There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie


Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi


May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett


Saturday, 9 March 2013

St. Oswolds' ~ A Hidden Gem

St. Oswold's Church, Widford
Whenever Stuart and I can steal away from Oxford for just a few hours, we usually head west on the A40, and in less than twenty minutes we are at the gateway to the Costwolds.  The Cotswolds are known for their quant, little villages, so sometimes it's a little difficult to find a place that isn't overrun with tourists. Luckily we have little hidden treasures, off the tourist trail, that we visit over and over again.

We were able to make an escape yesterday afternoon, and our first stop was the tiny, Norman church, St. Oswald's.  It is a little gem of a church, preserved in the middle of a pasture that was once the thriving medieval village of Widford.  Not much remains of the village other than the church, the crop marks, and if you look closely, a few outlines of the medieval buildings.

14th Century wall paintings.
The church itself was built in the 13th-14th century, but there are remnants of a Roman mosaic within the church which date to the Roman period. Since it sits in the middle of fields of grazing sheep and takes a ten minute walk, which is sometimes very muddy, there is not a steady stream of tourists.  This gives St. Oswald's a sense of tranquility and a timeless peace. Max of course loves it for the mud and the sheep and the ducks and the muck, which to a dog is a timeless and ancient pleasure.

Victoria Sponge
After our walk and some moments of peace inside the church, the next stop was just outside the village of Burford, to the Burford Garden Centre, or (for me at least) Nirvana.  Once inside the Garden Centre, our first stop is usually the tea room, where we shared not one but three pieces of cake.  It was too difficult to choose, so we shared the Victoria Sponge (my favorite), the Chocolate and Guinness Cake (very moist), and an old favorite, the Lemon Cake.

Once we were fortified with cake and Earl Grey, it was time to shop for flowers and garden supplies.  We drive a Land Rover for this very purpose and we usually load it to the gills.  After filling up the back of the car, we headed back to Oxford with our daffodils and pansies, birdseed and hedgehog food, compost and fertilizer, inspiration for another year's worth of gardening--and a very dirty, smelly, and happy little dog.  And we were pretty happy too--who wouldn't be after a country walk, a medievel church and three pieces of cake.

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Swinbrook
To get to St. Oswald's, drive west out of Oxford on the A40, following the signs to Burford.  Just before Burford you will see a right-hand turn to Swinbrook.  Follow the single track lane down onto the valley floor and to the hamlet of Swinbrook.  There is either a pub or a village hall with parking.  Walk up to the church of St.Mary the Virgin, following the steps up to the church. 

Walk along the path in the church graveyard and just past the church on your left you will see the headstones of the Mitford sisters; novelist Nancy Mitford is the author of "Love in a Cold Climate".  Pop inside the church and look for the striking "Fettiplace" monuments.  Then keep following the path through to the back of the graveyard until you come to a gate on your left.  Go through the gate and follow the path until you come to a gate that leads out into the pasture.  Keep walking west and you will soon see, off on a knoll up to your right, St. Oswald's Church.

Huffkins Burford
Once you have visited St.Oswald's be sure to visit the Cotswold village of Burford, with a stop at one of the best tea shops in England, HuffkinsThe Burford Garden Company is just before the roundabout into Burford, to your left.  They offer a range of plants, flowers, everything garden, housewares, antiques, outdoor clothing, organic food and an excellent tea room with wonderful homemade and organic food.

Friday, 1 March 2013


To tower and hall and lines of pinnacles.
The wind among the elms, the echoing stairs,
The quarters, chimed across the quiet quad
From Magdalen tower and neighbouring turret~clocks
Gave eighteenth century splendour to my to my state.
                                                                  ~John Betjeman