Bed and Breakfast & Holiday Cottage

Bed and Breakfast & Holiday Cottage

Sunday, 25 April 2010

I used to grit my teeth when my sister-in-law regularly declared the Cotswolds "Designer Countryside". I loved where we lived near Chipping Norton and our country life, our farming neighbours and friends and the lovely community feeling that centred around our 'local' The Tite Inn at Chadlington. Having lived in the area for most of my adult life I didn't really know what she was talking about - it was just countryside.

Maybe it was the day we first spotted our neighbour hoovering his drive that we realised things were changing. The old folk started moving out and younger 'London Folk' started moving in. Many of the new folk became - and still are - great friends, but some started complaining about the mud on the road from the tractors, the smell of pigs, the noises - of farm machinery and even cockerels for goodness sake!

So we came out to 'The other side of Worcestershire'. Really rural - not wild like the depths of Wales and Scotland - but just good old fashioned rural - lots of tractors, lots of smells, lots of mud. We love it. In the summer there is no place better to be. It is exactly as most people imagine 'The English Countryside' to be.

And now I understand what my sister in law was saying. The Cotswolds are beautiful and are made even more beautiful by the wealth brought by its more recent inhabitants. The perfect dry stone walling, layered hedges and post and rail fencing couldn't be achieved without them.

When we first moved here I admit I did smile at the variety of materials that could be classed as fencing. Now I have joined in with the rest of the ordinary country folk and will happily tie a few pallets together with some bailer twine and name it a perfectly good fence. I think it may be a small step towards my becoming a local - rather than merely 'Cotswold Overflow'.

Broadway is a lovely old town on the cotswold side of Worcestershire and it is where I often meet my sister as it's half way between me in Berrington and her family in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. We normally meet in the car park there so we can pile in her children's many bags of luggage when they are coming to stay with me. The last time we met I spluttered into the car park in our ancient Peugeot and noticed that this time all the cars parked there were new: Porsches, BMWs, Range Rovers and the like, all beautifully clean and shiny (not a single scrap of straw sticking out of the boots!) It seemed like a different world - almost unreal - and I marvelled how one county can be so different from one side to the other.

I love the Cotswolds, in fact I have always wanted to spend Christmas at one of the beautiful hotels there. Now that I don't actually live there it doesn't seem such a silly idea either. But for day to day simple country living I think I am in just the right place for me - on the wild side of Worcestershire.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The past has been catching up with us these last few weeks or at least catching up with Brook Farm. We've often said one day we'll get round to finding out about the history of the place, but it looks like if we just sit still the story will unfold before us.

It started with the children of some previous owners contacting us for a trip down memory lane. They were thrilled it's now a Bed & Breakfast and were able to come and stay in their old bedrooms. Their parents had retired here in the 70s and they had spent many a weekend and holiday at Brook Farm lending a hand with planting trees and DIY repairs to the house.

There's a long tradition of making do and mending here - the evidence is everywhere. Strange random bits of wood or iron pushed in to support a window or a door; no door, window or fireplace the same in the whole house. It's lovely to think of previous occupants doing exactly what we do - wait for a salvage bargain, some reclaimed bits and pieces or even a freebie from a friend.

Then I had a booking from a lady who was born here in 1933. She's coming all the way from Australia to see her old home! (OK she might be doing other stuff too.) She remembers it as a mixed farm and says she used to help with the potato harvest and the milking. She recalls her mother spent hours in the dairy making butter. The dairy is our utility room and the coldest room in the house - not somewhere you'd want to spend hours even now.

And then last week I was contacted by a family detective looking at who lived here in 1891, but the name she gave didn't ring a bell so I fished out a letter from a lovely gentleman from the local historical society, in which he tells me an entirely different family lived here then. So a bit of a puzzle to work out there, possibly something to do with the fact that it may originally have been three farmworkers cottages, not just the one house.

According to the history society in the 1891 census James Lowe (38) and his wife Harriet (35) lived here with their children Tom (6) and Harriet (2). They had a farm servant Joseph Green (18) and a domestic servant Susan Acton (16). Servants at Brook Farm! If only!

Then again, would I swap my central heating, running hot water and roaring woodburning stoves for some servants? It would make my life a lot easier but I do like my house to be a nice cosy place to stay and guests always love the woodburners. Besides doing all the work myself is a good way of keeping fit and warm! Speaking of which... time I was off.