Wednesday was our first day off for over two weeks, and it was desperately needed. When you have as few days off as we do, you feel as though you need to cram in as much as possible to make up for all the days you’ve spent working. We certainly packed in an interesting variety of things on Wednesday, based largely around the beautiful Cotswolds.
We started the day with a delicious breakfast at Huffkins Bakery, a relatively recent addition to Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s part of a small Cotswolds chain and we were highly impressed. My cappuccino was delicious – just the right size and beautifully presented.
Lee was really pleased with his substantial sausage bap, which contained two large, real sausages – nothing mass-produced about it. I loved my bakewell tart, which had a generous layer of icing and was also very nicely presented.
From there we drove to the airfield. I had initially said that we ought to stay away from the airfield, or our day off would be too much like work, but it was such a lovely day that it would have been a shame to waste it. I’ve been waiting for just such a day to fly the Robin solo for the first time, and with virtually nil wind and lovely blue skies, I couldn’t have picked a better day. I did a quick check flight with Lee – just a circuit – and then he got out and I was all by myself in an aeroplane for the first time since August.
Although I’ve obviously done quite a few hours solo when I was getting my PPL, this was to be my first solo in a Single Engine Piston aircraft, as I didn’t need to do any solo to add that rating to my licence. I’ve probably said this before, but there are very few things in life that give one a greater sense of satisfaction and pride than being able to fly an aeroplane on one’s own. It’s at once enormously exciting, slightly nerve-wracking and very surreal.
I was pleased with my take-off and landing, though I must admit I felt slightly nervous on my approach. It all went really well though – the Robin is a lot easier to fly than the motorgliders. Here’s a photo Lee took of me doing my engine shutdown checks when I got back. If we all had to do as many checks before and after driving as we do when flying a plane, we would be late all the time!
Having tucked the Robin back up in its hangar, we decided to make our way by road to Broadway. On the road leading up to the tower carpark, we chanced upon this tame deer, with whom a flock of sheep were sharing their field.
Immediately on pulling up in the carpark, the views are spectacular.
And are those shoots I see on the trees? Spring really is just around the corner!
It’s free to walk around Broadway if you don’t go in the tower, but the carpark costs £2 for up to four hours. You can get a refund on this if you spend £5 or more on tower tickets or the cafe, but that certainly wasn’t the only reason why we started by enjoying a chilled glass of Sauvignan Blanc and sharing a Cornish pasty at the lovely cafe. It’s a really great idea to visit Broadway during the week, as it’s so much quieter and more civilised when all the kids are at school! We sat there for quite a while by the fire, enjoying the sun streaming through the windows. The sun had come round by the time Lee took this pic, but it gives you an idea of how nice the cafe is, anyway.
After that it was time to don our layers again and head out into the cold for a short walk around the tower. I just love the gentle undulation of the path in this photo.
I also love the way these trees frame the tower as you approach it, and I wondered whether they were put there by Capability Brown, whose name seems to be everywhere round here, and who dreamt up the idea for this tower.
It really is the most magnificent tower, with commanding views for many, many miles around.
A small herd of resident deer were sitting in the field on the edge of the hill, seemingly oblivious to the gorgeous views!
We didn’t go in the tower this time, as we’ve been inside it before, so we just walked around it and admired some of its features from the outside.
Needless to say, this pic was taken with the big camera, not my iPhone!
This beautiful dry-stone wall somehow feels immensely satisfying to look at, don’t you think? Such neat rows of stones and a lovely curve as it hugs the hill.
I admired these trees just as we were getting back to the car. Still bare of their leaves, you can really appreciate the lovely intermingling shapes of the branches.
As we were so close to Evesham, and we had an errand to run that we’d not managed to do in Stratford earlier in the day, we decided to head over there before going home, and I’m glad we did because we found this lovely little historic corner of the town.
I wondered what was through that little passageway, and on closer investigation, it proved to be a quaint little alley surrounded by black and white buildings, leading through to…
…a church! In fact, not just one church, but two churches side by side, and the bell tower from an abbey. The two churches were originally in different parishes, but now they’re in the same one. We were quite taken with the cobbled street.
This is the other church, looking back at the alleyway we’d just come through. Everything looked very beautiful bathed in the orange glow of sunset.
We went inside the church in the pic above, dedicated to St Lawrence, and we found it very atmospheric. There was some John Taverner-style liturgical music playing, a solitary, plaintive voice, which was so evocative and really brought the place to life in a way that almost reminded me of some of the churches in Rome.
All in all, we managed to pack an awful lot into our day off! We were really reminded of how happy we are to live in this beautiful part of the world, with so much culture and natural beauty right on our doorstep.