Charming English cottages

Dec 17th, 2004, 09:20 PM
  #1  
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Charming English cottages

I'm heading to London in May for 7-8 days. Would like to travel outside the city for several days, primarily to photograph the English cottages -- you probably know the ones I'm referring to -- English gardens, window boxes overflowing with flowers, maybe thatched roofs. I've seen this in the Cotswolds -- is this the best location for what I'm looking for?

I will be traveling alone. Do I need a car to reach the areas that I most want to photograph? Can I do this without a car and just a train pass?

I would like to spend two nights outside London doing this. Is it feasible to train to a major town and take taxis from there? I'm thinking a taxi here and there would be less expensive than renting a car, especially one with automatic transmission. Is it feasible to hire someone with a car once there to drive me around for a day? Has anyone ever done this?

I've found a number of day tours from London, but I'm concerned that I'm going to spend my time with hoardes of other tourists and not get the photo opportunities I most desire, and will be rushed from place to place. You cannot rush a good photograph (well, maybe sometimes).

Thanks much.
luvtotravel is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 11:04 PM
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Some areas that would fit your needs (but lots of others would too) are in the general Devon/Dorset/Somerset region, the Cotswolds, parts of Suffolk, parts of Kent, etc. Getting around all of these is much easier by car but it is also easy to find driver-guides through the local tourist information centers.

If it were me - I'd take a train to Oxford and rent a car there to visit the Cotswolds. A driver would be OK for sure - but it would be about the same cost or a little less to rent a car for a couple of days. If you plan so you are touring on weekdays rather than on a weekend the driving would not be at all difficult. But on Summer weekends some Cotswold roads/villages do tend to be overrun w/ large coaches full of day trippers.

You could stay in any of the many lovely Cotswold towns and villages and find hundreds of cottages to more than satisfy you.
janis is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 11:07 PM
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I'm assuming your key objectives are having the time to find your own snaps and to avoid driving. I'd agree that a group tour is unlikely to give you the flexibility you want

Do bear in mind that, if you're thinking of hiring a driver (and others know more about who's good), you're paying for the time of someone in one of the world's highest-wage, scarcest labour, microeconomies. It's unlikely to be cheaper than hiring a car yourself.

You can do this by public transport in the Cotswolds: others might be able to advise you about the practicalities in other parts, like the bits of Kent that don't feel suburban.

The trick is to buy a return train ticket to Evesham (trains roughly every hour) and get off at Moreton in Marsh. There are buses from here to Bourton on the Water via Stow on the Wold and to Chipping Campden, via Broadway, to Evesham. Overnight in Ch Campden (which has enough thatched cottages to provide pack designs for the world's annual production of chocolates), Stow or wherever, and pick up the return train from Evesham. Booking isn't necessary on this line (except during the Friday outgoing rush hour at holiday weekends), and offers no price savings (it's about £30 return).

The bus network doesn't quite, 100%, link with the trains, though it almost does, and you should plan for the moment on the assumption that it does. You can easily in two days get to all these places and meander round to take all the snaps you want.

What public transport doesn't easily let you do, though, is get to the great gardens (like Hidcote or Rousham) attached to big, out of town houses: you do need a car, a tour, or a good map of the footpaths, for these.

THe train timetable (valid till 11 June next year) is at http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/l...timetables.php Click for the Hereford line.

Infuriatingly, the almost-connecting bus timetables aren't easily available on the Web (though you might make some progress at www.transportdirect.info), and the timetable They are in the hard copy of the train operator's timetable, but since they all changed this week, my transcription, somewhere on this board, is now out of date

I'm planning to transcribe those connections during the next week or so To remind me, bring this message back to te top in a couple of days' time if I haven't done so already.

