National Geographic : 1948 May
By Cotswold Lanes to Wold's End BY MELVILLE BELL GROSVENOR With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author a« TOW pleased I am that you are coming to England-and to the Cotswolds! Come and stay with us in our little cottage in this unspoiled village of Leafield, Oxfordshire." These hospitable words from my old friend Alan Villiers, of grain ship, square-rigger fame, greeted me on my arrival in England. "You will live in a real Cotswold cottage (a bit tough, but not too bad), and you will sample the English country life of today. We have a nice vegetable garden, a warm attic room, a couple of reasonably house-trained children, and a good welcome for you." Ask any British naval or colonial officer long in the Far East or Africa what he would like to do most when he retires. Likely he will say, "Give me a cottage in the Cotswolds, with a little garden, a dog, and a pipe." This tiny region straddling the Cotswold hills west of Oxford is a country all its own (map, page 633). To an Englishman it typi fies old England. Little cottages with flaked stone roofs (page 618) merge into the wolds, or hills, as if they had grown there. Each has its rose garden with ramblers climbing the walls and perhaps blue delphinium, petunias, phlox, and lilies nodding in the breeze. Even the quaint names of Cotswold rivers and towns caught my fancy. Think of living beside the Evenlode or the Windrush, purling streams lazing beneath great oaks and winding through lush meadows, or calling your home town Chipping Campden, Snowshill, Birdlip, or Lower Swell! In London I acquired a brand-new 10 hp. Prefect through cooperation of the Ford Motor Company. It was "pocket-size," only 12' feet long, yet ideally suited to the narrow lanes of the Cotswolds. All the way to Oxford we drove through beautiful English country gently rolling with pastures and sylvan glades. Set back from the road on hills, fine manor houses like castles peeped through the trees. Rounding a wooded bend, we slowed for a young couple in shorts, both riding bicycles. Father towed a tiny cycle trailer, Junior fast asleep inside. Mother carried baby's gear on her back. They were a most attractive family. Bicycles-swarms of them-were every where, for it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, and "trippers" were taking advantage of the weather. But, as always in England, a shower was just around the corner. When it came, like a flash, the cyclists donned rain clothes. They stuck heads through slits in ponchos and stretched the tentlike coverings across the handle bars. Then they kept on pedaling! We saw hundreds of such touring groups everywhere in the British Isles. Many rode tandems for two-and even three. The "bi cycle built for two" is no Gay Nineties' prop in England today. Bells Sing Welcome to Cotswolds Leaving Witney, noted for its Early blankets (Plate VIII), we took to a narrow stone walled lane. From a hill I spotted the tall thin steeple which Alan Villiers wrote was the guidepost to Leafield. But he had not men tioned the bell music that came floating across the meadows. As we approached, the din grew. In Lea field green, directly below the church, it was earsplitting. "Ding, dang, dong, bom, welcome to the Cotswolds," the bells sang over and over. Entranced, I stopped the car and listened. Townsfolk were gathered beneath the arched gate of the churchyard. All were enraptured by the tintinnabulation. When I asked a small boy where Mr. Vil liers lived, he replied, "The sailor fellow from Australia?* Just demobbed? He lives down there, third cottage on the right." Slowly I drove down the lane, its stone walls topped with red ramblers. There, in his garden, I saw my salty friend, Alan, with his two youngsters laughing a greeting. "Welcome aboard," he beamed in his nauti cal way. "And watch the overheads when you enter-Cotswold doors were designed for dwarfs!" Inside, Nancie, Alan's charming Australian wife, was waiting for me. For ten days she served as my hostess and, when Alan spelled her at the chores, acted as guide while I ex plored the Cotswolds. "You're just in time for some Australian meat pie and black currant pudding," she greeted us. "Put your things down; it's ready." * See, by Alan Villiers, in the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Cape Horn Grain-Ship Race," January, 1933; "North About," February, 1937; "Rounding the Horn in a Windjammer," February, 1931; and "Last of the Cape Homers," in this issue.