Day 6: Sunday, September 10, 2006
A Drive Back in Time Through the
We slept in this
morning and didn't hit the road until about 11:00 am. We
headed west to the Travelodge which was on the M4 motorway at
Chippenham in the western part of England (see photo below left).
This was to be our base for the next two nights as we explored
southwestern England and Wales. The first thing we did was
stop and buy a large book of maps. England has thousands of
roads ranging from 6 lane motorways to one lane back roads.
There was no direct route from Cambridge to Chippenham so the map
was a godsend. As Kathryn often reminded me, driving on
English roads is completely different than driving in Canada.
What looks like it should be an hour on the map, was often 2 or 3
hours of driving. Although it took us a long time to get
there, we got to see more of the country by staying off the
motorways. We had decided that we could save a lot of money
(more than $1000 overall) during our vacation by renting manual
transmission vehicles rather than automatics. Unfortunately
this meant Ken had to do all the driving. So with Kathryn
safely ensconced with her map in the left-hand navigator's seat we
set out. By the end of the day, I had gotten used to the
left-handed roundabouts and found them to be a very efficient way of
keeping traffic flowing. (Okay, so I drove over top of one in
a small village but I didn't realize in was a roundabout, so it
doesn't count. It was just a large circle of gradually raised
pavement that you were supposed to go around and I went straight
through). I did have one problem which Kathryn had warned me
about. If you drive on the left-hand side of the road and
don't stay focused, you have a tendency to drift to the left because
your eyes are used to being on the left side of any lane you are
driving in. Fortunately, most of the major roads had those
small reflectors (affectionately called Kennybumps by us) that rattle
and let you know that you going out of lane. However, the
smaller roads did not always have them which lead to much screaming
of "THE CURB! THE CURB!" coming from the navigators position.
After several near heart failures by the driver, we agreed that a
simple "Watch the curb" was sufficient if I was just drifting and
that we would leave the shouting for when I was about to hit
something. I did manage to crunch the odd curb in the first
few days but, by the end of our time in Britain, I was no longer
getting any warnings from the navigator. Also, nobody honked
at me today.
As we drove across central England, I was amazed
at how wide-open it was. I had pictured England as being a
crowded island but the part we drove through was hundreds of acres
of green farm and pasture land divided into smaller plots with
hedgerows and stone fences.
Kathryn had read about the natural beauty of the
Cotswolds in our travel book and wanted to go there.
Popular with both the English
themselves and visitors from all over the world, the Cotswolds are
well-known for gentle hillsides (‘wolds’), sleepy villages and for
being so ‘typically English’. During the 13-15th centuries,
the medieval period, the native Cotswold sheep were famous
throughout Europe for their heavy fleeces and high quality of wool.
Cotswold wool commanded a high price and the wealth generated by the
wool trade enabled wealthy traders to leave their mark by building
fine houses and wonderful churches, known as “wool churches” .
The area is characterized by attractive small towns and villages
built of the underlying honey-brown Cotswold stone. You can
also see thatched cottages which are protected by law. We
drove through many quaint towns and stopped for lunch and a pint in
Chipping Norton. Even though I only had one pint, I
decided that driving on the left side of the road was difficult
enough when completely sober and did not drink in England again if I
was going to be driving that day.
recommended several small villages that are basically unchanged
since medieval times. We decided to stop in the village of
Bibury, where we took lots of photos (see slideshow at
the bottom of the page). The Victorian poet William Morris
called it England's most beautiful village. Unmatched for
its scenic beauty and purity, Bibury is unspoiled by modern
intrusions. On the banks of the tiny Coln River, Bibury is
noted for Arlington Row, a group of 17th century gabled
cottages protected by the National Trust.
walked back to our car through the trees (at right in the photo
above), we saw the most amazing site. Nestled in the trees
along the river were several cows with broad white belts around
their stomachs. Because it was dark in the trees and they
were half-hidden, I foolishly didn't take any photos and we
never saw any more on our trip (Error of Omission). I got
the photo at left off the Internet and have since found out that
they are Belted Galloway cattle.
leaving Bibury we drove on to see the Roman ruins at
Cirenchester. Cirenchster is the unofficial capital of
the Cotswolds. Dating from the 17th and 18th centuries,
many well-preserved old stone houses are still intact, some
having bow-fronted shops of the type familiar to Charles
Dickens. We explored the Market Place, the
Church of St. John the Baptist and the abbey grounds.
Kenny on the
We had planned to go to Oxford today but the
afternoon was fading away and we were tired, so we drove on to our
hotel at Chippenham.
This gave us our
first experience of a Moto, one of the huge motorway
rest-stops that punctuate the highways. Unlike Canadian rest
stops, which usually have restrooms and picnic tables, a “Moto”
usually has a shop full of useful items for road travelers, like
snacks, drinks, books, magazines, car accessories and souvenirs. It
also has a burger-type restaurant (usually Burger King), and a couple of fast-food outlets , small grocery store (Marks and Spencer)
lovely clean restrooms (sometimes even with showers), ATMs, game
arcade, petrol station and an on-site hotel (our Travelodge).
There were hundreds of trucks, cars and vans in the parking lot of
this rest stop out in the middle of nowhere and the shops were full
What they didn't have was ice for Ken's knees.
Click here for a slide show of Day