One small point on timing. The most photogenic villages get full of visitors (most tourism in the area is domestic) during weekends between 11 and 5, especially at holiday weekends (Monday May 2 and May 30 are both public holidays next year). They all get into their cars and go home at 5, so the places are habitable overnight. You might want to organise your plans to avoid them
flanneruk is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 11:07 PM
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Oops - I overlooked you saying the trip will be in May. Crowds won't be bad - EXCEPT over the first and last weekends of the month which are both major holiday weekends. But during the rest of the months there won't be any crowds.
janis is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 02:02 AM
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Hi
Suffolk was mentioned earlier, and as I was born and bred here I thought I would give you more info. Firstly it is within very easy reach of London. It also gives you all the cottages you could wish for, but not in a Cotswoldy sort of way - you will understand when you see them! Suffolk is famous for it's 'Suffolk pin' timbered and thatched cottages, and its amazing 'wool' churches - spectacular beautiful buildings built by rich merchants making money from the wool trade and trying to buy their piece of heaven! Suggested villages - Lavenham for its rows of medieval, leaning, timbered cottages, Long Melford, Clare, and of course Kersey which has a ford (stream) in the middle of its main road. You won't get the crowds you get in parts of the Cotswolds either. There's also several National Turst properties to view (their webpage gives details), tea shops, pubs, restaurants etc. I think you will need to hire a car, but the roads around these villages are quiet, and a decent map will be all you need.
Morgana is online now  
Dec 18th, 2004, 02:02 AM
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I agree with Janis,Hire a car from somewhere like Oxford, and then drive to see all the places Flanner suggests, do not rely on public transport at all that means taxis too, they will cost you a fortune.Car hire will be the most economical and flexible way to visit these beautiful places.

Have fun

Muck
Mucky is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 02:03 AM
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Whoops, I meant to say 'Suffolk PINK' cottages - a grogeous, pastel pink that looks perfect with a thatched roof.
Morgana is online now  
Dec 18th, 2004, 03:09 AM
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I'd echo Suffolk.
There are not only pink washed cottages, but they come in other pastel colours. It most other places it would look ridiculous, but there's something about the quality of the light that makes them look right.
miss_prism is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 04:58 AM
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Just a few odd thoughts to add to the good info you've already gotten. If you decide to do the Cotswolds and want to get to Oxford, there's regular bus service from London to Oxford that's cheaper and more frequent than the train called "the Oxford Tube." (oxfordtube.com) I can't help with public transport from there though.

The 3 places I know that have train service in the Cotswolds are Charlbury, Moreton-on-Marsh and Stratford. None of those IMO have what you're looking for, but towns around them do.

Great Tew, not far from Charlbury or Moreton-on-Marsh is idyllic but I don't know how you'd get there w/o a car. Here's a photo of the pub there, the Falkland Arms.

http://www.cotswolds.info/places/vis...-slaughter.htm

That website also has photos of other Cotswolds towns.

Lower Slaughter is quite pretty with a stream running through it and cottages quite exposed for photos.

Another thought I had was Rye. Since you say you've already been to the Cotswolds, Rye doesn't have the thatch, but it does have Timbered Tudor architecture and is quite pretty. Here's a link
http://www.picturesofengland.com/Eng...ast_Sussex/Rye
that will also provide photos of other options. Rye has a train station!
mclaurie is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 07:19 AM
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Bibury and Broadway in the Cotswolds are also very picturesque.
Kayb95 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 10:18 AM
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everything added so far is good info. Yes, the Oxford Tube is another good option (but that name is sooooo confusing for many tourists - wish they'd change it. I often have to explain there is no tube connection to Oxford --"but I saw an ad for it in the tube station")

The main reson I mentioned going to Oxfor to rent a car is that many of the major companies are there so you might get a bit cheaper rate over what is available in Charlbury or Moreton-in-Marsh. But taking the train to one of those could work out even better than Oxford because they are IN the Cotswolds and less of a bother to drive through.

Bibury is lovely - but definitely avoid it on weekends. Parking along the river or anywhere else in the village and the crowds would present problems. try to visit on a weekday morning.

Again - don't assume the Cotswolds are the only area that would work for you -- Do some websearching for Suffolk and the Cotswolds to see photos some of the villages - then you can decide which fits your vision of the sorts of architecture you are looking for.
janis is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 08:21 PM
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Amazing information here. You guys are the best!

I am now planning to rent a car (I must be crazy) and drive mid-week. I was the navigator last time. I will definitely look into the other areas mentioned. Never heard of Suffolk pink, but will certainly do my homework.

