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Christmas in the Cotswold

25th December 2015

I don’t know if I am alone in feeling this but I have an invisible thread, in fact a strong rubber band that yanks me back at Christmas, to the place where I was born, to the farm where my family still live and have done for nearly a hundred years.

I can be tempted all over the globe at any other time of the year, but Christmas is another matter – so entrenched in my DNA is the traditional English Christmas. I am like a child, I love Christmas, everything about it and I go completely overboard every year. 

I think its childhood memories of galloping my pony through the woods, icicles, decorating the Christmas tree which always caused a family row, carol singing to patient neighbours,  giggling in church , covered up by loud out of tune singing , being glared at my mother, more giggles. Gripping my father’s corduroy trousers as my grandfather lumbered in dressed up as Father Christmas with a sack of presents.

The best of all as a child, was when my mother called our school with the following statement “sadly the children can’t come to school, we are snowed in, “Heaven”, no dragon headmistress could argue with that. We would pray to the ‘god of snow’ to reign all year and out we would rush to toboggan and throw snowballs at each other. I loved to skate across the lake at Adlestrop with the crackle of splintering ice behind our blades – we had the thrill of near death.

Another excitement would be power cuts which never lasted long enough, but to live by candlelight and be warmed by roaring fires made it easy to imagine how life had been in bygone days.

Cotswold villages have remained untouched for centuries. My favourite ones have a traditional structure, usually dominated by a large church, (churchgoing was much stronger then) a rectory, a village shop, a village pond and cottages built from the local golden stone, many of which still have their traditional thatched roofs. Often the owner of the large stately home owned the whole village. 

Sweeping landscapes, distant views, horses grazing under ancient oaks, these are sights that I never tire of.

The Cotswolds is a relatively new term for us locals. It was only used by Americans and was a touristy, olde worlde term to us. When I was growing up, there was Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and Glos was definitely smarter than Oxon, but the Cotswolds tag has changed all that and consequently house prices have soared. The area is now called the ‘golden triangle’ and the constant references by the press to the ‘Chipping Norton’ set has given the area even more cachet.  People never talked about the countryside, just “we are going to the country”.

The concept of weekenders or renting country houses just didn’t exist when I was a child. My father sold several cottages, as farming became more industrialised so houses lay empty as no-one wanted them. Village shops closed, the grotty supermarket reigned. A few antique shops spluttered along in Burford and Stow on the Wold but many went out of business.

Now several things have changed that have completely regenerated the area and its mainly ‘food’ .

Carole Bamford can take a lot of credit for that. Daylesford made it possible for people to live in the country as if they were in London. I suddenly could buy fresh pesto, truffle oil, delicious rose’, lemongrass and get a cappuccino with a friend in beautiful surroundings. Yes, Daylesford changed everything: massage, facials and pilates classes became available and people came flocking in droves.

Pubs suddenly got new owners and upped their game, we now have three fantastic, award-winning pubs within three miles of us: ‘The Wild Rabbit’, ‘The Plough’ and ‘The Chequers” and now Nick Jones has lifted the bar higher opening Soho Farmhouse, six miles away, which is so fabulous you will want to check in and never leave.

There are as many diversions as you want. However, I live very much the way I always have – usually in my wellies or snuggled up reading a book by the fire and trying to beat my mother at scrabble, which never happens.

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For more info, see Churchill Manor



Annabel Brooks

Annabel has toured the globe to source the incredible properties in Avenue's collection. Throughout her travels she has discovered best kept secrets, her personal recommendations and has documented these experiences to share with Avenue's clientele.