Cotswolds

We found a gem of a campsite in the Cotswolds, just outside the village of Charlbury. Cotswold Camping is a small, independent site spread over four modest fields, with modern facilities and immediate access to country walks and village pubs.

We arrived at 2pm on Friday and we were met by the husband half of the owners. He didn't refer to any paperwork and just asked if we'd booked. We'd booked and paid through Cool Camping. He let us choose our field and camping pitch. We spent a few minutes mulling our options, which basically consisted of establishing which of the existing camping units looked like they had children and then finding the furthest point away.
The weather forecast was proven wrong and with the sun in the sky we left Cleopatra alone in her field with a wigwam-type tent and went for walk to the nearest village with pubs.

The walk to Charlbury was about 30 minutes, following a public footpath across farmland. During the latter part I think we were both a little nervous crossing several fields of cows with horns. They had calves and so were clearly not bulls and, as it turned out, appeared more scared of us than we were of them.

Just before entering the centre of Charlbury we crossed a playing field with the usual equipment. Pride of place though, according to a plaque on the wall of the community centre, was a zip wire that had been funded by the local beer festival. I eyed it up but resisted having a go because the playground was busy with the children for which it was intended.

Adult pursuits were close by though - Charlbury boasts no fewer than four pubs. It was still only three o'clock in the afternoon though so I suggested putting off the inevitable afternoon of drinking and having coffee and cake in the village deli.

Two huge slices of chocolate cake were set before us and the lady kindly said she'd be happy to pack up any cake we didn't finish (as if).

The deli cafe is small but perfectly formed. We sat in the back room on one of three small tables, gazing in wonder at shelves upon shelves of jams, cereals, spices, flour and cookbooks. It seemed incomprehensible a small village could sustain a shop selling all of this, but we'd discover the next day just how busy it could be.

Pubs put off for at least half an hour, we chose the Bull Inn for our first alcoholic beverage. It's rear beer garden looked inviting, though I raised an eyebrow at £4 for a pint. Knowing that Cleopatra had a fully-stocked bar and we could sit out in the sun back at the campsite, we had just the one pint each at the Bull.


Leaving the village we had to pass through the playing field again and this time it was empty. I felt a little bit naughty having a go on the zip wire and Tony told me in a very disapproving voice it was for children. That didn't stop him having a turn after me though. It was amusing that an elderly gentleman came around the corner just as Tony was dismounting. We walked guiltily away but, as we passed the man, he said, jokingly, 'Some people never grow up.'

We made it through the cow field once again and as we sat enjoying a few more beers outside the campervan a few others arrived and began pitching tents. A family with young girls was deciding on which field to set up camp. Our default method of putting people off pitching near to us is swigging from bottles of beer while clanking around in the box of bottles to show that we intended sitting and drinking a lot. It didn't work and they began putting up their tent just across the field from us.

We were actually quite amused by the car full of stuff they spread all over the ground, things they'd transported in scruffy cardboard Walker's crisp boxes. The two girls had been dressed for the journey in pyjamas and Wellington boots and sat impatiently waiting the very long time until the tent was finally up.

As it grew dark and got colder Tony and I put on more and more clothes in an effort to stay outside as long as possible. We cooked our dinner of vegetable curry and rice on our gas cooker, washed the dishes and then decided to sit inside with the heating on for about another half an hour before retiring to bed by 10pm.

We awoke to a glorious morning, again far better than the weather forecast had suggested. We showered, enjoyed a cup of coffee and then set off for a day of walking through the stunning Cotswold countryside.

We walked from 10am until 4.30pm. Tony picked the route using his Ordnance Survey maps app. We were on the border of two map sheets so it cost two lots of £1.99, but it's far less expensive than buying paper maps, and has the advantage of using the phone's GPS to avoid guesswork in where you are. OS maps mark footpaths you can't find in Google Maps; they make for a more rewarding hike.

We stopped off first of all at the deli in Charlbury for coffee and breakfast. We both had a hot samosa and then shared a slice of Victoria sponge from the table in the window onto the street. It was Saturday and the shop was busy with a stream of locals popping in for bread and other provisions. Most were greeted by name, having loaves of bread reserved for them and buying pots of jam to spread on them. We chuckled to ourselves at an exchange between the deli owner (DO) and a delivery man (DM).
DM: "I've got a parcel for the basket shop but it's closed. Would you mind if I leave it with you?"
DO: "You can leave it here, but she'll have to speak to me."
DM: "Oh, so should I take it away again then?"
DO: "No, she'll have to come in though."
Maybe village life isn't as idyllic as it seems!

We broke up the day's walk with three pub stops in three villages, crossing woods, fields and farmland over rolling countryside, a patchwork of colour with the bright-yellow rape fields such a pretty sight to see. The walk saw us skirt around Cornbury Park Estate, and at one point past its two Gloucester old spot pigs. I couldn't grab their interest though - I've always found pigs to be friendly and inquisitive to the passer by, but these were engrossed in snuffling in their current spot and refrained from coming to see me. Even the horse we passed, who turned around to face me, wouldn't come close enough to the wall for a proper stroke.

The three pubs provided the chance to sit down for a while and enjoy some real ales in the sunshine. We asked for tap water in two of the pubs to ensure the bottle we were carrying lasted the day. I topped up my phone's battery with the folding solar panels in my back pack, getting the battery level back to 100% a couple of times, ready for lots more snapping of the locality on the camera, and occasionally Googling stuff we wanted to know about the area.

Tony had planned one more village and one more pub, but by 4.30pm my legs were wishing we'd get back home, so we cut short the intended route and headed back to Charlbury which was our third and final pub stop at The Bell, which has a lovely interior and fabulous beer garden to the rear with trees in full blossom. We might have stayed for two pints but my belly wanted feeding and the local Cooperative supermarket turned up a short-dated half-price pork pie which Tony sliced into two with his Tesco Clubcard!

Finally back at the campsite we found Cleopatra has been joined by a chocolate-brown vintage camper and another tent. The family with children had dispensed with being quiet and the parents had resorted to the children's conversational volume level. We hoped, hearing the kids being scolded for bursting the airbed, that it meant they'd have to go home but they seemed to manage to fix it. Fortunately as the light faded, so too did the noise. Clearly though, Tony and I need to practise our lager lout act a bit more for future camping trips.

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