Brown. It is again a rather inviting Church with an intimate garden and cemetery which will instantly transport to a bygone era.

Broadway:

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broadway-7

 

Located in the English county of Worcestershire; Broadway is often referred to as, “Jewel of the Cotswold.” Known for its sheer beauty and magnificence, several writers and artists like Oscar Wilde, Claude Monet, English textile designer William Morris and English composer Edward Elgar had made Broadway their home to draw inspiration from its beauty and location.

Broadway is flanked with a mix of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian buildings which lends this place a brilliant charm. Today, it is also another thriving centre of arts and antiques and hence it makes perfect sense to browse through its craft and antique shops for unknown treasures.

When you are here don’t forget the Snowshill Manor, a perfect spot to enjoy the unblemished green marshy plains surrounding this village and losing yourself to the pristine beauty of nature.

Hope you enjoyed this post on Cotswolds. Thanks for reading. As always likes and comments are most welcome. And don’t forget to follow me 😉

With its honey-chocolate coloured cottages, soft undulating farmland, picturesque villages, narrow cobbled roads and crystal clear streams, Cotswolds is a place which will fiercely compete for your attention and will win without much ado. According to Wikipedia, “The Cotswolds are a range of hills in southwestern and west-central England, an area 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (145 km) long. The area has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

“Quaint” is a word that springs in my mind every time I think of Cotswolds; there are a cluster of villages consisting of cosy, little cottages and buildings built in stone and surrounded by farms and farmland. A perfect place for wanderers, lovers, artists, dreamers and poets to get lost in the beauty of unadulterated, pristine nature.

We reached Cotswolds after an hour and half journey from Hampshire. It is quite easy to know that you have reached Cotswolds because the roads become decidedly narrow and have a rolling terrain here; where ever you turn you can spot either green, marshy farmland or tall deciduous trees forming a gentle canopy. Cotswolds, hence is a haven for drivers, cyclists and bikers.

But don’t be put off if you are an avid walker (like me); Cotswolds is definitely a place where you can walk for ages without a nary of tiredness to bring you down. It is next to impossible to explore whole of Cotswolds in one trip and here I bring to you six of the best villages we visited during our mini-break.

 

1)     Bourton on the Water:

Broughton on water village, cotswolds attraction

Known as the Venice of Cotswolds; this little village is one of the most popular destinations here and a big tourist attraction. I was actually going to give it a miss precisely for this reason but thank God I did not. Cotswolds’ main river—River Windrush—passes through this village and the crystal clear stream lined with carpet-soft lawn and shaded by tall, mature trees gives this place an understated charm.

A perfect place to enjoy a lovely picnic along the banks of the stream; Bourton on the Water has a decidedly romantic vibe to it. Enjoy the lovely walk around the stream or simply take out your mat, spread it across the lawn and take in the blossoming spring flowers, the beauty of the leafy neighbourhood and simply do nothing.

model village cotswolds attractions

 

Cotswolds attractions

Don’t miss the model village when you are here. Kids (or those who are young at heart) will definitely love the model village—this Grade II listed landmark has 1/9th scale replica of the village. Fine detailing and fascinating workmanship brings out the uninhibited charm of the village.

2)     Lower Slaughter:

cotswolds attractions

 

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Don’t let the morbid name of the village put you off. This village is famous for having the most romantic street of UK (2011) and it is a well-deserved title. Once again the river Windrush criss crosses this village and there are several walking paths you can take; we decided to stick to one near the stream with green tall trees on one side and perfect box sized, beautiful cottages on the other.

When you are here the Old mill (now a shop) on the end of the village is a must-visit. The beauty of this village you can still see signs of ancient life and traditions as well as modernity in one stop. Definitely a place not to miss.

3)      Chipping Campden:

chipping campden cotswolds

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Slightly further from other villages; Chipping Campden actually shares its border with Warwickshire—Shakespeare’s County. Another quintessentially pretty village; it is definitely bigger than the other two.

This small market town is notable for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th century to the 17th century. It was once a rich wool trading centre in the Middle Ages, and the place enjoyed the patronage of wealthy wool merchants. Today the high street is filled with a myriad of tea shops, pubs, ingenious shops and antique centers (not your average high street; thank God), this village is a perfect place to fill the fuel with some proper locally made cakes and sweets as well as walk properly.

Starting from the old Market Hall is a 4 mile loop trail which will take you through the village streets as well as woodlands nearby. I was quite surprised to know that the Market Hall is centuries old because it has still kept its original style and structure intact—definitely a feat in this race  for development.

I will bring you the next three beautiful villages of Cotswolds, the various attractions and where to stay in the coming days 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this post and would give Cotswolds a try. Don’t forget to Like, Comment or Follow me, I always follow back.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is one of the best novels and that Jane Austen is one of the best writers of all time. Interestingly, Austen was born and bred in Hampshire (for most part of her life) and Hampshire served as an inspiration for many her novels.  So, this weekend I decided to trace her footsteps and visit places where she lived. Our first stop was the village of Steventon, located between Basingstoke and Overton. Jane was born in this picturesque village and spent the first 25 years of her life.

