SOUTH LEIGH, OXFORDSHIRE

Ah, The Cotswolds!

Cute, sand-colored cottages with window sills filled with blooming plants, old churches, cozy neighborhood pubs and quaint shops make the Cotswolds so picturesque and well-worth a visit.

And of course, there is nearby Oxford University, famous for its many colleges with well-known graduates such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Stephen Hawking, Hugh Grant, Oscar Wilde, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), Rachel Maddow, Pete Buttiieg, Dr. Seuss, Boris Johnson and so many more. Oxford is also the ‘home’ of Inspectors Morse and Lewis and young Mr. Endeavour and that bespeckled wizard, Harry Potter.

Today is the last day of a 3-week house/pet sit in the tiny village of South Leigh outside of Oxford in the middle of the countryside. I arrived via a very bumpy plane ride from the Isle of Man and landed at nearby Birmingham airport. The train station, with lines running everywhere in the UK, is just a 5-minute, free tram ride from the airport to the station and then it was an hour’s ride to Oxford where my homeowner was picking me up.

I was so excited about visiting this part of the England as I have explored the north (Scotland), the Middle (Cambridge and London) the West (Bournemouth) and the South (Dover, Brighton and Eastbourne).

As we drove from Oxford to South Leigh, Louise filled me in on the house where I would be staying. She pointed out that it is literally right next to St. James the Great Anglican Church which is located on the site where a chapel was built soon after the Norman Conquest, possibly by 1086. The door to the nave of today’s church is from 1147 and the church that stands today was completed in 1869. John Wesley preached his first sermon here in 1725, but once he founded the Methodist Church, he was no longer welcome.

The paintings that cover the inside walls of the church have been restored many times over the years but date from the 14th and 15th centuries. And the house where I would be staying was built by the church’s Vicar in 1875 as a preparatory school for boys. Over the years it been an orphanage, a hospital during WWII, and a rehabilitation clinic before it was subdivided into 4 huge, individual homes in the 1990’s.

I found this great collage-maker app that allows me to share with you many more photos than I normally could. Let me know if you like it!

St. James the Great in all its glory. I attended services here on 2 Sundays and learned more about the church’s history. I especially like the old, tilting tombstones that surround the church.
Top Left: – My homeowners portion of the school. Top Middle – My Bedroom (3rd floor!) Top Right: – View from my bedroom. Middle Left: – The entire school now 4 separate houses. Middle Right: The kitchen where I spent most of my time with it’s always warm Aga stove. Bottom Left: The TV/Sitting room just off the kitchen. Bottom Middle: The formal living room. Bottom Right: The backyard which goes on forever and includes several sheds, and a large swimming pool.

I was so happy to meet a kind and generous Dutch couple, friends of my homeowners, who took me under their wing during my stay. Werner works for a non-profit that assists persecuted Christians in countries all over the world. Hennie is a nurse/midwife.

They lived in the Middle East for many years and just moved here last Fall. They took me with them to church on Sunday mornings, out for a typical English Sunday Roast at the local pub, The Manor Arms, and this week we went to a Indian buffet.

Top Left: Roast Beef (rare), roasted potatoes and root veggies and Yorkshire Pudding. Top Right: It’s cold and wet but the daffodils are blooming everywhere! Middle Left: The one-lane road that leads to where I am staying. Bottom Left: The Manor Arms outside. Bottom Right: The huge fireplace and comfy chairs inside the Manor Arms.

Hennie was kind enough to take me touring of several of the Cotswolds villages – Burford, Burton-on-the-Water, Bampton, even to Aston pottery for a coffee and scone!

Top Left : The rolling countryside. The typical Cotswold cottages that line the streets of Burford.
Bottom Left: One of my favorite things to take photos of – pub signs. Bottom Right: The very old and seriously dipping-toward-the-middle top half of a Burton shop.
Top Left though Middle Right: The lovely village of Burton-on-the-Water. A baby Venice with a canal running through the middle but with low bridges only the ducks and swans can swim under. Bottom Left, Middle and Right: St. Mary’s Catholic Church deeded in 1069 to William the Conqueror. Bampton was used as the ‘home village’ for “Downtown Abbey” and you can see the main farm, hospital for the WWII scenes and Mrs. Crawley’s house here in this little village.

