week was Late May Bank Holiday week, and half-term holiday for schools. At
short notice we managed to rent a large cottage in Newent, Gloucestershire, to
bring our three children, their partners and offspring, together. As it
happened, we were the only ones who could be there for the whole week, from
Friday to Friday, but Andrew and Ellie, with their
daughters Hope and Isobel, came from Sunday to Friday. Hope is now 4½, and
Isobel 22 months – both very active, lively and energetic, so they kept the
adults busy reading books, playing games, running races in the cottage grounds
etc etc etc.
and Rosie came down by train from Manchester for two nights (Sunday
and Monday), while Claire, Raf and baby Charlie drove down on Tuesday and left
again on Thursday. There were about four hours when all 11 of the Schagen
cricket team were present, but we enjoyed the opportunity to meet up and spend
time together. We were reasonably lucky with the weather – two or three days
were really warm and sunny, and we only had one period of light rain.
the family arrived we managed to get in some walking. On the way down we
stopped at the little town of Northleach, on the southern edge
of the Cotswolds, and did an 8-mile walk which included the hamlet of Hampnett,
with an interesting church with Byzantine-style fresco decorations inside. On
Saturday we went to Great Malvern and walked the Malvern Hills, with some great views
as well as gorgeous bluebell woods. On Sunday morning we did a 6-mile walk
which partly followed the river Wye and took in the village of Hoarworthy, with another
fascinating church in an Italianate style.
the rest of the family arrived we did other things, including a boat trip on
the rive Wye at Symond’s Yat and a walk through Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean. The latter is an
intricate maze of paths through weird limestone formations in a wood, which had
us going round in circles before finding a way out. We also went to Gloucester for the day, with
different parties doing different things, from exploring the docks to shopping.
On Thursday we went back to the Forest of Dean to do a sculpture trail
through the woods, and then Andrew, Ellie and the girls
went to visit some nearby caves while Claire, Raf and Charlie drove home and we
went to visit Tewkesbury with its huge and
impressive abbey. Some evenings the grandparents babysat while the middle
generation went out, and we had several late night card sessions playing ‘Oh
Hell!’ and ‘Black Maria’, which are traditional Schagen family favourites.
On Friday we had to leave the cottage by
10. While Andrew, Ellie and the girls went to visit relatives
and then home, we drove on a circular tour of the Welsh borders. We first went
to Hereford, and had a brief meeting with Thelma, an old
friend of Sandie’s, who has moved there. We next went to Hay-on-Wye, the
secondhand bookshop capital of the known universe, and Ian had a high old time
ransacking them all for long-sought cherished volumes. It was another glorious
day, and we picnicked by the river. Later we drove to Abergavenny, and admired
the giant chicken models hanging from the market hall ceiling before exploring
the castle, walking along the river and visiting some pleasant gardens. On the
way home we stopped in Burford for a meal, and returned to High Wycombe after an exhausting but enjoyable week.