Fri 8th June
Yes this Mercure Queens Cheltenham Hotel is certainly lovely and great choices of breakfasts with very friendly staff. Less rain but still a cold wind today. We walked downtown to get our Maps for the Cotswold driving and check out the shops e.g. Mothercare and Marks and Spencers as well as the produce market stalls. We then headed back to the hotel to get our car and actually managed to get out of town quiet easily now we were more oriented to the idiosyncracies of the roads here in Chelthenham. We had decided to head first to Winchcombe and visit Sudely Castle. This had been the home of Queen Katherine Parr who actually survived King Henry VIII. This was a very interesting castle which housed all manor of information about all of Henry's wives. There was also an amazing display of tapestries, stumpwork (which I have done myself, so I found this really interesting) and tatted lace clothes all dating back to 1700's. There was models of the queens with indepth descriptions of what they wore in the days during their marriages to Henry. There were 2 videos about Katherine. The beautiful gardens and ruins of part of the castle and a small private church in the grounds. This would have been Katherine's place of worship here and very worth going to. We spent a good deal of time at Sudely Castle.
Katherine's tomb was unearthed by a group of women picnicing in the area in the 1800's quite by chance. They opened the lid and it revealed she was perfectly preserved. Pale skin still on her face and her red hair still in tact. She was slim and about 6 feet tall. She is now buried inside her church in the grounds of Sudely Castle. We were really glad we went there and even getting there on the narrow little roads in the Cotswolds was so picturesque. It was raining and fairly late by the time we came away. This made our next planned trip to the 3000BC Neolithic long barrow of Belas Knap, near there, out of the question to visit unfortunately as it is quite a walk to get to it. Another visitor at Sudely told is it was actually a very long way to walk to just a mound anyway, with nothing to see. He had really put us off unfortunately. I still want to go there though. Maybe next time. I had really wanted to visit this place as it was purported to be the best preserved burial chamber in England and was fity metres long by twenty metres wide and nearly five metres high and set in one of the wildest and highest spots in the Cotswolds according to The Rough Guide to the Cotswolds which I had poured over before we left NZ.. It sounded so interesting but the rain and the low light at the end of the day has made it something to do another time. We did enjoy the views from the top of Cleve Hill of Tewkesbury though, which was nearby however.
We decided to drive on down the narrow country lane to Stow on the Wold which is a really olde world market town. The narrow country lanes would be the width of a driveway in NZ. Too bad if someone may have been coming the other way, as there was only room for one car on these roads. Luckily, the rain and failing light meant for us, that we were the only ones stupid enough to be out that afternoon.
Stow on the Wold has many interesting shops and "bent with age" buildings where some looked like they may fall over on you as you walked past. Des found some stocks in the village square to have a photoshoot. Off down the narrow country lane that is the road again to Bourton on the Water which is another stunning chocolate box village in the Cotswolds. Bourton on the Water, of course has a little river running through it. Right on the river was a quaint little Pub that we had dinner in before we drove back to Cheltenham for our next nights stay. This time we found the way to the Hotel easily thank goodness. We were starting to get sick of England's weather by this stage but it almost looked like it may be going to start to clear now. I hope.... I hope.....