14 January 2009


Dan was feeling extremely poorly, so he decided to spend the day at home. I, on the other hand, was more than ready to go for a nice long walk. One of the circular walks in the Cotswolds guidebook provided by the cottage went close by, and was a bit over 8kms in length, so I set off by myself.


The walk was amazing – everything was covered in frost, and the heavy mist meant that visibility was poor.


However, the mist made everything look white and magical, and I realised that sometimes this makes the scenery even more beautiful – every new landmark appears out of nothing in front of you and vanishes behind you, lending an air of mystery and discovery even to the most common objects.



It also makes navigating by guidebook instructions amusing, as you can’t always see the “trees in the opposite corner” that you’re meant to head towards, and when you do, they loom up quite mencingly!



I was swaddled in numerous layers of thermal clothing and waterproofs, but after a quarter of an hour, I had to take off my jacket and hat and wipe away the sweat I’d worked up. About twenty minutes after that I touched my hair and realised that a frost was forming in it!


That was pretty much the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me, so I was glad that an old Welsh man and his dog appeared out of the mist and I could share my excitement. The dog even had frost on her ears!


About a third of the way through the walk I heard some strange swishing, crushing sounds, then a few gun shots – not too far away. Peering carefully over one of the drystone walls, I saw a few huddled figures standing at regular intervals alongside a field of dead corn waving large white, yellow and orange flags.


At first I didn’t quite understand what was going on, but I bumped into a couple of fellow walkers (from Leicester) who explained that it was a pheasant shoot: a number of beaters walked through the corn, herding the (somewhat farmed) pheasants towards the shooters, the pheasants would run until they had no room left and then take flight, and the people with flags would try to ensure the pheasants would fly in the direction of the guns. The pheasants weren’t all that stupid, however, and we saw quite a few take off in the wrong/right direction. I say the pheasants were ‘somewhat farmed’ because they were raised from chicks in a yard opposite the field, and then released into the cornfield and fed regularly until it was shooting season (one shoot a week for 14 weeks, I believe). I was in two minds about what I was watching – on the one hand, I am vegetarian and not particularly into the idea of shooting defenceless birds as a ‘sport’, but on the other hand, I doubted I would witness such an event again for a long time, if ever – and it does seem somehow quintessentially English. (More on this in the next day’s blog!)


I ended up walking with the Leicester couple the rest of the way to Burford, which was mostly pleasant, as they had spent the past week in the area and had some good suggestions for things to see, walks to do and places to go.


We were all impressed by the iciness and wintry appearance, especially as we made our way down the gentle slope of Dean Bottom, and the old medieval church of Widford appeared to our right.


We visited the church to see the wall paintings, dated from around 1350, and looked at (but didn’t explore) the ditches and mounds that are the remains of the medieval village.


We made it back to Burford after the last bit of easy strolling along the river.


Well, it was easy apart from the slippery ice, which almost did for one of my companions a number of times! We parted ways and I walked up and down the main street, ate my little roll, and then headed back towards the cottage.


I met up with M, A, E and L near the house and showed them the footpath to Burford.


It’s a very quick walk to the main street, down through a field and then straight over the bridge. We looked in a number of shops along the street – a cosy little second-hand-antique-collectibles shop was the highlight, and I bought a country gentleman scarf from the Oxford Shirt Co.


We had lunch at the bakery, which was bustling and friendly, and the meal was filling and warming.


As it gets dark at about 4:30, there wasn’t much chance for more exploring, so we had a lovely dinner and sat around in front of the fire watching DVDs, playing sudoku, and reading until bed time. LOVELY DAY!

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