A couple of hours in Castle Combe

One of the mornings during my stay at Lacock village, I had walked around the village a few times and was passing the bus stop, when I decided to check the bus times on a whim. I found that there would be one passing by, in a few minutes, in the direction of Chippenham. As there were still a few hours before the abbey or any of the stores in the village opened, I decided to take the bus and transfer to the Castle Combe bus in Chippenham. I had been intrigued by this village in the Cotswolds but had decided to make the decision on whether to visit it, once I was in Lacock. Decision made, I made my way to Chippenham and transferred to the Castle Combe bus.

Reaching Castle Combe, I found that I would have two hours to roam around before the next bus came to the village. So, I started my walk at the centre of the village, where the bus had dropped me off, at the market square.

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The 14th century market cross was installed when the village was granted the privilege of a weekly market. Near the market cross, the remains of the 19th century butter cross can be seen.

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Facing the market cross was St. Andrew’s church. Some parts of the church are from the 13th century while others, like the tower, was built in the 15th century.

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At the entrance of the church, there was a sheet with explanatory notes for parents and teachers. It was from the sheet that I learnt that the East window above the altar was a Jesse window showing the ancestry of Jesus.The only female figure in the sixteen figures portrayed in the window was that of Mary.

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I also learnt that the tomb within the church was that of Walter de Dunstanville, Baron Castlecomb and lord of the manor in 12th century. The monument is the oldest within the church.

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There is an interesting 15th century clock in the church, which was an hour clock whose bells the farmers working in the fields would listen to.

After my visit to the church, I decided to walk past Castle Inn and under an interesting arch, onto Park lane. The archway cottage is actually part of the accommodation facilities of the Manor House hotel. I had been told that I could access the gardens of the Manor House hotel, which was open to the public, through a pathway off Park lane but I couldn’t find the path and it looked like as if it was a private residential area so I turned back.

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I decided to drop into Castle Inn for a hot cup of coffee. I was the only customer at that time and I made myself comfortable by the fireplace, as I enjoyed my coffee.

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After the refreshing hot drink, I walked out of the inn and took the second road away from the market square. The White Hart pub had been open in the village for the past five centuries.

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This second road, that I was walking along, was the road that the bus had entered the village. There were two buildings that caught my attention on this road. I looked them up later and learnt that one was called the Castle house. This building was originally built as an alehouse called the St George and had been built by Nathanial Elver in 1672.

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Right next to the Castle house is the Dower house, which has the shield of the Scope family, above the door. This house was featured in the 1967 musical Dr. Dolittle. More recently, Downtown Abbey was filmed in the village.

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There was a footpath leading upwards, away from the road, opposite the Dower house and I took that path.

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After a very short distance, I decided to turn back as I had wanted to explore the third street in the village and I thought the forest trail would be a lengthy one.

Walking back to the market cross, I looked at the famous view of the third street that I had seen in so many photos.

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At the start of the street is the Court house, where proceedings were held in medieval times. I think it is someone’s home now as I saw a family coming in and going out of the building, while I was waiting for my bus later.

Opposite the court house and next to the bus stop is a memorial for villagers who died in the first world war.

Walking down that street, I reached the Bybrook bridge. I kept taking many photos, as I admired the pretty buildings overlooking the brook.

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I continued along that street, until I came across another little bridge, and then decided to turn back as it was nearing the time for my bus.

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The old village is tiny and basically has three streets going away from its centre, where the church and the market cross are located. If I had stayed overnight in the village at the lovely Castle Inn, I might have had time to explore the village away from its centre and especially its fascinating forest trails as well as looked for the Roman bridge. As it was, I had a lovely walk around the village’s three main streets for a couple of hours before I headed back to Lacock village.

For ideas on other pretty villages in the Cotswolds to visit, do check out Katy of Untold Morsels’ suggestions for a weekend in the Cotswolds.

[Linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday and Faraway Files #20]
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Walking around Lacock village

A couple of months ago, I visited Wiltshire on holiday and decided to stay at the lovely village of Lacock for a couple of days. The key museum highlight of the village is of course Lacock Abbey and the Fox and Talbot museum, which I have shared in a separate post. In this post, I am focusing on the special highlights of my stay in the village and my morning walks around the village.