The weather did not cooperate the 3 weeks I was here, so I didn’t get in as much touring as I had hoped. The first week was a total wash-out with the storms that I had left on the Isle of Man moving here to the mainland.

I did manage to find my way, driving on the ‘wrong side of the road,’ to the nearby town of Witney and their Minor Injuries Care Center. There I had my arm x-rayed and checked out by another doctor as the pain was not subsiding and sleeping was almost impossible. I learned I had really bruised my rotator-cuff, pulled the tendon/muscle in my upper arm and it would be close to 12 weeks before I should start to feel back to normal. Only Advil or Paracetamol were recommend. 😞

I was thrilled to find a morning without rain during my 2nd week and drove to Witney, parked the car and took the bus into Oxford for a free walking tour of the city and colleges. Because it was examination week we weren’t allowed to go into any of the colleges. Points of interests included many Harry Potter and Inspector Morse/Lewis filming sites, the history of many of the beautiful building and what we would find inside, if we could have gotten inside. Our tour guide was an Oxford grad so that made the tour more interesting.

When the tour concluded, I asked our guide to point me in the direction of a good pub for a lunch for what else, fish ‘n chips. He lead to me The Bear, the oldest pub in Oxford. With it’s low ceilings, warm fireplaces, and an owner who cuts off the bottom-half of the student’s rep ties and hangs them on his walls (he has ties from Bill Clinton and Tony Blair among 100’s of others) it was the perfect place to rest and get warm after the walking tour.

Top Left – The Bear. Top Right – The bartender ducking under the low ceiling. Middle Left – just a few of the clipped college ties. Middle Center – the stairway looking down from the Ladies. Middle Right – a truly great sign I have posted below so you can actually read it. Bottom Left: Door said to have inspired C.L. Lewis as the entrance to Narnia. Bottom Right: A humorous door stanchion.

Here is the note posted at The Bear with Etiquette for Pub Conversation for all their customers to follow. Not a bad idea for anyone anywhere at anytime.

On my next-to-last day here, Hennie had me sit on our nearby resting bench for a photo-op. The British love to walk, hike, and stroll everywhere. And everywhere you go they have very kindly left you a bench to rest upon when your feet are weary. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my ‘Wellies’ with me on this trip and the footpaths were quagmires of mud and rainwater while I was here. I had so hoped to tour nearby Blenheim Palace but came down with a terrible head-cold my last week and knew those around me would not appreciate my sneezing and coughing and I didn’t like the idea of being in the midst of a large crowd. So next time.

Tomorrow I bus to Gatwick to meetup with my good friend and traveling buddy, Joyce. From there we will fly to Dublin where we will begin a 6-day self-driving (me again driving a stick-shift on the wrong side of the road) circle tour of the Republic of Ireland.

As you might imagine, we’ve talked about how to stay healthy and safe and hopefully not catch the Coronavirus that is sweeping the world. We feel fairly safe as Ireland has had only 1 reported case and we will not be mingling with large crowds anywhere we go.

From Ireland we fly to Portugal for a week in the Algarve and finish with a week in Lisbon before flying back to San Miguel de Allende. We have purchased disinfectant wipes and lots of hand sanitizer. We both have had our flu and pneumonia shots, neither of us have pre-existing lung conditions and we will sing Happy Birthday twice everytime we wash our hands. We will do everything that is suggested to not contact this virus. But we decided we won’t let fear of the unknown or the media stop us from living our lives. We have health insurance and if we get sick, we will be near friends who will make sure we are well taken care of. Life must go on!

Until next time….

6 Replies to “SOUTH LEIGH, OXFORDSHIRE”

  1. I love reading your blog. I am traveling right along with you, although vicariously. Did you know that Jim’s first name is “Werner?” That was his dad’s first name.

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  2. So beautiful, all. I admire your bravery re driving in Europe! Stay safe, stay well, and I SO look forward to your return to San Miguel!

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  3. I enjoy your blog and following along on your travels. I like the idea of housesitting and pet sitting as a way to stay in one place long enough to really experience it. Which sites do you use/recommend for finding sits?

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    1. Kathleen. Thanks for the kind words. I am registered with TrustedHousesitters.com, the largest, most well-known and most international locations to choose from. I’ve been with them for 7 years! If you join, use the code RAF105410 and they will give you 25% off their annual membership fee. If you have questions, feel free to ask.

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