Middle Earth

I must admit that after seven days London grew on me, especially the parks.  Hyde Park, for example, is so large that even on a beautiful Sunday afternoon you can enjoy a lovely walk along the Serpentine, watch the boaters, listen to the speakers at Speaker’s Corner or feed the ducks without feeling the crush of humanity.

However, it was the Cotswolds I really want to see.  They are a string of medieval villages located in an area northwest of Oxford and the southwest of Birmingham. Once upon a time I read that the Cotswolds were the inspiration for Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Having been there, I can believe it.

The real life home of Bilbo Baggins?
View of the countryside from St. James Church, Chipping Campden.

This area flourished in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries primarily because the wool industry.  For this reason many of the churches in the villages are known as “wool” churches (though they really should be called “sheep” churches, don’t you think? Without sheep there would be no wool!)

One of the “wool” churches – St. James in Chipping Campden.

Two things that struck me about the churches and graveyards in the UK were: 1.) Crypts of the illustrious dead (generally wealthy patrons) are located inside the church or under plaques in the floor.  Westminster Abbey must be the final resting place of thousands of illustrious dead.  2.) In the countryside, gravestones for the not so illustrious are spread all around the church – some quite close to the actual building.  This tends to make English graveyards and churches a bit more spooky. This and the fact that they are centuries old.

Holy Trinity, Stratford on Avon, final resting place of William Shakespeare

At any rate, it wasn’t the ghosts who cut our trip to the Cotswolds short (we only stopped in one village) – it was the fear of driving narrow country roads in the rain! Next time I go, I’ll rent a driver to go along with the car!