On Friday we did the one hour drive to Oxford to take the train into London for a SlowTrav GTG. We could have taken the train from Stroud, just ten minutes away, but we wanted to try Oxford because there are more trains and from the website it looked like we could take express trains back even during rush hour. (I will write more about trains later – the system of prices is vastly confusing.) Also the fare is half the price, taking it from the totally ridiculous, to just ridiculous.
Sometimes I think I am the worst traveler in the world. The morning drive went well, but it was raining most of the time. We found the station, found the long term parking, managed to pay, bought our tickets, then got on a slow local train instead of the express. It only took an hour longer, but we had planned to meet a friend on the express train. After spending about five hours online, I thought I had the schedules memorized, but nothing ever mentioned a local train to London leaving just a few minutes before the express. (Again, more about this later. This post was supposed to be about snow, not me moaning about trains.)
Our SlowTrav GTG in London was lovely. We all met at The George an historic pub just south of London Bridge. Nine of us had lunch and talked travel and Slow Travel for a couple of hours.
The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High Street, Southwark, London SE1 1NH. This is the last galleried inn in London. Located just south of London Bridge and the River Thames (underground station London Bridge on the Jubilee line) near the Borough Market. It was built in the 17th century and was mentioned by Charles Dickens in “Little Dorrit”. It is now owned by the National Trust, but operates as a pub.
But what does this have to do with snow? It was drizzling most of the day. Steve and I decided to wimp-out and take the last express train we could take on our cheap day return ticket, just before 4pm. Either all my research was wrong, or the person at the Oxford train station was wrong – but it seems as if you have to take slow trains during the rush hour (4pm – 7pm) with the cheap day return tickets.
It gets dark early here, and many days it is not that bright even in the middle of the day. After 17 years of Santa Fe with its blinding sun, 300 days of sunshine a year, hot summers, and ice-cold winters, I find these grey overcast skies oddly comforting. But no one likes driving in the dark and it is pitch black by 5pm. As I write this I realize our logic was off. The 4pm train brought us to Oxford at 5pm, so it was just as dark then as at 8pm – we might as well have stayed longer in London. But, it is a good think we didn’t.
We got the express train and were leaving Oxford by 5:20pm. The GPS (Garmin Nuvi) decided to take us on a different route home, different from the route we took that morning, and one I did not know, so with the dark and the rain and the strange roads, it was pretty intense driving. After about 20 minutes a car covered in snow drove past us. I said to Steve “where did he come from, Scotland?”. It does not snow often in the Cotswolds and none had been predicted in the weather forecast.
Another 10 minutes and we were in a snow storm. There was snow on the ground and it was snowing. More cars were covered in snow. The one hour drive turned into nearly two hours and we found out exactly how hilly it is around Stroud. We decided against the shortcut across Minchinhampton Commons because they get more “weather” up there and the road down to Nailsworth is steep and twisting. Instead we took the steep and twisting road into Stroud. Traffic was at a crawl through this whole area.
The worst was the last few minutes. The cottage we rented, Eastview, is on a hillside above Nailsworth. You drive into Nailsworth, then up the main hill, then along the hillside and higher up the hill on ever more narrow roads until you get to our lane which is a 45 degree steep and very narrow land, then you slide into the parking area. I am happy to say that we made it.
On Saturday we woke up to bright sunshine, blue skies and fields of snow. The neighbors were riding sleds down the hillside. We took the car out (very exciting few minutes getting out of the parking spot and up the steep lane, with Steve pushing and me driving at one point) and went into Stroud. As is usual on a Saturday in most England towns, the town was packed. We got our vegetables at the farmer’s market, had a quick lunch at the local vegetarian cafe (vegetarian hippy places are the same the world round) then headed up to the Minchinhampton Commons where I figured we could easily get at the snow.
At most times of the year the Commons is wonderful. You approach up steep narrow lanes, through charming villages, then come out to this very large open space. It seems like a small “moor”; no trees, wide open spaces, and that day, lots of snow. People were out walking, making snowmen, dogs racing around in the snow. It was beautiful.
We parked on the edge of Minch (this is what everyone calls Minchinhampton for obvious reasons), walked through part of the commons, then walked into the village and had tea at The Kitchen, a place we went to several times when we spent a week in Minch in May 2005.
Walking back through the Commons later in the day, the sun was gone and the sky was clouding up. It was a very different look.
I have more Minchinhampton Commons in the Snow photos posted, but I am still configuring PhotoPost, so please forgive the layout.
On Sunday we woke up to a very mild day (high temp of 50) and all traces of snow gone. All traces of the bright Saturday are gone too and it is back to grey skies and a bit of drizzle. I think we will bundle up and head out for a walk now. Tonight it is back to Minch to see our friends Jonathan and Philippa perform in the church (they are musicians), but we have to leave early so we don’t miss part three of Sense and Sensibility.
Janet emailed and asked “what are you doing?” because I have not been writing about this in the blog. We are doing nothing. Blissful, sweet, nothing. This is like a beach vacation without the sun and the beach.