February always tends to bring a frisson of something to come. Trees are beginning to sway a little and wake from an enforced winter break. Garden birds and others are hopping and flying about with purpose. Fresh root vegetables are jostling for position in baskets and boxes outside farm shops and local markets along with pots of velvety primroses and bunches of daffodils. Log fires blaze cheerily in Cotswold Village Rooms, village homes and local village inns, encouraging visitors into comfortable armchairs and sofas. The smell of freshly roasted coffee, newly baked bread, biscuits and cake is definitely in the air.
Visitors and local folk appear to have emerged and are out walking, cycling, or picking up reins and heading out along bridle paths, footpaths, and rivers. Walking and exploring the glorious national trail of the Cotswold Way that stretches for 102 miles (164 km) between Chipping Campden and Bath and offers stone villages, grasslands, woodlands and valleys along the way needs to be highlighted as a must-do into the diary. The Cotswolds look and feel lovely at this time of the year, there is a quality about the light that is both easy and hard to describe and you will experience it the moment you arrive.
The month has led to trips along hilly lanes to lovely Aylworth Manor in Gloucestershire with a surprise cream egg and a coffee by the Aga with Joanna and happy dogs, Bess and Lara. Headed out to Upton Smokery near the medieval market town of Burford in Oxfordshire and returned home with smoked chicken, a leek, stilton and pork pie, cherry tomatoes and a jar of Bloody Mary Chutney made by Susan at Paddock House, all wrapped up in a brown paper bag.
Also, on the borders of Oxfordshire and near-by Warwickshire a visit out to the comfort of the welcoming sitting room of Uplands House with owner, Poppy, in Upton, near Ratley. Stopped to explore the lovely village of Wroxton complete with village pond, duck house and thatched cottages and across to the Castle at Edgehill which overlooks the walking trail and battlefields. It seemed only right to stop awhile with a tender roast beef sandwich with gorgeous bread, garlicky mayonnaise and chilled glass of Hook Norton ale with stunning views out from the Castle before heading home. This month feels like the start of something new…