First time in English countryside

Old Mar 15th, 2016, 10:49 AM
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First time in English countryside

We will be in England for about 10 days total in July. We will fly into Gatwick and take a train to Chelmsford to visit our granddaughter for 2 days - then we would like to spend time in the Cotswalds, visit Stratford-upon-Avon, Stonehenge, and then finish up in Wales for two days with a friend. I am curious about the east coast after seeing "Mr. Turner" - is there anything that I should not miss while we are there?
Can we take a train into the Cotswalds - and where should we stay to be best situated to venture out to the neighboring towns (including Stratford-upon-Avon). I would appreciate any suggestions regarding lodging - Inns or B&Bs. I'm reading all I can, but the logistics escape me. Should we rent a car? Or can we rely on trains and public transportation. We've never driven on the left!

Thank you somuch in advance. Any help is greatly appreciated.
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Old Mar 15th, 2016, 11:15 AM
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You should most definitely rent a car to see the Cotswolds and environs or risk giving up many places you may want to visit. You can get there by train but there are few towns served and local bus service exists but they can be few & far between and may very well not go where you'd like to.

I, too, wish it could be done by public transport and if your time was unlimited and you were willing to walk some distance to get to some places, it could be done. But most of us are short on time and long on wish list, which makes a car nearly mandatory. I'm in the same boat this spring, have a car or see very few places I want to visit.

There are tours of the area if you don't mind seeing just the most visited, or take a specialty tour, Shakespeare or gardens, for instance. But if your interests are diverse and you'd like to wander, do consider a car. The other advantage is that you can then stay anywhere you like in the area, including places in the countryside which often means getting more for your money.
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Old Mar 15th, 2016, 12:40 PM
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My favourite bits of the east of England arebr />
The north Norfolk coast eg Wells-next-the-sea (lovely sandy beach backed by dunes), Blakeney (creekside walks) and Cley (pretty village with art galleries, a deli, cafes, a windmill and a shingle beach).

The Broads - great if you have time for a boat trip, even if just driving round the landscape can be haunting with its old abandoned mills and vast open spaces (huge skies).

Wealthy old wool towns like Lavenham, Saffron Walden etc with their timbered buildings.

The Stour river valley for Constablesque scenes and riverside walks.
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Old Mar 15th, 2016, 12:40 PM
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ok, first question - how many nights do you have? 10 days could mean 11 nights - or 9 - so that's an important issue to sort out first.

secondly, you really do need to decide whether to drive or not - and i agree with Mme P that with this itinerary, driving will make it a lot easier. Remember that your hire car will have the steering wheel on the right side of the car for driving on the left, which makes it easier. you could also rent an automatic, though they do tend to be more expensive and might not be readily available in Chelmsford.

thirdly, [and I'm coming back to timing again] when you say that you have 2 days with your GDD, is that 2 days and 3 nights? are you planning to spend all that time with her or will she be touring round Essex with you? [she probably knows some of the lovely places that were featured in the Mr Turner film - or - you don't give her age - her parents do!] Anyway, you should allow a day at least for seeing Essex and the south of Suffolk - from Chelmsford it's about 90 mins to drive to Aldeburgh and then a short drive up the coast to Southwold. [there may be others that are closer but they are the ones that spring to my mind]

After that, it's about 2 ½ -3 hours to drive to Stratford [upon Avon, not the London one] or wherever you want to base in the Cotswolds [note spelling] so that's another 3 nights, say, then the same again to Wales [though you don't say exactly where you have in mind]

BTW, Stonehenge would be most easily seen on the way back to London from Wales - not as part of a trip to the Cotswolds.

hope that helps a bit!
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Old Mar 15th, 2016, 02:13 PM
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Great! Thank you all! We are staying at Three Cliffs in Wales which is near Cardiff (which I noted had train service back to London and Seemed like it might be easier than dealing with the rental car agency back at the airport). However, I will plan to get a car for getting around the Cotswolds at least. Will I need an additional driving license?
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Old Mar 15th, 2016, 02:47 PM
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"Will I need an additional driving license?"

I hope not. I never have before and don't plan to have this trip. But it's been several years since I last had a car so, for both our sakes, I hope someone tells us if we do!
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Old Mar 15th, 2016, 02:59 PM
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>>which I noted had train service back to London and Seemed like it might be easier than dealing with the rental car agency back at the airport>Will I need an additional driving license?
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Old Mar 15th, 2016, 04:25 PM
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Regarding where to get a car, I suggest you decide once you've worked out where you'll be driving it. I've found, for me, it has been easier to pick up a car after I arrive by train at a town convenient to where I'll actually need it. This time it will be Oxford, other times have been Cheltenham, Salisbury, etc. I have gotten a car at Heathrow, too, but really prefer getting it more locally, where traffic volume is generally less and when I make a wrong turn it seems easier to get back on track. In other words, I'd rather make a mistake involving a hedge than a lorry. So far neither, knock on wood. Just a minor incident long ago with a left side mirror and a construction sign.
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Old Mar 16th, 2016, 01:54 AM
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I suspect you will need a car, but use this tool to see if you can do some of the detail by public transport http://www.traveline.info/

If the whole driving on the correct side of the road, high density UK motorway traffic and effects of jetlag seems like a bad combination then for good-ness sake don't pick up a car in LHR
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Old Mar 16th, 2016, 06:41 AM
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"If the whole driving on the correct side of the road, high density UK motorway traffic and effects of jetlag seems like a bad combination then for good-ness sake don't pick up a car in LHR "

Also please read the relevant sections of the Highway Code:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code
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Old Mar 16th, 2016, 07:11 AM
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In such a short time, why bother with the Cotswolds if you're particularly interested in seeing the East of England?

