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BlueJolly Molly does The Cotswolds

Nick takes his elderly mother for a week in the Cotswolds. 

This year's holiday destination: Bishop's Cleeve at the foot of the western escarpment.

Hopefully Jolly Molly, will be able to amuse herself a bit this year. She has organised a Sunday Afternoon Tea with an old school friend and daughter. There's another friend in Tewksbury she must see that's "still with us." Judith, my sister, has been instructed to attend on Friday.

Jolly Molly wants to snoop around Gloucester Cathedral one day. So that leaves 2 days yet to be organised.

Let's see how I cope....

Comments? Email me!

Saturday 20th April


I drive to Northampton to collect the old biddy. I arrive at 12:30, and I'm greeted by some Spam sandwiches.

"Never again." she said. "I was so exhausted last year, I said I'd never go with you again."

Now she tells me. This would have saved a lot of suffering for both parties.

She's now recovered and wants another trip!

I pack her many mysterious bags in to the car.

"Haw Haw Haw," Jolly Molly cackles, "Off we go!"

I choose a leisurely circuitous route. We'd be there in just over an hour if I went the direct way. We skirt around Northampton, Daventry, Southam, Morton in Marsh to Batsford Arboretum, where we have a welcome relief stop at 14:30.

We enjoy a cup of tea and scones at the arboretum garden shop.

We pass Cousin Arthur's house, and on through Broadway and Winchcombe to this year's holiday destination: Bishop's Cleeve.

Bishop's Cleeve

Pre-programming the GPS with the location of the house made the job of finding the house very easy.

Bungalow at Bishops CleeveWe arrive at 15:40 and are greeted by the landlords and are shown around. Jolly likes the sun room / conservatory. "What luxury!"

The bungalow is clean and tidy. The smart garden is weeded and the lawn immaculately cut. 

I explore the town. Not really the Cheltenham slum that I was expecting - nor really a holiday destination either. Maybe I'd change my mind.

There's a crop of supermarkets and local shops. The local book shop has the usual guide books - I purchase a couple and a local map. I was bemused to see text books on UML and amateur radio call books. The proprietor explains the amateur radio books; he's a G4 and the UML - engineers at nearby GCHQ use it.

Jolly Molly is now ready for her supper: fish and chips at the Royal Oak. An entirely adequate family pub with a pint of Tetley.

We drive around the town, with a clear view of the Malvern Hills, and she's ready for her "coffee before bedtime." 

Why does she have a stimulant before going to sleep?

Sunday 21st April


06:00 - Jolly Molly's up and banging about. 

The wash basin joins in with a resonant gurgle that starts after five minutes of being drained. 

I suffer these noises for two hours - then choose to appear for breakfast at 08:30. She's waiting for her baby, making sure he gets enough to eat.

Jolly Molly has invited friends over for Sunday Afternoon Tea. 

Jolly Molly says everything's ready. "I prepared it all before we drove over. We need a quart of milk" [That's 1.13l]

"Buying food on a Sunday! What an evil thin to make me do!" I complain.

"But we need these things for our visitors!" she pleads.

The local Tesco's obliges. I also buy some fresh food, ensuring we have an edible menu option for our guests.

Flowers at Sudely Sudeley Castle

Tithe BarnTithe Barn and fish pondWe drive to Sudeley Castle for our midday meal.
Tithe barnTithe Barn Sudeley Castle meets with Jolly Molly's approval - especially when I park close to the restaurant. The food on offer suits her well - bacon and cheese snacks and coffee are fine. It's a pleasure to be able to sit outside in shirt sleeves. Summer is coming!

Remains of Main Halltree I spend the bright sunny afternoon walking around the grounds. Cromwell vandalised a some of the structure: only parts of the main hall and tithe barn remain. 


16:00 and Jolly Molly's friend Marjory arrives with her daughter Elizabeth. Lots of reminiscences. They were both young teachers working together at the beginning of World War 2. We all enjoy tea in the sun room.

Jolly Molly has prepared the meal. It was actually prepared a couple of days previously. The meal includes tinned puke, sold as tinned potato salad. Is this the 3rd year this has been sprung on me? Anyway her visitors and I all shun the yellow mush. The fruit salad prepared 3 days before has begun to ferment.

Elizabeth and I plan suitable excursions for Jolly Molly for the rest of the week. Elizabeth is also aware of the limitations of an elderly parent.

