27.02.2010 - 27.03.2010 4 °C
I have to recommend looking for a venue for something like a wedding or large family gathering as a great way to see a bit of the countryside. In the past month or so we have been to Newmarket, Essex, Somerset and the Cotswolds looking at everything from large country houses and manors and priory's to interesting hotels and conference centres and seen some amazing late winter English countryside.
I felt so moved by the most recent trip I have to recommend you grab your car and go for a drive next time you happen to be in the UK or, more pointedly, anywhere near the Cotswolds. Go down the odd looking little lanes that seem only to lead to that distant farm house. Wind through the tiny streets of little villages that will convince you you're time travelling.
We first went to Bibury which is a captivating village of stone houses and fast running streams. We had a look at the proposed venue - The Swan Hotel (the most amazing bathrooms you've ever seen!) - and a short stroll in the very nearby area and I'm fairly certain if you like walking and taking photos this place will keep you occupied for a couple of days. I wouldn't go in expecting highlife and bright night lights but you should go looking for peace and the chance to see somewhere very enchanting.
From Bibury it was off down the aforementioned little lanes towards Moreton-on-Marsh ('on'? 'in' perhaps? either way). Diverting off one main carriageway to get to another somewhere north west via what looked like a glorified driveway was an excellent though initially worrying move from the Sat Nav. As a result I could never suggest following main routes in this area of the world. As we wound along teeny tiny lanes past horse boxes and stone walled fields we got to see farm houses and buildings that I am prepared to swear have been kept in a near perfect state since probably the 17th century. These amazing, large houses and barns and stables and you could almost convince yourself they had servants and carriages instead of cars and vacuum cleaners. Awesome. WE even went past one place that had the stone walled garden, stone sheds and what were probably pig stys and the white geese like a Beatrix Potter story!
After Moreton-in-Marsh we headed back the way we'd come and to Lower Slaughter - another small village of stone buildings and a very picturesque stream through the middle of the village. We were to view Washbourne Court Hotel. A modernised hotel based around a very old public house. Very Chic but not the sort of venue I was prepared to go for. Though I will say we stopped for afternoon tea (being THE thing to do in 2010) and they did the most amazing tea board - gorgeous fresh scones, the most delicious but tiny slice of carot cake, grogeous raspberry preserve (I don't think it qualified as jam or jelly as it was quite runny but it was amazing!). Definitely add a stop for afternoon tea there into any Lower Slaughter itinerary! We then wandered up the lane by the river, saw a lady feeding ducks and geese at the ford, visited the old mill craft shop (which also has a museum but we didn't have that much time) and sauntered about delighted by the small cottages with stacks of cut branches as firewood in the little covered entryways. Superb.
From there we were supposed to head home but we did a little detour to Upper Slaughter which is slightly grander by default of having slightly larger stone cottages and the manor house looks to be in private hands rather than bein gan event venue like Lower Slaughter Manor (though at £9000 a day exclusive use fee its still pretty swanky!)
Anywho - I highly recommend just going for these little jaunts around the English Countryside. We also recently passed through Finchingfield in Essex which is gorgeous - a stunning period village complete with pond filled with geese and ducks and swans and the tea house that has photos on its walls of its past life as a butchers at the turn of the last century! Spains Hall is 1 mile out of the village and just as stunning - a gorgeous venue at any time of year.
This sounds like an ad now. Either way I've been captivated by the countryside and the chance to see some of the stunning places you can hold an event in England and if you can drum up a reason (Like 'because I want to') then get out there and see this beautiful country!