Thanks to a very much welcome weekend away, I wasn’t able to update my blog on Friday or Sunday. As such, I’m throwing this one onto the site just to keep me ticking along and also to ensure I don’t miss a week – once that happens it all falls apart as I discovered in 2010. And 2011. So, my holiday. We booked three nights in a cottage at Stratton, literally a stone’s throw away from Cirencester. We wanted to stop somewhere that was just far enough away to justify the journey, but not so far away that we’d spend most of our time travelling there. As such, at about 80-90 minutes away by car, Stratton was a good bet, and it helped that the journey was essentially a straight line all the way. The only exception to this was what I assume was Cheltenham (I didn’t pay much attention to the SatNav after finding the name Bishop’s Cleeve oddly amusing). Not only were there suicidal cyclists roaming the roads, but the traffic light system left a lot to be desired – a couple of islands would be preferable to what they currently have, but seeing as I’m from Redditch, a location famed for an exorbitant number of islands, I suppose I would say that. The only other thing I can say about Cheltenham is that I knew I was in the area when I drove past a road sign sponsored by Cheltenham & Gloucester. That also kept us amused for a few miles.

Before and after Cheltenham it was all plain sailing – pre-Cheltenham it was all roads I’d driven down before, post-Cheltenham we saw vast open fields, a wood or forest (through which the car in front randomly indicated left, as if they were planning to turn off down a non-existent side road), and also a surprisingly steep 10% incline. Usually when I encounter these road signs I assume just dropping down a gear will do the trick – nope. After dropping down to third, I was still barely managing to maintain my speed, no doubt partly influenced by the massive bundle of holiday stuff in the boot and back seat (oh yeah, we went away for 3 nights but took enough food, clothes and technology [iPad, Kindle, PS Vita, 3DS] to last a fortnight).  On the way home we encountered a similar (if not the same) 10% incline but this one was all downhill instead. Huzzah!

On arrival it was a tad confusing as to where we were supposed to go. My initial research had been completed with Google Streetview, and our cottage could be seen, just barely, at the far end of a private road. I toddled down there cautiously and found an open gate leading to the front of the property, complete with baby traffic cones (I didn’t find out if they were stolen from a cycling test centre, sadly). Then, after working out how to access the key safe next to the door, we were in. The cottage was very well stocked – stereo, big flat screen TV, wood burner and leather sofa downstairs, another smaller flat screen TV and iPod dock upstairs – both TV’s also had a Sky TV box (only showing Freeview, I’m afraid) and a DVD player hooked up. Rather snazzy, but then it’s a 4 star holiday home, which I wasn’t aware of when we booked it – suffice to say we made sure to tidy up after ourselves at every opportunity and avoid the oft-threatened penalty charge of £30 that was blazoned across the guide book. Thankfully the owner is a lovely woman who has more of a concern with teenage holidaymakers than people who are relatively normal and boring like us. She was amazed that we don’t drink alcohol, either that or she was trying to gauge how much damage we would be likely to cause during our brief stay. None, I’m happy to report.

One thing I quite liked about the location was the open stream that runs down one side. The stream runs directly through the owner’s property and onwards through to the public fields that are in the picture below. Rather appropriately the booklet on arrival advises to exercise caution when approaching the bridge, as it can be quite slippy in wet weather and runs pretty fast. The funny thing about this is, when we booked the cottage there were two conditions, similar to Fight Club:

  1. Children must be supervised at all times when near the stream.

  2. No children.

The location itself also has the benefits of a rural location (very dark at night, very quiet all of the time), but is only about 10-15 minutes walk away from the centre of Cirencester. The town has a typically old-world twisty-turny high street, mixing big name retailers with local owners. I was surprised to see a quite reasonably sized local butchers in amongst the big names (a Tesco Metro is literally 2 minutes walk away no doubt receiving more than its fair share of business), although typically the butchers was down one of those side streets and not in full view of the main shopping area, although if you’re visiting the Corinium Museum (local Roman history) or St Mary’s Abbey (visible from our cottage) it’s smack bang in the middle between the two. We’d only really popped into town to have a walk and pick up a few essentials (I say essentials – mayonnaise and sweetcorn for paninis and a tuna pasta bake respectively), so we didn’t get to check out the museum, but if we ever go back it’s on my list of things to do. We did also consider visiting the Roman Ampitheatre but, on discovering it is essentially just a big mound of grass we decided against it.

There’s a number of nature walks nearby as well that I wouldn’t mind trying out – the best we managed was checking out the field next to the cottage and the public footpath that ran through it. I ended up wimping out when the public footpath ended and it looked like we were about to walk onto someone’s farm (one farmer in particular was eyeing us up with a horror movie vibe going on – his evil gaze was somewhat tarnished by the two small poodle-sized dogs accompanying him). Suffice to say we backed up and headed to the fields we could see from the cottage. From there we were disappointed to find it’s a self-contained field – houses block access on one side, the river on another. So in the end we did a little loop, was again disappointed to not see any wildlife in the river/stream/running water, and then made our way back to the cottage. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent watching The 4400 Season 2. Rock and roll.

And then, in brief, that leads to us leaving today and heading home. I also stopped in at a discount furniture shop in Evesham on the way home to collect a new futon – the old wooden one has given up the ghost and fallen apart, so it was time to get one with a metal frame. Ironically this was cheaper than the wooden one, but there we go…