A little of the English ‘wolds’
Last weekend, we drove up to Cheltenham in the Cotswolds as a little getaway from The Big Smoke (London). On the way, K arranged for a detour to the beautiful Westonbirt Arboretum situated in Gloucestershire, approximately three miles south west of Tetbury, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch in the sun (more on that later).
An arboretum is a botanical garden containing living collections of woody plants intended at least partly for scientific study. The Westonbirt Arboretum was founded around 1828 as the private tree collection of Captain Robert Holford at the Holford estate. Holford planted in open fields and laid out rides before he rebuilt the house. Planting at Westonbirt was continued by his son, George Holford. Eventually the estate passed to the Forestry Commission in 1956 and was opened to the public in 1961. The arboretum comprises some 18,000 trees and shrubs, over an area of approximately 600 acres. It has 17 miles (27 km) of marked paths which also provide access to a wide variety of rare plants. Some trees come with a description of its origins, characteristics and usage.
It was beautiful, in every sense of the word. I was in awe of the changing of colours of the autumn leaves, the sheer variety of different species of plants and humbled by how I felt my life come into balance again, standing and reflecting amongst them. I may be a city girl, but my heart belongs to Mother Nature.
After the arboretum, we drove through the beautiful English countryside for lunch at Gumstool Inn in Calcot Manor. I confess to feeling a little out of place here, my fellow diners sounded rather posh talking about the next country they were jetting off to, and there I was, taking photos of our lunch. Yes, I can be an embarrassment sometimes.
It was a wonderful weekend, culminating in one of the best dining experiences I’ve had this year at Le Champignon Sauvage. If you’ve just clicked on the link that takes you to the restaurant website and found the website lacking, I urge you not to be hasty in passing judgment. This restaurant, this little gem, is a labour of love by DavidEveritt-Matthias and his wife Helen who have been running the restaurant since 1987. I have no photos of our wonderful dinner we enjoyed (I restrained myself from taking photos this time!) but it was such a memorable meal from the inventive yet traditional food we had, to Helen with her incredibly warm front of house team. I’ll tell you what sealed the deal for me – Helen’s smile and warm welcome as we entered the dining room.
With that, I finally understand the beauty that is the Cotswolds.