2019 Day 117 – Cirencester

This is indeed a lovely part of England. Seemingly untouched by the heatwaves scorching landscapes elsewhere, this remains a green oasis.

Having learnt that the motorhome parts have arrived and booking the work for Monday, we’re free as birds to flit where we please until then.

We’re returning to a prior haunt today, Cirencester. Set in the heart of the Cotswolds, with history dating back a Roman settlement, it’s considered the capital of the Cotswolds.

Cirencester is a delight: Cotswold stone cottages, parklands of a grand estate to explore, the ancient Cirencester church and historic footprints from Roman and Norman times. There’s also the excellent Corinium Musuem and a rather good restaurant scene.

We lose the morning to travel, chores and restocking the larder, but come afternoon we’re free to step into the sunshine. I’m fast coming to appreciate that autumn may well be the best time to travel. Glorious blue skies, heatwaves banished to mere memory. I’m sure there are rains to come, but for now, it’s utterly perfect.

Our path into Cirencester, through the Bathurst estate, is unfortunately diverted – there’s a major project underway, removing the horse chestnut trees from the kilometre long Broad Avenue. The trees, planted in the 1800s after the Battle of Waterloo, have been deemed at end of life, a risk to life and limb, and are slowing being removed, one by one. It’s rather upsetting to hear the thundering crack as one crashes to the ground. The timing couldn’t be worse for the local squirrels, who’d be busily harvesting now. There’s a 10 year plan to replace the trees with small leafed lime trees, which are native and provide great habitat to insects and birds, but not grey squizlings. 😥

We walk instead through a deeper part of the woods, where Autumn is taking an early hold.

Edging the estate is a former military barracks,

nestled alongside the stone cottages the Cotswolds are famed for.

We make our way to Market Square, lined with colourful buildings

and home to Cirencester Parish church, site of the former St Mary’s Abbey.

It’s history is fascinating. The tower was built in 1400, funded by the seized assets of the Earls of Kent and Salisbury. Deemed rebellious, they were executed in the market place. Ouch.

The oldest parts of the church are 12th century,

the”new” section (clearly visible, above) was built around 1500. It now forms the church’s entryway but also served as a business centre for the (then) Abbey and the Town Hall, after the reformation. Its fan vaulted ceilings are lovely.

There are treasures inside, including the Anne Boleyn cup, made for her in 1535, gifted to her daughter Queen Elizabeth I, who then gifted it to her physician, who lived near by, who eventually gifted it to the church.

Behind the church are the old Abbey grounds, full of ancient trees, flowers and wildlife.

At the very edge of the grounds we find a Cotswold Hare,

and the only remnant of the Abbey, the 12th century Norman Arch – the Abbey’s gatehouse.

The building was purchased from Queen Elizabeth I, by her physician (he of the Anne Boleyn cup), it remained in his family until 1964, when it was presented to the town.

The hare’s the thing, in Cirencester it seems: they pop up everywhere!

As the day draws to an end there’s a last stop to explore lives past: “they all died so young” Himself says.

It’s as a fitting reminder as any to stop and smell the roses from time to time.