(published May 17, 2009 in the Rapid City Journal)
We’ve rented a cottage in The Cotswolds, the gentlelest range of green hills upon which ever grazed a lamb. It’s hard to let spring showers hamper life in a daily fairy tale – our little abode is known as “Chesil Mews” (the name alone drips charm) and is in the centre (sic) of Chipping Campden, a medieval market town. Through an ancient door between Smith’s, the local butcher, and the Malvern Strollers Shop (no, not baby buggies – hikers!), our cottage snuggles just behind the high street of the village, nestled among lilacs and ivy but nowhere near reality.
Villages in The Cotswolds are built of the local limestone – a buttery, honey- colored stone that has “the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering upon them” (JB Priestly).
The majestic stone for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was quarried here and you can’t trip over a sheep without standing awestruck at some wisteria covered, thatch-roofed pile (as buildings are affectionately known in the UK) that makes you want to immediately sell all your worldly goods and settle yourself into one of these cozy, golden cottages. If you don’t see us in the Black Hills this fall, you’ll know where to find us – keeping the fireplace stoked and the teakettle burbling.
Trying to blend into a tiny English village is challenging (those darn flat vowels give us away every time we open our mouths); and while the community is very hospitable, outsiders are kept at a bit of a distance. Nonetheless, we felt very much at home our first evening here as we settled into the Lygon Arms pub for a ‘pint and a pie’ while a large and rather boisterous group of cowboys and Indians (in full regalia) piled in after us. We, amused, mentioned that we were from South Dakota and that we really DO have cowboys and native Americans there. Our invitation to the costumed birthday party to visit and experience ‘the real thing’ was met with enthusiasm (and many English-accented cheers). Cheers!
Note: The finest collection of cottages, follies and manor homes can be rented through Rural Retreats. www.ruralretreats.co.uk. Just paging through their website is the stuff of dreams.