Jolly Molly complains to Marjory that all her friends at the sheltered accommodation are dying like flies, and some more will have gone by the time she gets back there.

"What do you expect if you live in a place like that!" Marjory replies with brutal honesty. We young ones snigger.

We enjoy coffee, and the visitors escape.

From Stockwell Common, near Cleeve Hill, I watch the sun set in peace.

Monday 22th April 

Abbey cloister wallHailes Abbey

Rag Doll Jolly lovesHailes Abbey is just the other side of Winchcombe. 

Tea and biscuits is available from the nearby fruit farm. Pleasant restaurant overlooking orchard. A field busy with "pick your own" signs. How voluntary? I'm not sure. There are several minibuses parked in the field. It looks like a scene from India. Colourfully dressed people are bending over picking spring onions.

Oh yes, the remains abbey are worth exploring. Even Jolly Molly walks around the square of the cloister. 

The Pitkin guide DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTERIES gives a good introduction as to why these splendid buildings were abandoned.

The skeletal ruins of monasteries throughout England and Wales stand as stark reminders of the four years (153640) during King Henry VIII's reign when 10,000 monks, nuns and friars were dispersed. This reasoned guide explores whether religion or money motivated the Dissolution, and evaluates the results.

"The Pheasant", a pub on the nearby crossroads serves us generous sandwiches for lunch.

Harris HawksNational Birds Of Prey Centre

The National Birds Of Prey Centre is situated near Newant, a half an hour drive through  Cheltenham  and around the Gloucester ring road. There's no bypass around Cheltenham. Cheltenham is one way hell. It's damned tedious to drive through.

BlueOwlyAt the centre there are lots of birds to see. Many are un-caged, sitting on perches, tethered.
EagleGareth and OwlThe centre is run by Jemima who, and I'm sure she would agree, is what is termed a character.

It's great fun seeing her show the birds. I imagine she treats her dogs, staff, and visitors the same way. 

She teases her assistant, 17 year old Gary, while he puts an owl through its paces. 

Dog looks onOwlSome black Labradors help. There are 5 adults and 6 pups within the grounds.

The flying demonstration exercises an albino kestrel, a pair of Harris hawks, a Golden Eagle, a falcon, and Gareth's Owl. The handlers explain that some of the birds are not at their peak - a tad overweight. This is normal for this time of year, just after a 5 month wintering rest.


PeckySecretary A captivating show, and fascinating place to explore.

So far away

I return via the motorway, a 20 minute drive, delayed by a puncture.

Jolly Molly was astounded that I should have driven so far! 

"Newant - That's almost Wales! The other side of Gloucester. This is a Cotswold holiday - You really should stay in the Cotswolds!" she reprimanded.

Evening Meal

Tonight's venue: Old Farmers Arms, north of Bishops Cleeve.

Soup, dead pig, and we return home for scrabble. Jolly Molly wins 238 points to my mere 219.

Tuesday 23rd April

Tyres in Cheltenham

FlowersI locate a tyre fitter in Cheltenham. Actually finding the damn place in the unfamiliar town is tricky. One day when every car has a GPS installed, shops will give out their map grid references. Or I'll install MapPoint on my laptop!

StatueThe tyre is replaced by a pair of reasonable lads. I take the break to wander around the town. Pleasant - the smarter and more presentable version of its neighbour Gloucester. At Waterstones I buy some reading material: A Density of Souls and The Common Thread.

I interact with a cross section of people. A ticking off from a prim middle age smartly dressed woman as I walk in front of the municipal offices. "Get off the grass!" she orders.

I do so out of sheer amazement. The grass is well walked and rutted.

I defer to her complaints. How sweet to have only trampled grass to worry about.

Later on a foul smelling tramp demands: "10p for a cuppa, mate?" 

"No! Sod off!" I retort, "A quid is the minimum I'd expect to pay around here."

The drunk walks straight out into the road. A van brakes, stops and misses him - the two following cars behind shunt into the back. It would have been cheaper to give him the 10p: but more fun not to.

I collect my car, and leave Cheltenham in mayhem.

Bishops Cleeve ChurchSt George's Day

The flags are out on all the churches. 

"Hooray for St George!" chuckles Jolly.

River AvonEvesham

Avon. Spot Jolly Molly! Jolly wants to see Evesham. My friends that have been on training courses there have said that it's a dead place and have even made the journey over to visit me in Milton Keynes. That might give you an idea how bad the place is!

