Blenheim, Lords of the Manor & the Cotwolds

During the progress of the meeting, Millet and Nancy asked if I would like to accompany them for a few days afterward. They had planned a number of sights to see.  My plans were, well, vague at best.  I had no itinerary or reservations made and had planned to rent a car and just drive willy nilly about the countryside, finding places to stay as I went. After they insisted, I gave in and agreed to accompany them for part of their trip.

Leaving Cambridge, our first planned stop was Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.  If you wonder why Churchill was born in a palace, he was the grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough and his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  His mother, on the other hand, Jennie Jerome, was an American socialite, Brooklyn born, the daughter of a financier.  Blenheim Palace was constructed between 1705 and 1724, intended as a gift to the 1st Duke of Marlborough for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim.  The Palace was saved from ruins in the late 19th century by funds gained by the marriage of the 9th Duke to Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American railroad heiress.

Leaving Blenheim Palace, we headed up the A44, then the A436 to the town with the charming name of Stow-on-the-Wold. In the quaint way that the English do, they often add prepositional phrases of place to distinguish towns that would otherwise have the same name.  Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare, is probably best known by Americans.  At Stow we turned left and proceeded through the town of Lower Slaughter and then Upper Slaughter to arrive at our destination, the Lords of the Manor Hotel.

I must say that I was somewhat taken aback when we checked in and I found that the daily rate of the very upscale Lords of the Manor was about 3-4 times what I had intended to pay.  However, factoring in the fact that, thanks to Millet, I was not burdened with the expense of a rental car, I did not feel too put out. Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed the luxuriance of the hotel and did not regret it.  In fact, this probably set the tone for many trips I was to make in later years.

The next morning I was treated to something entirely new - coffee served in a French press.  I know that this was the absolutely best coffee I had been served up to that time and I can honestly say that I do not think I have been served better since.  There was also a couple having breakfast that I found fascinating.  She was attired in traditional jodhpurs (complete with blousey thighs) and knee high boots and it was obvious that she had been out for her morning ride, dahling.

After breakfast, we headed out for a driving tour of the area which I found out to be the Cotswolds.  (Wold is an English term for a hilly or rolling region.  Thus, Stow-on-the-Wold.)  The name Cotswold is believed to refer to a sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides, or to be derived from “Cod’s-wold”, Cod being a personal name, or to the Celtic mother goddess, Cuda, who was thought to dwell in this region in their mythology.  Regardless of the derivation of the Cots portion, the wold description is a’ propos, since the countryside is indeed made up of gently rolling hills.

Our immediate destination was the highest point in the Cotswold appropriately named Cleeve Cloud. While most of Cotswold hills crest at 600 to 700 feet, Cleeve Cloud, near Cheltenhan, reaches 1,083 feet.  The limestone found throughout the Cotswolds makes an excellent building stone.

Leaving Cleeve Cloud, we made our way to the small town of Broadway. Broadway is what I would call a tourist town.  Think Stratford upon Avon meets Gatlinburg.  The main Street is lined with shops - woolen goods, medieval paraphernalia, ice cream shoppes and such.  Shopping is not really my thing.  I usually don’t bring home anything from my trips but photos.  I wandered through the many shoppes checking out many of the strange items while Millet and Nancy stocked up on tourist wares.  Their shopping completed, we made our way back to the Lords of the Manor for dinner and a rest from the day.

The Gate to Blenheim Palace The elegant Lords of the Manor Looking upwards to the crest of Cleeve Cloud. The entrance to  Blenheim Palace The Long Library at Blenheim Palace The front lawn of Blenheim Palace overlooking the River Glyme My room in the Lords of  the Manor.  Seems like  I always get the tower  room. Black faced sheep in  the Cotswolds Looking back towards the Cotswolds from Cleeve  Cloud Lords of the Manor.  My  room is the second  dormer from the right. The small rill running  beside the front garden  of the Lords of the Manor The Post Office in  Broadway F Sudley Castle & Bath