Painswick, Cotswolds 27.9.10
Posted by Lisa Hill on September 28, 2010
I don’t understand why British people complain about their trains – we think they’re terrific. We packed up so efficiently this morning that we were able to squeeze in another hour at the British Museum, and then we took the Bristol train to Swindon. It was on time, super clean and super fast, and very comfortable. Best of all they have ‘quiet carriages’ where people are not allowed to talk loudly or use mobile phones.
At Swindon we picked up our hire car, a Ford Focus, which is just big enough for the suitcases and just small enough to manage the narrow village roads here in Painswick. It was foggy en route which made driving through the forest pleasantly spooky but alas ruined the views. Too bad, this is England, and if the forecast is bad, well, there’s plenty to do whatever the weather.
Painswick is enchanting. We’re staying at Byfield House, which is a Grade II* heritage listed house. Our host Jill showed us some of its features which include a medieval oak door, a Tudor section, a 17th Century Barn conversion and some gorgeous ‘Adam’ plasterwork on the roof and walls in the 18th Century Drawing Room. (Think Josiah Wedgewood in pale pink and white and you have some idea of how pretty it is. ) Jill is also an antique dealer so the house is full of wonderful artworks and antiques including an intriguing Dutch corner cupboard which caught my eye!
Just before night closed in we made our way into St Mary’s Church. Tim’s not as keen on churches as I am, but even he was fascinated by this one. It’s very old, with an Anglo-Saxon side chapel called St Peter’s where there are gravestones dated 1702, and others perhaps older where the inscriptions are so faded from centuries of parishioners traipsing across them the writing (probably in Latin anyway) is illegible to an untrained eye like mine. (Actually, I’m not sure that they’re called gravestones when they’re on the floor in a church. Can anyone enlighten me?)
As you’d expect there are stained-glass windows erected in memory of loved ones, the most poignant of which are always the ones from that pointless Great War where young men lost their lives in their thousands. Here in Britain as in Australia, small places like this village would have felt their losses keenly and memorials like these keep names alive in public memory long after those of city boys remain an ache only in family history.
What we weren’t expecting was a ship. There was a sign nearby that explains the religious associations, but still, a 1/25 scale model of Sir Francis Drake’s flagship The Bonaventure hanging off a wall in the nave is rather a curiosity. And we’re not the only ones to think so. Back at Byfield House we found a book entitled Cotswold Curiosities by Reginald Dixon, and he thought it odd enough to include in his book, (which has a lot of other bizarre sights to see in and around Painswick, including the stocks in the churchyard which we hope to find in daylight today).
We had a fine dinner at the Cotswold’s 88 Hotel. The ambience is bizarre, a retro 1950s décor in a wonderful stone building centuries old. But the food was great: we both had pigeon and sirloin and the dishes were beautifully presented, light and delicious. As good as anything you’d get in a London restaurant.
This post is a bit disjointed because the WiFi here is not fantastic and the signal keeps dropping out. Some of what I’ve written was done online, and some of it offline and pasted in when I could get back online. It’s too hard to do pictures too, I’ll try and add them later.