Jolly Molly's last visit was in 1930 something - it's changed a bit. I collect some filled baguettes and canned drinks and we sit in a park by the river Avon. She's happy to enjoy the warm weather and the view of the water.

Sign of the times!Belas Knap

I deposit Jolly for her afternoon siesta and drive to nearby Belas Knap, a 3000 year old Neolithic burial mound. I park by the road where there are dire warnings about thieves. Shattered laminate glass is twinkling in the grass verge.

Belas Knap Barrow False EnteranceBarrow entranceA half mile walk up hill and there it is - well what's left after several generations have interfered with it. The state tidied it up in 1931 and has maintained it since then. It's impressive anyway.

I return down hill. After a couple of minutes : "How much further is it?" A student asks coming up the other way.

I look at my GPS and reply: "4 miles-ish". 

"Bugger that!" he replies. Dejected, he starts to turn to follow me down hill.

"It's only a couple of minutes - I'm having you on!"

Excellent! Winding up three strangers in one day. "Cool!" 

Pine tree doing its thingThis must be some side effect of humouring Jolly Molly for a week.

I drive via Snowshill, Broadway and back to Evesham. This gives me time to wander around. I plan suitable stops for a Jolly Molly sojourn later this week.

Today is the first really warm day this year. A sunny 20C.


Collect Jolly Molly and head for the Beckford Arms for fish and chips. Goff's Jouster beer. Very drinkable.

We return to Bishops Cleeve. I start to read my newly purchased books. I find it difficult to concentrate. I cannot immerse myself in adolescent life in New Orleans when JM talks about her adolescent life in and around here. 

She tuts: "Where's my coffee?"

I oblige and retreat to my room.

Wednesday 24th April


We now have a series of expired loaves of brown bread to negotiate. One "expired" last week, the other yesterday. 

"Nothing must be wasted." 

We now also have a week old salad and hardening tinned puke to go with it!

Rationing ended in the UK 49 years ago. 

I fix the basin with the exponential gurgle. A bamboo cane from the garden is requisitioned to rod out a couple of years' worth of guests' hair from the drain. This will make the mornings less irksome.

Broadway TowerBroadway Tower

Broadway VillageToday's lunchtime treat is held at Broadway Tower. Broadway empty in morning but soon fills up in afternoon coaches of tourists. 

The village is pleasant enough - Jolly likes the slow drive through the town. 


From the tower there are 14 counties visible, although not today, another sunny day but too hazy. 

Here's the official list, held by the good soul in the tower, not in any publication, digitally transferred to this very page!


Clockwise from North:

  1. West Midlands
  2. Staffordshire
  3. Warwickshire
  4. Leicestershire
  5. Northamptonshire
  6. Buckinghamshire
  7. Wiltshire
  8. Gloucestershire
  9. Bath & North Somerset (Formally Avon)
  10. Gwent
  11. Herefordshire
  12. Worcestershire
  13. Dyfed
  14. Shropshire

The day warms up. 22C the gauges in the car announce. We have toasted sandwiches with the goats and rabbits at the tower picnic site.

I lead Jolly Molly to the Ladies toilet - "It's so warm - I've still got my winter vest on!" she proclaims.

The 20 or so visitors enjoying their lunch smirk.

Jolly Molly strikes up a conversation with a fellow reliever in the toilet.

"How did she know I still had my winter vest on?" Jolly recounts as I lead her away. 

I propel her to an isolated bench hidden in the trees with instructions not to speak to anyone or anything whilst I go and inspect Broadway Tower.

Cousin Arthur was not in. Sir Arthur Evans lived at the tower in the early 1930's. Of course he's not in - he died in 1941 for one thing. The tower was not his only home, but an escape from life in Oxford. I imagine he enjoyed life here.

I drive Jolly Molly back to Bishops Cleeve via some delightful villages.

The good thing about a GPS is that you can't get lost. Set a waypoint as destination and lazily follow the arrow - no wrong turns.

Evesham Bell TowerEvesham

I return to Evesham - lazing in the sun in Abbey Park, stuffing myself on Cornish pasties from a local bakers, reading a book.


The Apple Tree a few minutes up the road is host for this evening's soiree.  Jolly Molly is horrified that her little baby does eat up all his greens. (Too many pasties!) A couple of pints of Whirlygig beer. OK!

