23 eager campers travelled to Hailes Fruit Farm for a weekend of camping in scorchio weather again in the Cotswold Hills. Debutant campers (with us) Susan, Maureen, Vedna, Maree, Anne, Jacqui and Linzi joined regulars Brian, Rob W, Rob C, Jan, Leo, Nick, Diane, Gilly, Mark, Sasha, Mike D, Humay, Martina, Nathalie, Martin and Emma, with Daniel, Arthur, Christopher and Freddie making up the party.
Since our last visit the site has added features, the best being the café which served us fish and chips, with excellent ciders and fruit juices from the farm shop. The newcomers settled into the bell tent and we witnessed another group summit; this one between Leo and Gilly, outdoing each other with tall tales and non sequiturs.
Saturday was another blisteringly hot day as we ambled to Hailes Abbey Halt to flag down the steam train. We had our own carriage to enjoy the wonderful views along the Gloucester and Warwick preserved railway. Bacon baps and drinks were served to our tables as we steamed to Cheltenham and then to Broadway. At Broadway we alighted to explore this enchanting Cotswold town with impressive manors and inns around the wide market street. Our walk took us south partly along the Cotswold Way, through the villages of Buckland and Laverton. Leo managed to bag drinks at the upmarket Country Hotel while the rest climbed the hills to take in the stunning views on such a cloudless day.
At Stanton we rested at the Mount Inn with perhaps the best views of any pub in the Cotswolds. From the balcony terrace we could see the Malvern Hills in the distance as we refreshed with some cooling drinks. The village of Stanton is built of the local Guitings honey-coloured stone which reflects back when the sun shines on it. We continued south to Stanway House, the 17th Century Jacobean mansion before arriving back at site.
Nick, Mike D and Martina prepared a lavish barbecue for the group, lots of supplies from the farm shop. Later around the campfire Nick and Gilly swopped anecdotes of encounters with the famous, some of whom were unknown to anyone else. Susan outdid all with her tales of time spent working on death row at Folsom and San Quentin.
On Sunday we awoke with birdsong and the whistles from the steam locos. After many mugs of tea we struck camp and set off on the day's easy walks. Martin led one group on the short walk to Sudeley Castle, an early Tudor palace famous as the home of Catherine Parr. The delightful landscaped gardens have featured in several period films. Mike D led another group on a tour of Hailes Abbey, the Cistercian establishment alongside the campsite which was a pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. Brian led the rest of the party on the walk to Winchcombe, the ancient Saxon capital of Mercia. The abbey church is outstanding. Nick and Martina found a few geo caches in the churchyard. After exploring the alleyways and features of the town we had a rather spiffing final cream tea at the tea gardens on another lazy sunny afternoon in the Cotswold Hills.
Report by Brian
Friday evening drinks at site - Photo by Brian
Rob and Mike light campfire - Photo by Brian
Start of walk - Photo by Brian
Hailing steam train at Hayles Halt - Photo by Brian
Arrival at Cheltenham - Photo by Brian
Our own carriage - Photo by Brian
Broadway town views - Photo by Brian
Shaded pause - Photo by Brian
Climbing from Buckland - Photo by Brian
Views from Mount Inn - Photo by Brian
Stanton village - Photo by Brian
Stanway House - Photo by Brian
Cream teas at Winchcombe - Photo by Brian