Monday, 18 July 2011

Church Handborough - Hand and Shears

You will discover Church Handborough when travelling a minor road between the villages of Eynsham and Long Handborough. Small though it is, Church Handborough does boast a great pub and a superb church that dates back more than 900 years. The magnificant spire of St Peters and St Paul is so tall and majestic it can be seen for miles around so walkers never get lost when exploring this area as the spire acts as a beacon, guiding you back to The Hand and Shears which stands directly opposite the church. The pub is now in good hands. Sadly this hasn't always been the case. Over the past decade it has had several licences - each promising that they will run it as it has never been run before. Unfortunately this doesn't happen, they stay for but a short time then vanish leaving the locals waiting for the next one to take over.
Delicious fish and chips
Auntie Liz and I always choose the fish and chips when we visit this pub as this dish is the speciality of the house and something that they serve as a take away. Because I never cook fish and chips at home, this choice is a real treat. Besides, the chef knows just how to make a delicious crunchy batter. Pythius is welcome here and always offered a bowl of water.

We usually walk the nearby Pinsley Wood an ancient remnant of Wychwood Forrest when we visit this area. This week, having parked the car in the space in front of the church we took a different path. Turning right on leaving the car we walked just a short distance to Pigeon House Lane which leads to the village of Freeland. This is a narrow tarmacked lane, which divides after an equally short distance. There is a metal gate and Waysign on your left that points to a series of fields, the second of which is full of sheep so this is where you place the dog on the lead, cross the stile and walk on following the Waymarkers which direct you through several other fields until you reach the village of Freeland (approximately half a mile). Now you can either turn right and walk the main road until you reach a sign on the right to Church Handborough, or return the way you came. As this is the narrow tree lined road on which you began your walk, there is nothing very interesting to see. Far better to turn and go back the way you came as the views on the way back are superb.

On our return we spotted a poor little lamb on its back struggling to get to its feet. Auntie Liz stroked it gently, easing it up as she did so. It stood shaking for a moment, then with glee leapt onwards towards the main flock. It was a good moment.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Thank You Blackwells!

"Thank You Blackwells"

During my youth I would walk the miles of bookshelves in Blackwell's wonderful bookshop, Broad Street, Oxford, marvelling at the amount of books stocked there. As I grew older I began to dream of seeing a book I had written displayed there too. I often wondered how it would be if I encountered my own book unexpectedly. This happened yesterday when I called into the travel section for an Ordance Survey map of Gloucestershire to help me with my next book Paws For the Cotswolds, which Pythius and I are working on now.

As I approached the shelf I needed, I did a double take - there they were - not one but all three Paws books prominently displayed nearby. Apparently they are selling really well, especially as they have done a £1.00 off deal. Thank you Blackwells you have made a DREAM COME TRUE!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Slad, Gloucestershire - The Woolpack pub & two mile circular walk

Slad - The Woolpack - 2 mile circular walk.

Pythius and I joined Uncle John on a trip into Gloucestershire and the idyllic little grey stone village of Slad, which was immortalised by Laurie Lee. It nestles in the folds of the Slad Valley just north of Stroud and about eight miles from Gloucester.
The valley is one of those remarkably beautiful finger valleys that radiate from Stroud. The undulating landscape calls for considerable effort as you climb the hills, but be assured it is well worth it.
You approach Slad from the tree lined B4070 which passes through the village. The Woolpack inn stands right in the centre, close to both the old school building with its adjoining school house and the church.
The Woolpack Inn

The pub is a 16th century treasure which clings to the hillside offering views in abundance and an unspoiled atmosphere. This was Laurie Lees local. Portraits of the writer whose first book Cider With Rose described his childhood at Slad during the lead up to the First World War, cover the walls and his collection of vintage beer bottles decorate the back of the bar. The beer pumps offer a choice of Uley beers, including Old Spot, Pigs Ear and Uley bitter which has plenty of body and a glorious dry hoppy finish. If you are looking for a serious Cotswold ale, you can't do better than sip Uley's superb brews.
And for your dog an impressive stainless steel water bowl, filled to the brim sits outside the main door.

