From the middle of April woodlands around the Cotswolds will burst into life with a fabulous blue haze of bluebells. The bluebell season is starting already with a faint mist of blue appearing under trees in many of our woodlands. I took this photo last weekend.
There are many locations within reach of Daisy Chain, but two of the best are Badbury Clump near Highworth and West Wood near Marlborough.
There was once an Iron Age Hill Fort at the top of Badbury Woods which was probably built and occupied from around 600BC. It would mainly have been used for storage and would have housed round huts and grain storage pounds. Much of the evidence of a fort has been lost through years of ploughing. In Spring and early Summer, Badbury Clump is very popular as its beech woods team up with bluebells for a spectacular display. A 6.5 mile circular walk starting at Badbury Hill, including the Great Barn at Great Coxwell can be found on the Faringdon website. Have a taste of the Bluebells at Badbury hill in this video.
West Woods in near Marlborough is a large plantation of beech trees on a site of an ancient woodland. West Woods has fantastic displays of bluebells in late spring and a good network of trails allow easy access. It is very popular with walkers and photographers alike.
The bluebell season is a short but spectacular one and there are so many beautiful woodlands to explore. Other woodlands to see bluebells in the Cotswolds include:
Aston-under-Hill Woods – which has been described as stunning with bluebells galore. Lineover Wood, Dowdeswell Lynches Wood (near Chipping Campden) Littleworth Wood, Snowshill Foxholes Nature Reserve, Bruern.
The annual Lake and Land Easter Egg Hunt at South Cerney Outdoor in Cotswold Water Park, just 5 minutes drive from Daisy Chain, takes place on Friday 25th March from 12pm – 4pm. This very popular Easter Egg hunt involves finding golden eggs hidden in tunnels and then powerboating out to Easter Island to discover more hiding in nests. The hunt is suitable for ages 3+ and tickets need to be booked in advance. Everyone loved it last year – it’s definitely one not to miss!
Batsford Arboretum have a slightly different take on the traditional Easter Egg Hunt. Instead of hunting for eggs you hunt for chickens. They have been hidden all around the arboretum. You simply mark their locations on a map to win a prize. The Chicken Hunt costs £2.50 (entrance into the Arboretum is on top of this). The Big Batsford Chicken Hunt will be running from Friday 25th March to Sunday 10th April, 10am – 5pm.
New for this year, Cotswold Farm Park have introduced the Great Chicken Challenge. Entrants will complete an obstacle course including making a nest, transporting giant eggs and bouncing to the finish line. The Great Chicken Challenge will take place from Saturday 19th March – Sunday 10th April. Cotswold Farm Park will also be running an Easter Egg hunt from Friday 25th March – Monday 28th March. Eggs will be hidden around the Farm Park, with 5 prizes to be won each day. All these activities are included in the normal admission price.
From Friday 25th March to Monday 28th April follow a trail around the Roman Villa and win a Cadbury egg prize. Trails cost £2. Throughout the Easter Holidays from 28th March – 12th April there will be a range of family activities to join in including craft activities.
Hidcote Manor is another National Trust property that will be running an Easter Egg Egg-stravaganza. There will be clues for hunt for, puzzles to solve and a chocolate reward. The trail costs £2 and normal admission applies. It runs from Friday 35th MArch – Monday 28th March.
On Easter Day, Sunday 27th March from 10am Sudely Castle will have an exciting Easter themed Tea Party. Complete a fun trail int he gardens to collect a chocolate Easter treat from the Mad Hatter. There is also a ‘Mad Hatter’s Easter Bonnet Competition’.
The Thames and Severn Canal passes along the edge of Cotswold Water Park. It was completed in 1798 and was planned as part of a canal route from Bristol to London. At its eastern end it connects to the River Thames at Inglesham Lock near Lechlade, while at its western end it connects to the Stroudwater Navigation at Wallbridge. Since 1972 the Cotswold Canals Trust has been working to restore the canal and the Stroudwater Navigation so that there can again be a navigable link between the River Thames and the River Severn.
A walk along the section of Canal that passes along the edge of Cotswold Water Park will bring you past Cerney Wick Roundhouse. It is one of five distinctive buildings that were built for use by lock-keepers and lengthmen. The roundhouses have 3 floors, the lower floor would have been a store, while the first floor provided a living area and the second floor a circular bedroom. The roundhouse at Cerney Wick is now privately owned.
The hare has a special place in the history of Cirencester. In 1971, a mosaic bearing a hare was found close to the River Churn and is now the symbol of the Corinium Museum where the mosaic is now housed. Last year, the summer Cirencester was invaded by 50 giant hares which had been decorated by artists and celebrities. The Hare Festival has just returned to Cirencester with 30 small hares hidden around Cirencester. Visitors can pick up a ‘Hare Passport’ from the Tourist Information Centre at Corinium Museum and then each time they spot a hare they can note down it’s name and have their passport stamped. Each of the hares is decoraed in a unique style.
The one pictured, ‘Hare’s Wally’ can be round in ‘Gift’ in Cirencester. Photo via their facebook page.
One of England’s prettiest small medieval towns is Burford which is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’ It is a busy community of about 1000 people. The town merchants were granted a charter to hold their own markets over 900 years ago and today Burford is a wonderful town to wander around dipping in and out of the exclusive shops and galleries.
Home to Huffkins, a Cotswolds bakery and tea room and The Cotswold Cheese Company, a visit to Burford wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local produce.
The Burford website lists some great insiders tips for how to get the most out of your trip to Burford including: – always make sure you explore down the little alleyways and side streets – there are shops and eateries everywhere – walk out of Burford along Witney Street to get to the River Windrush for a really pretty walk – always make sure you walk right through to the back of the pubs in the summer as most of them have really pretty gardens and courtyards away from the hustle and bustle.
The watercolour painting accompanying this post is by the artist Liam O’Farrell. To see more of his wonderful work and in particular more of his watercolour paintings of the Cotswolds visit http://www.liamofarrell.com/
Perhaps one of the strangest sports to take place in England is the Woolsack Race, with it’s origins dating back to the 17th Century. Competitors are tasked with running up a ridiculously steep hill (1 in 4) carrying a large sack of wool on their back. This spectacle takes place next Monday, 30th May.
In the middle ages Tetbury thrived as a wool town and by the 16th Century it was home to one of the country’s best known wool and yarn markets. The races are thought to have originated in the 17th Century when young drovers chose to show off their strength by running up the hill with a woolsack.
The course is 240 yards with the woolsacks weighing in at 60lbs for men and 35lbs for ladies. A variety of races take place for teams and individuals.
The whole of Tetbury joins in with the event with a street fair, entertainers, local stalls and amusement rides.
We had the hard job of test driving the new barbecue at Daisy Chain over the weekend – it was tough, but somebody had to do it! It did a great job, happily feeding 11 hungry mouths, and producing the best chicken and vegetable kebabs ever! While waiting for the food to cook you can sit on the lakeside, or go for a quick paddle in the Canadian Canoe…you just need to remember to come back before the food all disappears! We’ve also fitted an additional fridge, so there’s plenty of space for your meat, salad…and a few drinks too…
Two weeks ago when we visited Clattinger Farm, a fabulous lowland meadow of international importance for its hay meadow wildflowers, it was filled with cowslips and snakeshead fritillaries. We looked for orchids and there were just a small handful – in the sort of numbers that you would expect to find in usual places where orchids grow. We returned to the field this weekend and it is now overflowing with orchids in spectacular numbers – such a rare and beautiful sight. They will continue to flower during May and into June.
Clattinger Farm is the next farm to the Lower Mill Estate and well worth a visit during your Cotswold Family Holiday.