You'll see lovely countryside & pretty towns & villages around East Anglia, easily accessible from Chelmsford: places like Lavenham, Saffron Walden, Long Melford - and then the North Norfolk coast is also lovely.

The Cotswolds are not the only part of England with lovely villages - not are they (in my opinion) significantly more beautiful than any other of the picturesque parts of the English countryside.
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Old Mar 16th, 2016, 07:39 AM
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Just to clarify -- My comment was re where to drop the car after Wales. (depending on the plans that day)

But honestly - Heathrow is about the easiest place in southern England to collect a rental car. MUCH easier than in the middle of some city or market town. LHR is essentially at the junction of three motorways that will get one out to the west or elsewhere w/o any city driving. It is easier to acclimate to the car on a controlled, limited access road where there are no parked cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, sheep, hedgerows, etc etc.

It isn't always the most convenient depending on the specific itinerary -- but if one is in/near London LHR is almost always the best/easiest location.

The only maybe easier place is Enterprise at Oxford airport north of town, and
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Old Mar 16th, 2016, 08:26 AM
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I agree that with your limited time, you'd be better concentrating on the East of England. Suffolk alone has picturesque townsand villages. Lavenham is delightful, with wooden framed buildings distorted at strange angles.

Kersey is worth a visit. It has a ford across the main road.

We are fond of Southwold. It is completely unspoilt and has one of those huge wool churches.

Unless you are really set on visiting the Cotswolds, I'd give them a miss.

You are really spoilt for choice. You could visit, Cambridge, Ely or Bury Saint Edmunds too.
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Old Mar 16th, 2016, 08:50 AM
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I would agree with concentrating on the east of England, save for the fact that the OP wants to visit a friend in Wales. Therefore they have to get there.

Where would you suggest stopping?

one idea would be to drive to Salisbury/Winchester and spent the night there, then the next day drive to Wales via Stonehenge and Bath. They could then get the train back to London from Cardiff at the end of the trip.
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Old Mar 16th, 2016, 09:59 AM
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I tend to agree with janisj on just about everything, even here I confirm that it is easy to pick up a car at LHR.

But, there had to a be a but, as a user of the UK motorway system on a weekly basis the one place I dislike most is the area around LHR. Too many motorways, often packed solid and what with the variable speed controls just a nightmare if anything goes wrong.

If you are going to use this route for the first time, you need driver and passenger "switched on". You'll find your radio comes with a "traffic" switch which interrupts when a traffic flash comes on. Turn it on and have a paper map with you so you can understand what to do if they offer you a diversion. I've spent hours trying to get past LHR and it can be "a little" frustrating.
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Old Mar 16th, 2016, 11:38 AM
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I agree with bilboburgler, "I dislike most is the area around LHR. Too many motorways, often packed solid and what with the variable speed controls just a nightmare if anything goes wrong."

And will seek to avoid: "LHR is essentially at the junction of three motorways..."

I repeat, give me an argument with a slow-moving hedge anytime, rather than a hurtling truck. And a relaxing train ride to get as close as possible to my ultimate destination.
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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 03:34 PM
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Bookmarking.
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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 03:58 PM
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The problem is car hire depots are very seldom near any car eating hedges. They are in the middle of towns/cities like Oxford or Bath. And especially if one needs a national/international chain/one way drop off. Most places in the country -- the airports are usually the easiest place to collect a car because they aren't in town/city centres.
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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 04:39 PM
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Janis, if I may, we're talking about particular preferences, no different from other choices we make in travel. No matter how many times you say Heathrow is better for picking up a car, there will be those of us who just as vehemently deny that that's the case. I'm not sure why you keep insisting that you're correct. There is no "correct" in matters of personal choice when we've tried it both ways and one is better for me, and others here. Underlines and italics don't make it more true.
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Old Mar 18th, 2016, 11:54 PM
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As far as collecting a car for driving in central England is concerned:

- Oxford's not only about car hire depots in the hard-core, kamikaze cyclist infested,centre of town. Though the Hertz in Kidlington no longer operates, Enterprise now has a branch at Oxford airport: about 100 yards from the dual carriageway to Woodstock and the Cotswolds.
- Birmingham and Southampton airports both have remarkable networks of direct railway connections, as well as car hire depots.
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