I was fortunate enough to have two staycations this summer. While I missed travelling (and seeing friends) overseas, I was able to visit parts of England I have not seen before. One such was Clevedon in Somerset. Staying nearby, in Portishead (itself a revelation), one evening I went to catch the sunset facing west from Clevedon Beach, looking over to Wales. The pier, opened in 1869 and described by Sir John Betjeman as ‘the most beautiful pier in England’ was the perfect vantage point.
As all good things must, the Cotswolds staycation has come to an end. But not before witnessing more beauty and experiencing a fine pub. A three-kilometre uphill walk, in the shade of elderly trees, through bucolic landscape, brought us to The Black Horse pub, Amberley, with panoramic views over Minchinhampton Common. The dogs were naturally served first (it’s very dog-friendly in this area), with a large bowl of water and biscuits. After a couple of hours in the pub garden, with good food and cold drinks, it was time to walk back to the cottage. The return had a detour through the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church. Such serenity there, perhaps shown best in the memorial to Albert George, who died on Empire Day, 1924. His two daughters, modelled as he last saw them, sit with their arms around each other looking down:
With love and in unfailing gratitude for his devotion –
The tribute of his wife and daughters – ‘Daddy’s Blessed Angels’
In the evening, dinner out, before walking back to the cottage to enjoy the night view with some chilled wine one last time. This staycation has been a joy. It may be over, but the memories gladden the heart.
It seems not all good things must come to an end. Some good things end to make way for others and some are eternal.
Yesterday, I left the staycation village to pay my respects. I travelled 35 miles to Dumbleton, a smaller village of around 600 inhabitants which predates the Domesday Book. More specifically, I went to visit St Peter’s churchyard and the graves of Joan and Patrick Leigh Fermor – buried side-by-side. Their companionship, post-mortem, I find comforting. The best part (for me) of the fabric of St Peter’s Church, was the north door, its design incorporating a startled-looking, disgorging Green Man. I just like it – it’s quirky. Inside, I was struck by the chapter from Exodus on the wall in the nave, and the brightly-painted 17th-century monument to Sir Charles Percy and his wife Dorothy Cocks by the altar.
As I left, I admired Joan and Patrick being taken back into this timeless landscape, absorbed by its constancy, and was gently reminded I’m only passing through.
Yes, I have been outside. Not only the house, but also the grounds. Really. Always with the dogs. Of course. On one of yesterday’s village walks, we visited the pub for a family Sunday lunch. I say ‘the’ pub, but there are several in the village. I like it here. I could easily stay longer than a week and not venture further than the village. I feel at home.
The Cotswolds staycation day one. This is the view from the bedroom window in the converted stable building which is ‘home’ for the next week. On the way here, I was reminded just how beautiful the Cotswolds are. Why I have stayed away so long is a mystery to me.