The English Cotswolds – From Cornwall to Jane Austen Country and Old Orchard, Chapter 2
Friday, August 25…
Taking our train from Sandplace Station to Moreton-in-Marsh involved a few of those train changes that, with a heavy piece of luggage, demanded diplomatic negotiation in order not to break people’s toes, both embarking and getting off! The two stations where we were to change were Liskeard and Reading.
The transfer at Liskeard was hilarious as, once off the train, we dragged our bags up a ramp, and over a bridge to one side of the station, only to be flagged down from the opposite side by a woman who apparently could tell we were on the wrong side of the tracks for Reading. So it was back up the ramp and over the bridge, and we got on the train just before it rolled out of the station.
Once at Reading, it was back off the train, and a search for the nearest bathroom ensued – the trek seemed to take us halfway back to Liskeard (just kidding!) but it certainly was not around the nearest corner. I left David with the bags and galloped off. Then it was his turn, galloping down the platform somewhat like the Ride of the Valkyries… When all that was taken care of, we stopped at a bakery for a sausage roll and a spinach and feta pie – some of the best pastries we’d tasted!
Up came the train for Moreton-in-Marsh, and we had reserved seats…hurray! So we enjoyed a pleasant trip through the most beautiful sunny countryside, the fields laid out on either side like a rich green quilt.
At the end of it all, Steve, our driver, was waiting patiently…and even more patiently when I had to unzip my luggage on the platform and dive beneath everything to find the folder with all the passcode information for getting into Old Orchard! (This is Steve, later in the trip, sharing a drink…)
And we were there, and we didn’t have to move again for ten whole days. I had been looking forward to seeing Old Orchard, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be…and more!
Steve drove us first to Budgen’s, a small completely stocked grocery in Broadway, where we bought provisions for the next few days, not knowing what there was at the house. Then he drove us home.
From the moment we opened the wooden double gates to the sweeping gravel drive,
our first view of The Old Orchard country house took us into Jane Austen territory.
A small wrought iron gate led into a flagstoned enclosure, filled with giant pots of hydrangeas, to the back door. David, as Keeper of the Keys, opened the door, and we walked into the kitchen, which then led to the living room and staircase, and beyond that, the library, which looked out through square-paned windows to the back garden; and then to neighboring meadows where sheep were grazing.
The sunlight was golden, the air warm and buttery. A stream wandered along the edge of the grounds.
To one side of the house was the orchard and vegetable garden
…apples, plums, pears and a grape arbor, with the veggie garden offering green runner beans which were wonderful.
I vowed then and there to eat an apple a day…they were sweet and crisp, with a white flesh faintly veined with green.
The three upstairs bedrooms (and two bathrooms) all looked out to the Cotswolds countryside. Mine happened to be papered with roses, and had two casement windows, one with pink and gold climbing roses framing far green fields; the other looking down over the sweep of the gravelled drive and broad expanse of lawn dotted with trees.
Sofas and chairs throughout the house, covered with a pale heavy material lightly figured with blue or pink scattered flowers, were downfilled and comfortable. The kitchen held every conceivable appliance, including a hot water tap that gave us steaming hot water for tea and coffee…immediate satisfaction!
This was our first evening at Old Orchard. Even our tour guide, Steve, was stunned by its beauty, both of the grounds and the house.
Our mornings mostly followed the same easygoing pattern, since we didn’t want to be constantly meeting some deadline or other. We woke to pale sunny skies, cool and clear.
Once I woke early to sunrise over the fields filled with sheep; so beautiful to see the colors of grass and trees deepen and glow.
One very interesting sidebar here in the Cotswolds: when I turn out the light to sleep, I never draw the curtains…and it is dark as a cave. I literally cannot see my hand in front of my face, because there are no street lights, no car headlights. No city lights…and the silence is profound. Just the occasional baa-ing of a lonely sheep. I haven’t experienced this since I was a child…pretty wonderful!
I always opened the windows to check the views, watching as the roses, one by one, died away and were replaced by others equally beautiful. Padded downstairs to the kitchen, where David was usually already up and having his breakfast. Made tea from PG Tips.
Then I would walk out to the orchard, and pick apples from a tree by the garden wall in the far corner, well-laden with the reddening fruit.
Sometimes we picked plums. That was usually my breakfast, but once in a while, we had soft boiled eggs with the wonderful fresh bread from Budgen’s – called, for some unknown reason, Tin Loaf. Or David had muesli. And we had this wonderful watercress, tiny leaved and peppery….now why can’t I get this in Houston!!
Then, after cleaning up and making my bed, checking my emails and texts, I roamed the grounds taking photographs.
I didn’t “feed the ducks, reprove my wife, play Handel’s Largo on the fife…” as one poet would have it…yet the feeling of being out of time persisted…it was Jane Austen territory, and we were lucky – so lucky – to be there.
David was named Keeper of the Keys
Rosemary was named Keeper of the Fob – which opened and closed the front gates