A View From Abroad
I have just completed a week guiding four genial Americans on foot around the Cotswolds. It is always interesting to look afresh at the region through the eyes of people who are seeing it for the first time. May, anyway, is one of the best times to be here. Everything is green or in bud or in flower – white mayflower hangs in sprays across the hills like salt water bursting over rocks, the woods are filled with bluebells and wild garlic. Villages filled with stone houses glow in a hot sun blazing from a flawless sky (this week, anyway). I never tire of it all but how do others see it?
They see beauty. Not exposed to the home grown prejudices of our own dear commentators and critics they regard it with the undiverted innocence of a child. Of course, being on foot, they are able to appreciate it in a way that is impossible for the visitor who drives aimlessly from one honeypot to another. Travelling slowly you cover less ground but you cover it in depth and in so doing gain an insight into a place. You see people at work, whether building a dry-stone wall, retiling a roof, pottering in a garden, or serving behind the bar of a pub in a village off the well-beaten track. In short, you see normal life: the intangible things that give a region its character. In the case of the Cotswolds the banal and the everyday enjoy a setting of exceptional beauty but that beauty is dependent on the daily habits of centuries, most of them connected with agriculture and the land. That is their history. What makes the region beautiful is a harmonious relationship between man and nature, and compromises constantly forced on both. From time to time, as you walk from village to village, you are pleasantly shocked at man's ingenuity and ability to insert something spectacular into a pastoral landscape – an Indian Mughal Palace at Sezincote, the wonderful gatehouse at Stanway House, the glory of Chipping Campden High Street.
All of these things give the Cotswolds a singular flavour. But we forget that unlike in some countries, our history and spirit of compromise means we can appreciate these things from the very heart of the countryside. We can walk across private land when there is a right of way – in America that is all but impossible. We might take the sights and sounds of pheasant and partridge and hare, or a passage through a cattle or sheep filled meadow, as our right. For others these small pleasures are unknown.
Our Cotswold walking & cycling tours take in some of the most beautiful spots in the Cotswolds! Click here for more information.