A Ploughman’s Lunch in the Cotswolds

“What on earth are ya doin’ in Gloucester?”  A confused local asks, looking at Justin and I as if we are a pair of completely mad Australians.

I’m hesitant to tell him that the real reason we’re here is because we want to explore the surrounding Cotswolds and at this almost-sunny time of year, Gloucester is one of the few launching pads that has available accommodation. It’s not that the place isn’t worth a visit, it just doesn’t have the pulling power or natural beauty that other English cities – like York – have. It seems a bit rougher around the edges. But I sense that, deep down, he might be offended by this information.

It’s our first day here in southwestern England and, despite the desire to sit in our cosy hotel room watching Wimbledon, we have decided to explore the town. What any decent traveller should do, really.

It is trying to be a beautiful day as the sun darts in and out of the grey clouds. Gloucester has a grand abbey and quaint streets. We are heading toward the Gloucester docks, which have been recommended to us by the slightly eccentric lady who runs the hotel. She reminds me of Professor Trelawney out of Harry Potter.

Despite her kooky nature, Trelawney has a point about these docks. They are picturesque with warehouses that overlook the yachts bobbing restlessly on the surface of the water.

We head toward the Gloucester Antiques Centre and I am itching with excitement. It reminds me of all the times I sat at home in Hobart watching Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow. The entire feel of the place is quintessentially English.

We spend an hour lazily exploring antique furniture and gazing at age-old jewelery. I am a sucker for rings out of the 1920’s; a time I consider to be full of romance and flare, with wild parties and flapper dresses. Maybe I have watched The Great Gatsby one too many times.

After spending time flicking through old postcards, we head back toward the hotel. The clouds above us grow darker and I feel as though I am experiencing an authentic English summer.

The next day, we wake early and head toward the train station to catch a train to Tewkesbury. Tewkesbury is a town in Gloucestershire, England and sits on the River Avon. It is one of the many villages that make up the Cotswolds. We have decided to go here after doing our usual research, which consists of looking up images on Google and deciding whether a place looks worth a visit.

It is a quick train ride before we arrive at the closest station. As we disembark we head toward the bus stop where we can catch a bus directly to Tewkesbury. We discover the bus won’t be arriving for an hour and decide it will be quicker to go by foot.

We walk beside a highway for 20 minutes and I feel as though we are miles removed from the picturesque image I had of the Cotswolds. What I had in mind was Tudor houses, rolling green fields and colourful flowers dotting the landscape.

We pass through a small highway-side town and continue toward where Tewkesbury is situated. I almost squeak with excitement as we enter the small village.

The streets are broad and surrounded by black and white Tudor houses. Our first port of call is a delicious looking deli that has every imaginable type of bread, cheese and olive on offer. We opt for the ploughman’s lunch and wait as the lady prepares it from scratch. This is the first time I have come across the ploughman’s. It is a cold meal typical of the UK that consists of cheddar cheese, pickles, chutney and bread.

We wander through the sunny streets towards the abbey. Next to the abbey we stumble upon the local cricket club. There are tables and chairs nestled next to the clubhouse and we open our ploughman’s with a view of the Tewkesbury Abbey in the distance. This is so English I almost want to laugh as we sit here eating our ploughman’s while the local cricket team play a match behind us.

After lunch, we explore Tewkesbury Abbey. It is truly a beautiful sight in the distance, rising among the green fields and purple flowers.

We wander around the inside of the abbey, marveling at the high ceiling and listening to the echo of the rehearsing choir. The air inside is crisp. Opposite the abbey are quaint tea rooms.

We spend the afternoon, wandering the streets and drinking in the Tudor architecture. I love the higgeldy-piggeldyness of it all. The roofs are slanted and thatched. There are lopsided windows and dark, leafy walkways. Today, the sun has made a guest appearance.

The River Avon sparkles under the sun. Houseboats bob up and down and ducks follow each other through waterlilies. There are tourists and locals wandering along the river eating icecream and staring blankly as the single tour boat floats up the river. In the distance, the abbey rises above the roof-tops.

We take a quick glide up the river on the tour-boat for six pounds. We float past an old jail with smashed windows and as we drift further up the river there are green fields dotted with black and white cows. There are locals fishing off the side of the river, and as we pass under a bridge, people wave down to us.

This is how I imagined England to be: green fields, treasured summer days and thatched roofs. In the late afternoon, we stroll through a local market where they have everything for sale from clothes to buckets full of Panadol and Nurofen – not something I expected to see at a local market.

Locals seem to latch onto the beautiful summer days and treat them like rain in a drought. As we walk toward the train station, we discover an appealing bike track where families are strolling with prams and leafy trees line the walkway.

So we take it slowly, enjoying this rare dose of the English sunshine.

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