For some reason I had never visited Oxford, so decided to pop down for a quick view and combine it with the Cotswolds area.
The Cotswolds is an area in central England, running from just south of Stratford on Avon to around Bath. It is notable for its gently rolling hills and pretty villages – with many buildings made out of the local limestone, which mellows to a soft honey tone, and gives an overall Chocolate Box* look.
Being easily accessible from London, Birmingham and Bristol, the area is very touristy, but also has a lot of semi-residential commuters from the big cities. If there is one word that describes this area and separates it from the bigger cities around; its not ‘countryside’, ‘rural’, or ‘peaceful’ – its ‘money’… the place reeks of money. Its like Knightsbridge or Kensington, but with fields.
Much of the money comes in with visitors, and most of the Cotswold towns are built to accommodate them – from car parks on the edge of town, to B&Bs, cafes and olde world pubs; it’s Disneyland for grown ups.
There is a pervading aroma in many of these towns and it took me a while to identify it: candle shops – scented candles in particular. Along with faux Farm Shops and the staple of this kind of place: the kitchen accessory shop, candles shops pervade the high streets. The kitchen accessory shops boom as visitors like to buy in to the lifestyle (for that is what they are really selling); so instead of a Disney snowglobe, you can satisfy your retail urges with a plastic cruet tray (£4.95), a wooden cruet tray (£9.95) or some sort of colander spoon for £12; convincing yourself of its usefulness will allow you to puts aside the fact that its 10 times what you would pay on your own high street.
Don’t get me wrong, the above is not a criticism, its all very well done and the area is beautifully preserved – its just not very real.
Chocolate Box* – A pretty scene used to decorate a presentation box of Chocolates, also known as Biscuit Tin for the same reason. Often Cotswold or Devon villages.
Despite being almost 1000 years old (since building began), Gloucester Cathedral is quite a contemporary place and features some wonderful modern additions, such as the blue stained glass windows in a small chapel behind the altar.
At the moment they are hosting an exhibition called Crucible 2 featuring work by many contemporary artists – including Anthony Gormley. Crucible 2 runs until the end of October – get there if you can.