Life in an English Village

We lived for five years in the Village of Finstock, on the edge of the Cotswolds in England. The Cotswolds are a range of hills west of Oxford. The villages there are famous for their houses built of honey-colored sandstone. We were about half-way between the towns of Whitney and Charlbury, and we lived in one-third of a “summer” manor house. The big manor house for the village was just down the road from us.

Our house was actually on the estate of Lord Rotherwick whose manor was Cornbury Park in Charlbury. The village church (Church of England) was directly across the road from our house, while there was a Methodist chapel at the other end of the village. Our house sat with two cottages and another house on a lane that wandered down the hill into Wychwood Forest. Wychwood Forest is one of the seven Royal Forests that are mentioned in the Doomsday Book (1086 C.E.).

Our wing of the house had been modernized and updated to appeal to US Air Force members who wanted to move off base to live on the “economy.” We had central heat (oil fired boiler that fed radiators), lovely neighbors who drank with us at the pubs in the village, and a big fenced and walled garden that was wonderful for our two boys to play in.

Our older son was in Junior and Senior High School, so he was able to take the bus from the base that fetched kids from the whole area to the American school at RAF Croughton. Our younger son attended the Primary school in the village. He seemed to thrive there. The English teaching methodology for the younger kids involved a lot of exploration and learning by experimentation. I credit that experience to his curiosity about the world at large and his storytelling ability. He is also very adaptable and comfortable in new situations.

Al and I were able to walk to the pub in the evenings. Son #1 was old enough to “take care of” Son #2, so we were very comfortable leaving them when we went. There were two pubs, the Plough and the Crown (converted into a residence since we lived there.) We learned after one or two visits that the Crown was mostly frequented by the local farmers, and the Plough was for folks who lived in Finstock but worked in Oxford or Whitney. That became our “watering hole” and we usually went down after supper and stayed until closing (10:30 pm).

We drank cider since neither of us is fond of beer or ale. I also would have a glass of cream sherry (Harvey’s Bristol Cream) occasionally, although I would have to be careful not to drink too many sherries or Al would have to carry me home.

We played cribbage and dominos with the pub teams that visited other pubs in the area in tournament fashion. It was “interesting” riding in a car with three or four other people on a one-lane road in the pitch black of a cloudy, English night. Why we didn’t end up in a ditch or smashed into a stone wall is a mystery to me. It was especially harrowing when the fog descended and we had a hard time not out-driving our headlights.

The English don’t entertain much in their homes – rather they prefer to just meet friends informally at the pubs. We always had a big Christmas open house in the week before Christmas when we invited both friends from the base and friends from the village. The village people always liked to get our invitation because, as one of the folks said, “The Captain always pours good sherry.”

Our train station was in Oxford, and we loved to take the train into London a couple of times a year – at least once a year to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and once a year to go Christmas shopping at Harrods. We were always able to go to Harrods on Thanksgiving Day because it was our holiday and everything was open in London because they don’t have Thanksgiving as a “Bank” holiday.

Another of our favorite things to do was to search for ancient monuments and prehistoric sites. There are ruins of long barrows and stone circles (think Stonehenge) dotted all over the countryside. And it’s fun to walk on footpaths that lead from village to village with little National History Site markers all along the way.

We loved to visit the ruins of castles and to see Stately Homes that the owners had opened to the public in an effort to raise enough money to keep the house and still pay the taxman. Oxford and its colleges were interesting, and there were bookstores, restaurants, pubs and movies to see.

After five years I was ready to return to the States. My kids have a world view that is not found in books. I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

1 thought on “Life in an English Village

  1. Pingback: Five things that made me happy today – 3/12/22 | An Aging Liberal Hippy from the Left Coast

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