The Borderlands


The PloughThe Cotswolds is a well-known name and eveyone knows that it refers to an area in the west of England famous for its pretty villages. What is more difficult is to define exactly where the area begins and ends. It is not as if it has a political or historical definition, like a county, or a precise geographical one like the Black Mountains. It is a general term that relates to a set of hills , or 'wolds' that lie predominantly in a triangular area encompassed by three motorways, the M4, the M5 and the M40. The real definition, however, comes down to something intangible, amounting to little more than an intuition of what is Cotswold and what is not. But, after visiting the area just east of Chipping Campden today, I can see that that 'intuition'is grounded in something more concrete and that is geology. Walking across the fields towards Stretton-on-Fosse (Fosse referring to the Fosse Way, the old Roman road), I realised that in the earth at my feet there was no longer the golden limestone that fills the earth in the Cotswolds but what looked like flint, or something like it. Looking up, it was to find that marking field boundaries were not Cotswold stone walls, but hedges. In Stretton itself, the limestone reappeared as a building material but there was also a lot of brick and thatch and plasterwork and so I realised that here, where Gloucestershire meets Warwickshire, I was, so to speak, at the Cotswold border. The pub in Stretton-on-Fosse is the Plough Inn, which does not from the outside look remotely Cotswold. Inside, it has the warmth of character of the best English pubs, with a great fire and an atmosphere of gentle bonhomie. And excellent whitebait and, being a free house, a wide selection of beers. Over the fire was something I had never seen in an action and that was a working spit, with a joint of pork roasting above the flames, spitting and crackling and sending out an irresistable aroma. Heaven.

NewsVictoria Fielden