En route to Steventon

En route to Steventon

Characterised by green, marshy farm land on both sides, sheep grazing lazily its luscious pastures and dotted with cosy thatched homes; Steventon is as idyllic as it can get. Jane was the seventh of eight children, the second daughter, born to the Reverend George Austen and his wife Cassandra. She was born on 16 December 1775 at the Steventon rectory.

St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church

Jane like her literary heroine Elizabeth was an avid walker. She was often seen walking the marshy pathways of this quaint village; carefully observing people and their mannerisms. In Steventon, she wrote the first drafts of Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. The Steventon rectory stands no longer but the St. Nicholas Church where Jane’s father worked as a clergyman is still the pride and joy of this village. Jane along with her family attended this Church regularly to listen to her father preach. Dating back to 12th century, it is a small, simple building that has retained its old-world charm.

As soon as you enter this Church, a warm, comforting silence envelops you and fragments of medieval wall painting will immediately catch your attention. Surprisingly, unlike Avon where you can see vignettes of Shakespeare’s life clearly; there are very few signs that prove Austen’s origin but a spire has been added since Austen’s lifetime, bearing a wind vane in the shape of a pen in her honour inside this Church.

When the Rev Austen decided to retire, he chose to move to Bath, when Jane was in her mid-twenties and the family stayed here for a period of five years till Rev Austen’s death. After her father’s death, the family was in a precarious financial state; they stayed briefly at Southampton before moving to Chawton village; another quintessential English village in Alton.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/ Rudi Riet

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/ Rudi Riet

The Chawton Cottage served as Jane’s final home from her 1808 till her fatal illness and subsequent death in 1817. Jane settled into her writing here and also became a published author whilst staying here. This Cottage still holds the interest of many literature aficionados. Don’t be surprised if you come across a bunch of tourists from different nations all hoping to get to know their favourite author slightly better.

This charming 17th Century cottage is characterised by thatched roofs, quiet green of the village as well as brightly coloured flowers of the garden. Austen lived here with her mother, sister Cassandra and good friend Martha Lloyd. Inside the modest cottage, you will see Jane’s favourite spot—the tiny table where she etched her beloved characters.

Whilst writing occupied most of Jane’s life here; the house was also frequented by her brothers, her nieces and nephews. To these children, Jane and Cassandra were loving aunts and Jane who was also an accomplished pianist would play songs for them. A daily routine was incomplete without hearty family meals, long walks and chatting and sewing in the evening. Jane’s favourite spot was the alcove in the ladies’ drawing room where she would often sit and see the village life go by.

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

Whilst Jane’s mother and sister were buried in the nearby Church; Jane who died at the age of 41 was buried at Winchester Cathedral.

Surprisingly, there is very little history about Jane’s life and particularly her tryst with Hampshire but every devotee who takes this Jane pilgrim is humbled by her simple life but then that’s how life should be—simple yet fruitful—isn’t it?

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As UK gears up for another spring, I can’t wait to breathe in the fresh, sun-shine filled air, take in the lovely daffodils that are springing up in every street corner and once again explore the lovely, dense, wild woods near my vicinity. If you are coming to UK or are in UK, I urge you to explore the wild, uninhibited woodlands UK offers. Here are my top three favourite picks from Hampshire.

The Vyne Woods, Basingstoke:

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I love the tranquility, serenity and the promise of unexpected that woodland represents. The Vyne Woods situated in Basingstoke, Hampshire definitely encapsulates all these qualities. Basingstoke is notorious for being a place where nothing much happens; but this woodland wonder will change your mind. It is perfect to stroll around and exercise those tired limbs on a sunny, lazy afternoon. Adjacent to the stately Vyne gardens and the House; a 16th century country house; the Vyne woodlands is a place where you can easily and happily lose yourself to the untamed charm of nature. There are many walking trails that criss-cross these woods. And don’t be surprised if you come across owls, woodpeckers and even red Deer whilst you are walking. We had a taste of the unexpected when there was a flurry of action as a herd of deer passed us without any fair warning and out of nowhere but then that’s the beauty of wilderness it strikes when you least expect it. The 3.5 mile walk is great to enjoy some walking meditation accompanied only by pristine, untamed and unflappable nature.

New Forest:

New Forest

Every spring/ summer we have a ritual to explore this unspoilt and pristine ancient woodland either by walking or cycling. The New Forest is not actually “new” it was named “Nova Foresta” and was the hunting ground of William the conqueror way back in 1079. This 193,000 acre of land has 143 miles of walking/ cycling track. Needless to say, there are a number of endless routes and we are often surprised to discover a “new” path every new season. As you tread along its beautiful path, you will come across a plethora of picturesque villages, stately tea-rooms, gurgling streams and everything in between. And if you get tired of walking in woodland you can always visit the town of Lymington, check out a section of Solent Way or take a stroll along the beautiful coast line with magnificent views of the Isle of Wight. It is definitely my favourite place to get a whiff of fresh air and relax after a busy week.

