Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

A Weekend in the Cotswolds

Anne, my wife, and I had a weekend away during the Summer.

This is a very unusual occurrence, as we are both very busy. Much of my time, of course, is taken up with my Blue Badge Guide activities, while Anne spends a lot of her time on matters to do with the Church (for example, she is a churchwarden and was recently licensed as a reader), or teaching, or exhibiting textile artwork at exhibitions.

Once in a while we are both free for a weekend to go somewhere other than Leicester, where we live. This happened during the Summer, and we looked for a ready made weekend.

We found that the Skills company, CoachStyle, had a Cotswolds weekend at the relevant time, and we booked on it.

Yes, we did have a nice time, thank you.

We were a little bemused to start with, when at the appointed time a vehicle arrived at St. Margarets Bus Station and the regulars who were also waiting assured us that this was the one. It wasn't a full size coach, you see - it was one of the little buses that are sometimes used on not very busy bus routes.

Anyway, we got on. But when we arrived at the M1 at Markfield, we didn't go Southwards, we started travelling to the North. We turned off for Loughborough (quite a long way round to get there, we felt), and picked up some passengers at a hotel on the outskirts of the town.

So we then went back to the M1, again expecting to go Southwards. But no, we turned North again. By this time, we were a bit concerned - the driver had not offered any explanation, in fact the driver had not spoken.

When we got to Donington Park Services, all was revealed. We had to get out there, and wait for our actual coach to arrive. After we had had a quick stroll around the Services, various coaches turned up, and we boarded the appropriate one to go down to the Cotswolds.

Chatting to the driver, I was told that "we are going to Leicester now". You can imagine that I was a little surprised by this, as we had left Leicester at the appointed time, well over an hour before. Although he explained that this was so that he could have his break, which obviously I understood, I could not work out why we had to board the coach and have all these adventures before he had his break, rather than afterwards.

The explanation was that when he said "Leicester", he didn't actually mean Leicester - he meant Leicester Forest East Services on the motorway, which is by no means the same thing.

So we stopped at the services, which suited us, as it happens, as we were able to fill up with a good breakfast.

And then, about two and a half hours after the stated departure time, we started actually going somewhere. Our driver used his Sat Nav all the weekend to tell him where to go, which was a shame as we didn't go the nicest way, and on the road which bypasses Warwick, always a busy road, we came to a halt. A lorry had shed its load on the M40, and traffic was being diverted onto other roads, which caused considerable difficulties.

When we finally got past the M40, there was no traffic problem, of course, but we had used up a lot of time. Our driver wanted to cut out one of the advertised stops, but most of us did not find that acceptable.

So we had a brief stop at the tourist magnet of Stow-on-the-Wold. We tried to get a cup of coffee at what I remembered as a nice teashop, but gave up when it became apparent that the staff were more concerned with chatting than taking orders. Never mind - we went across the road and discovered The Old Bakery, an excellent teashop, where we were made most welcome.

Then we went a short distance down the road to Bourton-on-the-Water, even more of a tourist magnet, and had a very pleasant stroll beside the tiny River Windrush.

Back we got onto the coach, and proceeded to the hotel. This was the Madison Hotel, at Stratton St. Margaret, on the outskirts of Swindon.

We were greeted by the Reception Manager, who of course wished us a good stay. He did, though, tell us with some embarrassment that there was a wedding reception going on. Naturally, everybody's faces fell at the thought of the disruption and noise that we were going to have to put up with. But no, whatever noise there was didn't penetrate to our party. The nearest we got to disruption was when we walked past a large room containing wedding guests and heard some children giggling!

Quite obviously, the hotel was very well run. The food was nice and the rooms were good. We would be quite happy to stay there again.

In the morning, we had a little walk along the old Roman road at Stratton St. Margaret, and then it was back on the coach.

We were then taken to the lovely city of Bath, where we had a stay of some hours. As well as sightseeing and having the obligatory cup of coffee, we attended a service at Bath Abbey.

And then it was back to Leicester, having changed coaches at Leicester Forest East (which our driver again insisted on calling "Leicester"!) It wasn't our driver's fault that the torrential rain started while we were at the Services.

Yes, we did have a good weekend, in spite of the various frustrations. Perhaps we'll do it again sometime.