Friday, May 19, 2017

Great Tew and the Falkland Arms

About 35 miles northwest of Oxford is a charming Cotswold town of Great Tew.  In fact, there are three Tew villages: Great Tew, Duns Tew, and Little Dew. All are charming but Great Tew is my favorite.  The village, the landscape and the local 500-year-old pub could not be more picturesque.  

Great Tew is centered around a grand country Estate surrounded by archtypal thatched roof cottages. Spring lambs playing in rolling grassland, horses in the fields, woods with a carpet of bluebells, thatch cottages, a charming pub -- Great Tew is all this and much more. It's one of my favorite places for a country walk and a pub lunch.

The history of Great Tew goes back to the Roman times.  Click here or a brief historical time-line.  SInce the 1960's, the Estate has been owned and managed by the Johnston Family. The Estate enterprises include the in-hand farming operation, an ironstone quarry, the village, the grand estate grounds, and surrounding woods. 

The landscape around Great Tew is stunning. Like so many landscapes in England, it looks absolutely perfectly with every tree perfectly in place.  And, like such landscapes, it was deliberately designed and constructed by a landscape architect.  In this case it was 19th century landscape gardener, John Loudon, who designed this area as part of an extensive park overlooking the Worton Valley. 

 Great Tew is often referred to as a ‘picture book’ Cotswold village because of its thatched cottages and gabled roofs, mullioned windows and colorful gardens and farmland. However, it isn't crowded with tourists like so many other Cotswold villages. In part, that is why I like it so much. 

Great Tew is also home to one of my all-time favorite pubs -- The Falkland Arms. It's a beautiful 16th Century building which has been a traditional, local pub in some form for over 500 years.   

The Pub has flagstone floors, oak beams, ceilings covered with a enormous collection of beer steins, and an inglenook fireplace that has a fire burning in winter.  In warmer weather there is seating in a beautiful garden where you can enjoy the stunning surroundings.

If you are looking for a quintessentially charming English village with one of the most delightful pubs around, you won't won't be disappointed with the village of Great Tew and the Falkland Arms. 

Here is a link to one of my favorite country walks that starts and ends in Great Tew: 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wittenham Clumps

I love discovering interesting new places not far from home. Today's discovery is just 11 miles south of Oxford. We hiked to the top the Wittenham Clumps -- Round Hill and its neighbour, Castle Hill.  These two hills sit side by side, each surrounded by fields and with a clump of trees on top. Castle Hill was once home to a Bronze Age hill fort and the mote that protected the hill fort is still quite evident. 

When you climb to the top of either hill, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the county side, stretching as far as the Chiltern hills to the east and the Cotswolds to the west. Today the views were a bit obscured by a winter haze that made the countryside look soft and impressionistic. 

Known as Wittenham Clumps, the trees on both summits are the oldest known planted hilltop beeches in England, dating back more than 300 years. Also called the Sinodun Hills, the Wittenham Clumps are part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Round Hill

The Wittenham Clumps were made famous by the British landscape artist Paul Nash. He discovered them in his late teenage years and he was immediately caught by their atmospheric shapes and mystical associations. The Clumps became a rich source of inspiration and he returned to paint them many times during his life. His first paintings of the Wittenham Clumps were made just over a hundred years ago, in 1912. 

Click here to learn more about Paul Nash and his painting of the Clumps

The view to the north

The mighty Thames at Dorchester

Castle Hill

The view to the west

This is what I call British "Snow".  It is a deep frost that melts only when the sun shines on it.  We have frosts like this in our garden, woods, and paddock nearly every night during the winter months.   

I look forward to coming back and exploring more on a clear day and when  the wildflowers are in bloom.

For more information about the Wittenham Clumps:

Wittenham Clumps Wikipedia

Click here for directions for a 4 miles walk that includes the Wittenham Clumps

Thursday, November 17, 2016

UK's Strangely Named Places

One of the many things I love about the UK are the creative and odd names of places.  Some of the best include: Dull, Lost, Nasty, Great Snoring, Matching Tye, Horrid Hill, Donkey Town, Loose Bottom, Blubberhouses, Upton Snodsbury, and Rest and be Thankful.  I especially like that last one.  It's a great name and good advice, especially during these unsettled times.  

I'd love to hear about your favorite oddly named place and where it is located. Let me know.