West Wood, Winchester:

 

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

 

With its gently rolling arable farmland, small blocks of woodlands, dense and rich beech plantation, this 251 hectare freehold woodland, is a classic English beauty. Adjacent to the Crab Wood Nature Reserve this beautiful woodland area is also home to range of birds and animals like Roe deer, rabbits, stoats and buzzards. It is also packed with other rare flora and fauna as well as wild flowers like bluebells (which comes out in spring) and is a perfect place for getting to grips with nature.

Not many people know this about me but I am a book nerd with an unhealthy (I am told) passion for books. Nothing gives me more joy than holding a book with its yellowing pages, taking in its rustic aroma and mentally traveling to a “place” where I have never been before. I have maintained in this blog that I have too many alter-egos; to many voices in my head (in a good way) and it does not surprise me when the book lover wins the match and comes out strong. I can easily make more space in my humble abode; give away my stylish clothes only to make more room for my beloved books. Even in this age of Kindle, tablets, Amazon and big-chain bookshops nothing gives me more joy than discovering and getting lost inside an old bookshop.

From Samuel Johnson to Charles Dickens to Geoffrey Chaucer (who was buried at the Poets’ Corner; Westminster Abbey) London has been home to many writers. Hence, it is no surprise that London is also the city where past and present, real life and fiction collide with each other giving it an upbeat, eclectic and ever-changing kaleidoscope. Here, I will share some of my favourite book havens. It is a humble list but then I am in no hurry to discover London’s best literary spots because discovering a book shop is like reading a great piece of work and I would rather savour the whole experience than rushing and spoiling the journey.

Southbank Book Market:

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Okay, I am a bit partial to this London spot. If I have to choose one favourite place in London; I would promptly say Southbank. I don’t know why this place seems so special perhaps it is the incessant buzz of people, perhaps it the calming sight of River Thames or perhaps it is this Book Market itself; Southbank never fails to cheer me up. I accidently stumbled upon this market whilst waiting for a friend, some moons ago and even today I can easily spend hours browsing through this market.

Tucked under Waterloo Bridge, you’ll find the Southbank Centre Book Market: a place brimming with students, tourists, aspiring photographers, wanderers and book nerds like me. This Book Market is not exactly a book shop but a book space (when have I cared for definitions!!) The place has an eclectic collection of books from Maya Angelou’s poetry to Encyclopedias from dog-eared copies of Dickens and Enid Blyton to mass-market copies of contemporary writers from Jane Austen to Fifty Shades of Grey (yes, sadly!) It is a spot where you will find Sylvia Plath and Meera Syal happily living together with Calvin and Hobbes and Wodehouse. What’s more? You can buy books from as less as 99 pence—no deal can be sweeter, don’t you think?

Books for Cooks, Notting Hill:

Image via Books for Cooks

Image via Books for Cooks

Whilst I find every day cooking to be a monotonous task; some days when inspiration strikes I actually love meddling in the kitchen and trying out new dishes.  I can make a decent meal but I must confess I am not a seasoned cook, I ALWAYS need the help of cook books or videos. When exploring Notting Hill on a lazy afternoon with a friend; we stumbled upon this little cookery haven. You will find cook books from floor to ceiling.

Books for Cooks was founded in 1983 by Heidi Lascelles, a nurse who understood the importance a well-cooked meal but was stunned to find that not many bookshops stocked cook books. This place was thus born. There are over 8,000 titles from simple recipe books to foodie fiction from books on nutrition to food history, sociology and chemistry. The place is like never-ending food porn that can make even the most determined dieter salivate and hungry. The only piece of caution: try to go with a full-stomach browsing through their rich collection will definitely make your stomach grumble.

Brick Lane Bookshop:

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The Brick Lane market is one of the wildest and quirkiest markets in London that refuses to give up its originality and character.  The same is true for this beautiful, independent bookshop. Go through its narrow door and you will be instantly transported into a world that has an unmistakable old charm about it, a place full of warmth and unique character.

This bookshop is definitely a place where you need to forget time, the at times irritating ring of the phone and devour its every nook and cranny slowly as if in a meditation. This bookshop has an enviable collection of poetry, fiction, sci-fi, comic books and graphic novels—a never ending list really. You will find Kafka, Tolstoy, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to East London literature. The collection, hence, is varied, diverse and most importantly top-notch. They also have a buzzing book group and conduct writing workshops.

The Brick Lane Bookshop also strikes a good balance when it comes to pricing. Whilst books on the shelves are sold at full retail price; on the ground you will find boxes where you can get some true treasures for as less as £3! The place is filled with little seats and two comfy lounge chairs and a plethora of cushions—a perfect atmosphere to enjoy some solitude; snuggled up with your favourite read.