The walk can begin by checking out Rosebank Cottage where Laurie Lee lived as a child. It is just a short walk north of the pub, though unfortunately it is not fully visible from the road.
Walk a little further until you arrive at a right hand turning which will lead you to the pond that features large in Laurie Lee's book as this was the pond in which 'poor Miss Flynn's' naked body was found floating, her hair stretched out white in the water'.

Pythius at the pond

Having viewed the pond with its abundance of ducks, which is can be found by taking the first Waysign on the right, return to the road an having walked a short distance take the second turn which will lead you up a steep, stony track. Trickles of water that descend throughout this section of the walk mean it can be both muddy and slippery, but persist, the view at the top is worth it .
About an eighth of a mile up this path you fill find another path crossing this way, which is easier to manage though do watch out for gnarled tree roots that can cause you to trip.
This path finally bears left and leads to to the first yellow Way sign - it is slightly faded now and points across the first of many fields and meadows you can now explore.
As there are several footpaths in this area, you can, should you wish now walk where you will, remembering to keep the village of Slad on your right hand side.
Your return to the B4070 and the pub is just a matter of taking anyone of the footpaths on the right hand side when you are ready.

Walk on and you will probably notice that one of the meadows has a yellow sheen when viewed from afar. If you walk this meadow you will notice an abundance of wild flowers and grasses. More than 130 plant species can be found here as it is one of the Meadows below Swifts Hill, and the Elliot Nature Reserve. This is one of the country's finest grasslands and an important site for butterflies and wild orchids.ite

Pythius Says: Gosh what a walk - the views, the uphill climbs, the slopes which almost beat Helen and Uncle John - terrific - no dog could ask for more. There was even a big pond on which a multitude of wild ducks swam. When they saw me they all darted to the centre of the pond - but I didn't mind that I played with sticks instead.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Mikron Theatre Company

Despite the winter chill in the air Pythius and I did an extra walk today which took us to the beer garden of our favourite Eynsham pub - The Queen's Head, Queen Street. We were there to watch the Mikron Theatre Company's production of Beer Street, which proved a heady draught of people, pubs and brewing. In fact almost everything that interests dog and I.

When they learned that Pythius is a fully paid up member of CAMRA and also a member of the British Beer Writer's Guild, they asked him to join them before the curtain went up.

Pythius says: During the summer months this fascinating little theatre company travel the waterways to bring original and accessible theatre to villages such as Eynsham that are close to the Thames or the Oxford Canal. It's jolly good entertainment, I certainly enjoyed it, so do look up their website and check in case they are travelling in your area this summer.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Cotswold Wildlife Park

The Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford.

When our rusty old mini turns off the A361, two miles from Burford and through the gates of the Cotswold Wildlife Park , Pythius shows distinct signs of excitement. His ears go up, his tail wags and he starts to prepare to get out of the car even though it is still moving. Keeping him calm at this stage is difficult for despite having to be kept on a lead throughout his visit, it seems to rate as one of his favourite places.

It's not commonly known that dogs are allowed into this park, most of my friends are surprised to discover that they are welcome along with their masters. But Pythius knows he is welcome and responds accordingly.

First we visit the lions, safely contained within their superb enclosure where they have loads of room to roam and lie in somnolent poses against the glass that divides them from the visitors. As Pythius lives with two small domestic cats, he sees them as a larger version of his fluffy friends at home, and watches them roam their territory with fascination.

The little train that travels through the park is dog-friendly too and he jumps on eagerly as this gives him a chance to travel past the grazing camels and so many other animals that fascinate him.

When we get to the penguin enclosure he is mesmerized - as he is when we come to tother animals who watch him watching them. It is all such fun.

The grounds are beautifully laid out, it is rather like walking through a beautifully designed park.

I accept that this is not one of our normal walks, but Pythius loves it as much as we do and your walk round the wildlife park can be as long or as short as you want it to be,

Pythius says: We visit this park often, I love it, so many different animals to talk to. The giant tortoises for example, they put their noses to the fence and let me talk to them and the monkeys who swing from high branches laugh at me as I pass by. All stimulating stuff for an inquisitive Border collie like me.