If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Which is precisely what I managed to do last month for a few days. With Dave on the mend following his op, my friend Avis and I slipped away by coach, visiting the beautiful county of Warwickshire, England for a “Bluebell Walk”. The bluebells were out early this year, and are stunning. Knowing this and when combined with a touch of literary culture, Avis and I we were in for a treat.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

First to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (William Shakespeare’s wife). I visited here back in the 60s, as an 11-year-old on a school trip, and well remembered the thatched building and gardens, although 50 years on one now enters through a different building to reach the cottage, and the gardens have expanded. Following a brief history of the house we were allowed to wander at leisure with staff on hand to explain and inform. I’m certainly glad I didn’t live there – no mains electricity, no water on tap and no central heating; one could well imagine how difficult life was back in the 1500s. Outside, I was disappointed to see that the bluebells amongst all the colourful tulips in the beautiful front garden were the Spanish non-native type. They certainly wouldn’t have been found here in Shakespeare’s time. I hope the gardeners dig them all out soon.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Then on  to Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, it’s some 50 years since  first exploring this town. The main street on which William Shakespeare’s house  is located is now pedestrianised, thankfully, but a large visitor centre now sits incongruously alongside it. We decided against doing the house tour; instead we took a pleasant walk through Stratford and enjoyed a spot of lunch.

Walton Hall Hotel

A few miles outside of Stratford we arrived at our hotel, set in 65 acres of park and farmland. What a fabulous place! Although the main part of the hotel is modern, it’s built in the grounds of a large 16th century mansion (history & info link) recently owned by the late Danny La Rue.  The rooms were lovely, the beds so enormous they could easily sleep 4 persons! And joy of joys, I had a balcony too so as the dawn chorus started, I opened the French doors and enjoyed my early morning coffee outside as I listened. Bliss! The food was excellent, the staff faultless. In fact, it’s one the few hotels I’ve stayed in where I wish I could have stopped for longer, only the bluebell woods called and thus, after a delicious breakfast we were on the road again, heading for Coughton Court (pronounced Coat-un). I’d never heard of this National Trust Tudor treasure until this trip. Can’t understand why.

Once there, we headed straight for the woods and the bluebells, after all this was the main reason for our trip. There were swathes of them. And the scent glorious. If you’ve never smelt an English bluebell wood you are missing a treat. However, there is only so much one can say about bluebells, but I did take lots of photos, mainly for painting reference.

Of course, Thugs Bunny and Mr Tumble had to get in on the act!

We spent several hours wandering around enjoying the spectacle before heading back to explore the house itself. Coughton Court is still occupied by the sixth generation of the Throckmorton family, infamously involved in the plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I in 1583 and put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Inside, we could wander freely, allowed to touch things, sit on the furniture, even try on some of the Tudor clothes on display. Helpful guides were on hand to explain items and various histories of the house and family. Coughton also boasts magnificent gardens, better than Hampton Court apparently, but I have to admit we were too exhausted to venture further so settled on coffee and cake instead. This is definitely a place to go back to. To read more about the house and the Throckmortons I’ve included this link .

Coughton Court

Time eventually caught up with us to make our way back to the coach and home. A lovely, relaxing two days and a much needed break. Now patiently waiting for the next one.

PS: Meanwhile, I feel a painting coming on…


12 responses to “If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

  1. Your trip sounds fabulous, Kit! And you certainly packed a lot in. Warwickshire is such a beautiful county. Great photos and Coughton Court sounds like a must visit, as does that hotel. Looking forward to seeing you immortalize the bluebells in the photo with one of your amazing paintings. x Best wishes to Dave. So pleased he is on the mend.

  2. We just planned out an upcoming road trip and it seems mild in light of your adventure to Warwickshire. I love old houses and ours over here are young compared to yours. Happy painting, the pictures you took are motivating. Thank you bunches for sharing.

    • It was a lovely relaxing break, especially as someone else was doing the driving so we could admire the gorgeous spring countryside here. It makes such a good change to be able to physically handle items etc in a historic house, usually you are rushed through with a guide and miss so much and mustn’t touch. Am sure your road trip will be fun and look forward to hearing about it. 🙂

  3. Oh, what a lovely holiday! Wow. It all looks so spectacular! And I can hardly wait to see the paintings that come from this much inspiration. 🙂

    • Yes, shame holiday was only two days and it didn’t rain – small miracle for the UK! Lots of ideas re paintings, just plucking up courage to dive in and start. 🙂

  4. What a marvellous break, I did my MA at Warwick University so love that area but the bluebells stole the show for me! So pleased Dave is on the mend and you managed a recharge break for you albeit hectic. X

    • Thanks, Jane. I never realised what a beautiful county Warwickshire is. Obviously didn’t appreciate it when I was there many, many moons ago, but certainly a place to revisit. As to the bluebells and the paintings am currently busy sketching and drawing ideas before I dive in. Watch this space! 🙂

  5. Please dive in a start the paintings!

  6. How lovely it all sounds. The pictures are great and make me want to pack my bags and head over. It sounds like you had a delightful time. I love history and these old homes. I’m pleasantly surprised they allowed you to sit on the furniture. That’s wonderful since most places are not so friendly that way. Glad you had fun! Jillian

    • We certainly enjoyed ourselves, Jillian, and glad we went on this taster break. Have to admit I’ve been on many house and museum tours but Coughton Court was an eye opener on how to present the past. There’s nothing like touchy-feely to help the mind imagine how people lived. And as authors, Avis and I were blown away with the history and atmosphere in this beautiful old house. What stories those walls, furniture and fabrics must hold. 🙂

      • I bet they do. I always imagine what people got up to in those kinds of places. Part of the allure for us, I guess. 🙂 I agree about the touchy-feely, too.

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