The brother (Huw) and the gf (Jayne) live in Coonamble, on a 48,000 acre sheep & cattle farm. It's about 7 hours drive from Sydney and at least 1 hour from the nearest town of Dubbo (where I am reliably informed half this blog's readership is based - I hope all 3 of you are well!). Their countryside looks like this:
I took them to the Cotswolds, about 1.5 hours drive out of London. The countryside there looked like this:
There's no need for a game of "spot the difference", needless to say the kids rather like our English countryside and we all had a ball. (That's not to take anything away from their countryside, which Y and I hope to visit on our next trip back to Oz)
The 3 days we spent were very relaxing and filled with good food. I would recommend our itinerary as an easy way to get out of London without doing a lot of driving.
We picked up our hire car at Heathrow and headed straight to Ardington in Wantage, Oxfordshire where we enjoyed lunch in the courtyard at the Boar's Head. As with so many gorgeous English pubs, this occasion was all about local produce and out of London service & prices.
From here we stopped at the Great Coxwell Barn (a 13th Century monastic barn owned by the National Trust) before heading to Foxbury Farm Shop in Brize Norton. Here we collected what was to be our grazing dinner - cheeses, crackers, chutney, ham, tomatoes, quince jelly, as well as some bacon, eggs, bread, muesli and yoghurt for breakfast. Oh and we may have also purchased a plum crumble and clotted cream - dessert is encouraged on holiday!
We had hired a cottage for 2 nights in Witney (photo above), and we arrived there in the late afternoon and were soon after installed at the outdoor table with wine, our farm shop purchases and a game of Jenga. A lovely evening was spent enjoying the gorgeous weather, pretty cottage garden and, of course, the company.
We stayed in Akeman Cottage which was perfectly located for exploring the Cotswolds (and also Oxford if you have the time). It sleeps 4 and was immaculately presented with good kitchen facilities, an outdoor seating area and BBQ. We particularly appreciated the wide selection of board games! Our 2 nights in the cottage cost 200 pounds which included a fridge stocked with eggs from the chooks, milk, a bottle of wine, jam and biscuits - seemed like a bargain to me. I do love the self catering option when in the English countryside as there are so many well stocked farm shops, it's good to have an excuse to buy the local produce.
On the second day, after a relaxed breakfast in the sun we jumped into the car and explored the Cotswold villages of Lower Slaughter, Upper Swell, Burford, and most of the ones in between! We visited the National Trust's Chastleton House and its pretty gardens near Moreton-in-Marsh, before heading to Daylesford Organic (a 10minute drive away) for a late lunch. Daylesford Organic is almost its own little town - there's the farm shop, restaurant, spa and several shops - the feel is definitely upmarket. We sat outside in the courtyard of the restaurant (above) and enjoyed some lovely salads - beef carpaccio, smoked trout and salmon. The service was friendly and the food fairly reasonably priced, simple and (judging from our empty plates) rather delicious.
After lunch we bought beef burgers from the farm shop, as well as other ingredients for our dinner including some ginger biscuits and apple crumble cake. That night we made amazing burgers - fresh buns, delicious organic beef patties, bacon, cheese, caramelised onions, chutney, tomatoes, and of course a fried egg (we are Aussies remember). Divine!On our third and final day we were up early and heading east, to Thame, just outside of Oxford. We were going to the Thame Farmers Mart for the weekly cattle market. Something a little different for Y & I, but after all to be a true foodie is not just to be interested in food in its final form, but to understand the earlier stages (Don't worry though, you shan't be reading about an excursion to the abattoir anytime soon). We were headed to the markets principally because it would be of interest to my brother, however I found it fascinating watching the cattle sale, and my experience was enhanced considerably by having Huw's expert commentary ("See that cow is worth more because it's got wider hips so will give birth more easily. That cow's already filled out so there's not much value-adding, so worth less. That cow has narrow shoulders which is good for calving" "How do you know all this?" "It's my job". "Oh"). Our last stop was the National Trust's Hughenden Manor (once the home of former Prime Minister Disraeli). We enjoyed a picnic of all our leftover food in the grounds before walking through the house. From there it was an easy 45 minute drive back to Heathrow.
A thoroughly enjoyable, not overly onerous, trip to the countryside. I very much hope I will one day write about the reciprocal countryside tour of Coonamble, Australia and more fun times with Huw & Jayne.
With thanks to Y & Huw for their photography skills.