We return to the bungalow. A phone call almost put in an apostrophe before the 'p' in phone there. I must not be with old people!  from Jolly Molly's elder son. A full explanation of the days activities was recounted - though she wasn't sure why on earth Niccy went back to Evesham.

"...and he didn't finish up his dinner. I hope he's alright." she clucked. 

The phone was passed to me. I continued with a fuller description to my brother. Loudly and plainly so our mother would not be left out. I included several farm animals in my fictitious activities in Evesham, and a complete and accurate report on my recent bowel evacuation preformed barely 3 minutes before he called.

See how the stress is getting to me! Soon be over. Only two more days to go.

After a shower I relax a bit. Another game of Scrabble.... and coffee...

Thursday 25th April


The series of bread loaves now has a new third member. Working with the expiration dates, 14th and 24th now have the company of 29th. Having so much bread to manage! It keeps her occupied.

The fruit salad is offered to me. "It's quite nice". It certainly isn't nice. Only the grapes appear recognisable. The dear surfer is saved from the picture of the rotting food being posted here: I would have to set this page to an adults only rating. 

The remains get fed to the birds. The robin, starlings and blackbirds all show no interest. I just hope the acidic pulp doesn't scorch the grass.

Abbey ArchEvesham

Bell TowerCooler and fresher, still we have sun.

Jolly Molly wants to go to Evesham - now that I've found reasonable access for her. 

2nd floor of the Abbey Park car park: a door opens straight on to the parkland. The transition is startling - a dark cold concrete car park with the smell of petrol and exhaust. Pass through a door and your immediately in a warm bright green parkland.

She appears satisfied with the park. A couple of rolls and fizzy drink she's very happy. 

"How do they make these rolls? They are crisp on the outside and soft in the middle!" Jolly Molly asks.

"They're fresh, Mother dear." I respond.


AbbeyOrganTewksbury Abbey is definitely worth a look.
Tewksburytouching soulsTouching souls is a monument set in the Abbey grounds near the refectory that serves a good dollop of crumble and custard.
Remains of CloisterTracery in the CloisterThe remains of the cloisters are so finely detailed.
Copper BeechTraceryTaking a holiday in late April is the right time to see trees in new leaf. This Copper Beech, residing in the Abbey grounds asks to be put on the web.

Landmark Trust PropertyCopper BeechThe Landmark Trust have care of the Abbey Gatehouse, one of the buildings that surrounds the Abbey.

Evening Meal

Return with Jolly Molly to the Beckford Arms. Some more of Goff's Jouster beer and to eat: chicken in white wine source. Very nice. 

They don't boil their green long enough Jolly Molly maintains.
"Of course," I agreed. "They should be nice an soft like you always cook them."

Friday 26th April


Cottage in BredonMy sister Judith appears. I make lots of involuntary owl hooting noises showing my dementia. 

"I'm moving house. I'm off to Ireland in September!" Judith announces.
"Cluck Cluck cluck" says Jolly Molly. Her babies are fleeing the nest!

Judith recommends a pub in Bredon Fox and Hounds. When we arrive it's empty but soon fills with the ubiquitous Friday lunch time office workers. Good food - beer 6X.


Gloucester CathedralJudith buys a replacement computer from a local shed. I'm there to give expert advice. PC World will do a maintenance agreement that covers the Republic of Ireland - so they get the business. After the purchase is made we collect Jolly Molly and head for Judith's home in Gloucester, within the cathedral precincts. 

Jolly Molly has a toddle around the building - she knows it well.

I help decommission Judith's old machine - we all know how tedious making backups is! The new machine is connected up and is left in a usable state. 

Jolly Molly is happy being with the Judith's cats. She adores them. She is amazed by the red laser pen / cat combination.

A fish and chip dinner and Jolly Molly is home by 9.30. 

"Too late to finish packing!" she complains.

Tough! Time would be tight. The next morning I arose at 06:00. We left at 07:30 and we were back in Northampton by 09:00.


Jolly Mollie said she had a wonderful time - "Especially the trees. They were so beautiful!"


None really. I could question where the boundaries of the Cotswolds lie. They're not clearly defined. Is the boundary Gloucester plus a bit of surrounding countryside? Or is it the geological limestone belt from Stamford in Lincolnshire down to Dorset?

WallI guess you're in the Cotswolds when the wall look like this.



Good food and plenty of places to explore.

Previous Jolly Molly Breaks

North Norfolk

West Wales


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All images N G Hubbard April 2002