Friday, 1 May 2009

The sheep hills

I should have guessed when I saw the creamy white ice cream with golden gooey chunks, aptly named honeycomb, that it just wasn’t going to be the same as New Zealand Hokey Pokey. It might have been home grown in the chocolate box region of the British Cotswolds but it just didn’t tick the creamy, sweet, or addictively good boxes.

Disappointing yes, but it’s not like the Cotswolds are really known for their milk or cows – it’s sheep all the way. During the 13th to 15th Centuries the region was famous for its wool. And indeed, its sheep is where the region, about the size of greater Tokyo, got its name – cots means sheep, wolds means hills.

And the hills are plentiful. Green and rolling; the first signs of spring showing with bright yellow daffodils. And in the stone-walled paddocks, little lambs bounce around like energizer bunnies.

It’s just a pity about the people. The Cotswolds are notoriously popular and as a British tourist attraction, the region rates high.

It’s understandable, what with the quaintness of English villages, meandering rivers and relaxed pace of life, but the Cotswolds are not for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of London.

Trying to cross the road in Burford not only took considerable skill but bountiful patience as fancy sports car after fancy sports car zoomed past.

In Bourton-on-the-Water, you were lucky to get a spot by the riverside as families flocked to see the rubber ducky race. While the queue for the unimpressive ice cream was more than 10 people long.

But one thing the Cotswolds do know how to do well is an English cream tea.

And where better to try mouth-watering scones topped with strawberry jam and clotted cream than the Lower Slaughter Manor Restaurant and Hotel.

A 17th Century country house, the manor has all the trimmings of English aristocracy and lavishness – log fires, gleaming silver and crystal and the impeccably manicured lawn of zebra stripes.

It’s a world away from slumming it in London. But I remember my manners and use the butter/cream knife and jam spoon as they were intended – serving the relishes to the side of my plate and then using my own knife to heap the jam and cream atop the scone. Mum would be proud.

And I wasn’t “slaughtered” in the process of consuming my cream tea. Despite the name of this little Cotswold village, there is no macabre history. Slaughter either comes from the Norman Knight, Philip de Sloitre – whose name proved too much for peasant pronunciation, or it is derived from the Anglo-Saxon meaning for muddy.

Whatever its meaning, this was one place in the Cotswolds that wasn’t swamped with people and provided a glimpse into the English heritage.

In a word, divine – just like the scones and jam.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I was over there last year. Some of the villages, such as Bilbury, are quiet and peaceful.