The Cotswolds are so still you almost check behind your back for fairies watching you. And then add the thatched roofs and you have no doubt they're there. I mean.
And after our day in the gardens, we had a Secret Cottage Tour booked. I really didn't know what to expect, but was most excited about peaking under those thick mats of thatched roofs. More on that soon.
Our day started in Moreton-in-Marsh, where our tour leader Charlotte picked us up in a Landrover
and then we were off through vales and forests; she squeezed the car through the smallest of wooden gates and into roads that seemed like small foot paths to show us hidden towns.
First stop on the tour was the secret cottage in the town of Chastleton; I think it was called secret because the way it sat on the land, it was hidden from the street and you had to walk through a few bushes to find it. Here she is:
The house is owned by the couple that runs the tours, and we made three stops inside the cottage for coffee (and croissants), lunch, and afternoon tea (PILES of clotted cream). They went out of their way to have a separate gluten-free section of food for me; such a treat!
They asked for no photos in the rest of the house, but my best description is: low ceilings, odd angles, and small rooms. We also learned about thatching: how pricey it is, how it is all hand-bound, made of river reeds, and how it lasts 50 years. Some of the houses had netting to keep the birds away. Chastleton's claim to fame is the Chastleton House and Garden
We also peaked into the tiny manor church, empty and quiet.
The damp green trails and lawns everywhere were just such an exhale.
And now, here's a look at some of the secret towns we wandered through. In total, I think we passed through 11-12 villages, but my favorite was Lower Slaughter, with its perfect town stream and mill and clean air. Such a children's storybook cover.
Upper Slaughter (surprisingly up the hill!), held high grasses and a church listing the vicars back through the 1200s. It was a perfect English summer day, just warm enough to ford an inch of ice water.
I learned a little Old English on the tour. The Cotswolds means "sheep shed on the hill", "Comb" means valley, "Stow" means a religious gathering, and "Ton" means state. "Chester" means it was originally a military camp. Just throwing those out there for your back pocket in case you ever visit Chesterstowton someday.
One of the most intriguing stops was to the town of Great Tew.
The history of the town included a recent (within the past 100 years) desertion of the entire town, and now, slowly, the houses are being reborn out of the tangle of branches. This one's time will come.
The town was idyllic, as the Cotswolds carefully restrict building outside their historic code.
This pub held a ceiling full of the local's mugs.
And always, after a few hours exploring the hidden spots, we'd be back at the cottage for another round of tea and scones. And then it was off to another small town: Eddington, Adlestrop, Chipping Norton, Great Rollright.
Someday I would love to come in the early spring to see the baby lambs dotting the wolds, or at Christmas, to huddle up by an old fireplace and listen to the quiet din. This puzzle piece of the UK's land is so delicious.
Up next: we left behind the greens for Aegean blues!