Our first stop today was Hailes Abbey, a Cistercian Abbey that was mostly destroyed in the Dissolution, so all that’s left are some stones, pillars and arches. But when you look at the expanse that the church encompassed, you have a sense of how enormous it must have been. Unlike its sister Cistercian Abbey, Rievaulx, which we visited back in the 90s, so little is left that it’s not imposing, but the audio guide was good at giving a sense of the place. Henry VIII has a lot to answer for, I must say – thousands of monks and nuns displaced, the entire country torn apart…
Speaking of tearing the country apart,
Brexit loomed over this trip and we discussed it with people a couple of times. At the Abbey, the attendant told us that the EU had changed dramatically from when the UK first joined, now the EU dictated what each country could do. What if, he said, the US, Canada and Mexico were under one government, the American flag was taken down and the seat of government was in Costa Rica?? I have no idea if this is a real scenario, but somehow I think not. But if that’s how some people see it, it makes more sense that after forty years, some of them want to leave. In any case, Alison encouraged me not to engage the man on the way out, so we escaped.
Meanwhile, all day long – a beautiful, sunny Sunday – we encountered small groups of hikers complete with hiking boots, poles, and rucksacks, walking on one of the trillion footpaths that cover this country. An entirely different culture from ours, for sure.
Lunch was in Snowshill at the local pub across from St. Barnabas Church. Most all of the tables were booked for a Sunday roast, but we managed to slip in for sandwiches before everyone arrived. Just as we were leaving, several multi-generational family parties arrived. The English have a sense of ritual – Millennium memorials, Sunday roast, etc. – that we have never had. It may be a bit stuffy but it’s also comforting.
We had two gardens on our agenda, but we could only manage one. Having been to Hidcote 25 years ago, we plumped for Kiftsgate right across the road, and it was wonderful. It’s a family house and garden, and the third generation of the gardening family still lives there.
The house is built at the top of the escarpment, with this gorgeous view over the Cotswolds.
This means that you descend from the house down to the lower garden, and then back up again, offering the opportunity for paths, views and various plantings. Here’s the house at the top.
This was a very relaxing garden, perhaps because within the spaces defined by stone walls or boxwood, plants twined somewhat wildly with each other. Lots and lots of roses, like this ‘Trumpeter,’ since this is the home of the famously enormous Kiftsgate rose (past its bloom now), but also at this time of year dahlias, Japanese anemones, asters and various other beauties. The water gardens were especially beautiful and imaginative. Just look at this elegant installation, with its flowers that gently pour into the pool.
and this simple fountain in the midst of a bountiful border.
Here’s a view from the pool at the bottom of the hill back up to the house,
and I thought of how this house and garden would be wonderful for entertaining. I wonder how the latest generation, who must be about our age, are planning for the future.
We wandered back home on this beautiful day and had dinner at the Kings Arms. They were full up (caution: Sunday is a hard time to find dinner without a reservation) but squeezed us in on the top floor, where several family parties – or maybe just one big one?- were filling up the space. An okay dinner but with lovely views of the square and the church.