Each morning, I woke up to a view of a private garden that I had labelled the secret garden. I would have loved to explore that garden, if I had had the permission of its owner.

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After making myself a hot cup of tea, I would go out for my much treasured morning walks, exploring the village without a soul in sight. The village is tiny with just four main streets in a grid like pattern, so I invariably ended up walking around several times during my stay.

The medieval village of Lacock was built around St. Cyriac’s chuch. The base of the current church was built in the 11th century, though there has been renovations made across the centuries.

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Close to the church is King John’s hunting lodge, said to have been used by the King when hunting in the Melksham forest that surrounded the village then. The 13th century hunting lodge, which still has some of its original beam structure, is now a tea room. It was closed for renovations during my visit.

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I took the tiny street near the church, leading towards Nethercote hill, and came upon the packhorse bridge over Bide brook. The packhorse bridge was the first bridge of its kind that I had seen. So, while I guessed that the path leading into and out of the brook was for carts carrying market goods, I had to read about it to learn that it had been used for packhorses during the wool trade heydays of the village.

Instead of continuing down Nethercote hill or taking the Lover’s walk footpath trail, I turned back and walked back along Church street. I passed Lacock bakery, which I had visited during the afternoon of the previous day to indulge in a sweet pastry.

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Near the end of Church street, close to the main road, I came upon the Sign of the Angel, which had been a 15th century inn and was now a restaurant with rooms to board. Later in the day, when I was walking along the street, I saw tour groups gathering outside the inn and the tour leader was referencing Harry Potter so I guess this place must have been one of the many places in Lacock that was used in the movie. I was more interested in the fact that the village was used to depict Meryton village in Pride and Prejudice (the 1995 BBC miniseries).

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From the corner of Church street and West Street, it was lovely to see my rooms above Quintessentially English and I wished that the cars had not been parked on the road, so I could imagine that I had traveled back in time.

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Walking along West Street, I passed George Inn, which had been highly recommended for their food by Ollie and where I had planned to have one of my dinners but never did get around to it. George Inn has continued to be a bustling inn since it obtained its license in 1361.

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Turning on to High Street, I passed the National Trust shop and Red Lion inn.

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While I did not try out all three main inns in Lacock as I had originally planned to, I did have a lovely meal at the Red Lion. I am a fan of the chunky chips that is served in England.

Opposite Red Lion, at the start of East Street was the medieval tithe barn. This was the place where taxes was collected in the form of 10% of farm produce.

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At one end of the barn was a small holding cell, which had been used to hold people overnight, who had too much to drink.

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The next door village hall is used for community events.

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Returning to High Street and walking further in the direction of the abbey, one passes the playing field managed by the Lacock Parish council.

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The High Street curves around the low walls and perimeter fence of the abbey grounds and onto Hither Way. I enjoyed my views of Lacock Abbey and its grounds, from the road.

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I walked up to the Wharf and Lacock bridge. This bridge has been in use since the 14th century and I read that it is sometimes inaccessible due to floods.

I became fond of the little village from my morning walk explorations during the two days that I stayed there and would highly recommend an overnight stay or more, rather than a day trip to the village. It adds to the experience of exploring Lacock Abbey.

A special highlight of my stay in the village was my accommodation. From the moment I saw Snoozums on AirBnB, I knew I had to stay there when I visited Lacock. Fortunately, the place was available on the days I planned to visit and it was right in the heart of the village,  above a shop opposite the bus stop.

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Quintessentially English is a delightful shop that Jacqui Sheard founded, so that she could make her passion for crafting handmade organic soaps her profession. The lovely scents of different bath products greeted me as I entered the shop upon arrival. I was soon ushered next door and up the stairs, to Snoozums, the apartment I would be staying at.

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It was a lovely space with a living area, cosy bedroom and a private bathroom. Jacqui left a huge breakfast basket for me as well as some of the bath product goodies in the welcome tray.

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In addition to my delight at staying at the cosy and comfortable apartment in a historic building, I enjoyed interacting with Jacqui and her husband, David. I also enjoyed helping Ollie with packing some of their Christmas orders and learnt about different bath products, in the process. Jacqui was very generous that she gave me an extra night’s stay free of cost, for helping them out with the Christmas orders, and dropped me at Chippenham for my onward journey at the end of my stay.

[Linking this post to Faraway Files #19 and The Weekly Postcard]

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