Thank you all again.
luvtotravel is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 10:32 PM
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Hi
Have a look at www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk This is where I would stay if I was doing your trip! Gorgeous building and in the middle of the loveliest Tudor village you will ever find. You could get up early before breakfast when the light is perfect and have the place to yourself! The pictures on the website will also give you a clearer idea about Suffolk half-timbered cottages, and whether they are what you are after to photograph.
Morgana is online now  
Dec 18th, 2004, 10:35 PM
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Meant to add, the Swan website has a 'Just a minute' link which gives you a small slideshow of what to expect.
Morgana is online now  
Dec 19th, 2004, 01:09 PM
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Morgana, the Swan looks beautiful. I bookmarked the website. They seem reasonable, too. For a single person it is 110 GBP for a room, breakfast, and dinner.

After much planning, and a great deal of input from you folks on this board, my trip is planned. I'm flying from Los Angeles to London, returning home from Paris. I'll take the Eurostar between them.

Have first night in London reserved at Marriott Kensington (arriving Heathrow at noon). Will train to Oxford on second morning where I have a Hertz car rented for four days, intermediate car at 246 GBP with all the add-ons of which there are many. As it's an automatic, this seems to be a reasonable rate. No hotel reservations made for this portion of the trip yet. Still more research to do, and wondering how I'll do driving "on the other side" to determine how far I should plan on going knowing I have to get back to Oxford to return the car. Would love to get over to Suffolk for a night. Is that feasible?

Then five nights in London at the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel. This hotel seems to be near the theatre district and other popular areas. Has anyone stayed there? Any feedback? Then two nights at the Sheraton in Paris. Final night at the Sheraton at CDG. Thank goodness for point programs or I would not be able to take this trip. For the Renaissance, I had to give 150% of the point value to override the blackout.

My thanks to you all. Feedback on the above itinerary would be most welcome.
luvtotravel is offline  
Dec 19th, 2004, 01:29 PM
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You have put together a great itinerary and open jaw flights will be a REAL time saver.

As for where to stay in the Cotswolds - there are soooooo many lovely places -- and if the Swan in Suffolk sounds reasonable to you then you would be staying in pretty upscale places. Most B&Bs I recommend in the Cotswolds are in the £30 to £35+ neighborhood for a single. For those sorts of higher rates (£75-£100) you can stay in very posh country house hotels.

One suggestion - you are not traveling in anywhere near high season and rooms will be VERY easy to find. I'd just wait until you find a Cotswold village that charms you and go to the local TIC (tourist information center) and have them find you a room. Midweek in May you won't have any problems finding nice accomodations at any price range.
janis is offline  
Dec 19th, 2004, 01:57 PM
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Janis -- Thank you for the advice. I did this once before. We had a car for three nights and did not have reservations -- it was in June 1992. We would be driving down a road and we'd see a sign -- a piece of wood, really -- where someone had written B&B in paint with an arrow pointing down a lane. Down the lane we would go to find accommodations. It was an adventure -- an adventure I'll always remember.
luvtotravel is offline  
Dec 19th, 2004, 02:53 PM
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I too think it's a great itinerary. Many people on this board have stayed at and recommended the Renaissance Chancery Court. Last time I was in London, I passed it by chance on my way to Sir John Soane's home (a quirky
museum)
http://www.soane.org/

It's not far from the hotel. In front of the museum is a lovely open green space, Lincolns Inn Fields that would be idyllic in May. That is the area with the courts (and the law schools). Saw many places to have a drink/sandwich etc. and lots of law students.Passed a Wagamama not far, often mentioned here as a good, inexpensive but tastey place for a meal.
http://www.wagamama.com/wayto/london.php

We did walk to Convent Garden from there and on to Leicester Square. I think you will enjoy it. The hotel is quite elegant from the outside with a grand drive.
mclaurie is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2004, 05:35 AM
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If you get comfortable driving your car on the narrow roads, you may want to consider using one day driving to Leominster in north Herefordshire, and do all or part of the black & white village trail, villages like Eardisley, Eardisland, Pembridge and Weobley.
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