We are sociable animals here in the secret valley and nothing pleases us more than when friends call in unexpectedly as they pass by. It doesn’t matter whether there is just one or twentyone, we can always find enough in the store cupboards to water, and feed them too if needbe. More often than not, they are on their way somewhere so a cup of tea, or something a little stronger, is all that is required.
Not the secret valley but still in the Cotswolds. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see that the river Windrush has as many twists and turns in it as our little river
Most of the time visitors arrive by car or on foot for the lane that brings you into the valley is as inviting and sinuous as the little winding river itself: it takes you across cornfields, through trees which create, at this time of year, a leafy tunnel before entering a fold in the hills lined with an avenue of cherry and lime trees. It is here that you get your first glimpse of the river and beyond the meanders the lane turns sharply over the bridge taking you a few more yards to the door of our home.
The villages of Lower and Upper Oddington – you can clearly see the lines of the old ‘ridge and furrow’ field plough marks that can date back a thousand years or more
The secret valley, as I have mentioned before, is a landscape in miniature. Everything is small – the road, the hills, the views, the river, even the stone built bridge you can pass over without noticing it. If it all sounds very idyllic that is because it is.
A couple of weeks ago we had some very unexpected guests although we could hear them arriving for quite a while before they finally did so. It was the unmistakeable sound of a hot air balloon losing height. Hidden by trees we could not see who was landing but went off to investigate – She-dog leading the way – and to assist if required. The multicoloured stripes told us it belonged to Charles Teall who lives some miles away and who had once taken me for a flight, although on that occasion we had not landed on our doorstep – for details of that flight click here.
Charles’ wife, Liz, incidentally, is a very talented potter and we have some very nice pieces of her work. She, like myself, is interested in traditional folk music but, unlike me, she can sing and play the whistle and tabor; she also belonged until recently to a local Morris dancers side. Have a look at her work by clicking here.
By the time we reached it, the balloon had already landed. It never fails to surprise me just how large it is and just how small the basket is.
She-dog is normally fairly cautious and we thought that she would be nervous of the balloon. As always, she proved us wrong and felt it important to inspect every part of the balloon: below, the folding meets her approval. Talking of approval, those of you that follow She-dog’s exploits may have been wondering what is the latest on puppy news: there isn’t any. On the last two occasions she has refused to co-operate. She obviously felt that once was quite enough!
I am always surprised how neatly everything folds away and into such a small space. There is always a mobile support team to assist where necessary so our help wasn’t required. Once packed we were able to catch up with the latest news over a drink and reminisce about our trip flying over the Cotswolds. The aerial shots were all taken on that day.
The counties of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, which form the greater part of the region known as the Cotswolds, have some of the best surviving examples of ridge and furrow. To find out how these were created, click here.