A Weekend Break in The Chilterns
Sometimes you need to escape. To retreat and to hunker down away from day-to-day life for a day or two. It was with such feelings that my partner, our daughter and I headed to The Chilterns and Wisteria Cottage in lovely Watlington Village one frosty weekend.
Tell me about The Chilterns
Much of it protected as “an area of outstanding natural beauty” The Chilterns covers an area stretching across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Herefordshire and Bedfordshire. Rolling hills, ancient woodlands and varied wildlife are accompanied by beautiful villages and market towns throughout the region. Easily accessible via road and public transport networks it’s a hugely popular destination for urban dwellers looking for a weekend’s escape. And Wisteria Cottage was the ideal basecamp.
A perfectly formed retreat
After helpful communications from owner, Jane, arriving late on an extremely cold Friday night we easily found the cottage set back from the road, and were delighted to find it warm and welcoming with the wood burner ready and waiting to be lit. Fire roaring and wine poured, we quickly settled into to the small, perfectly diminutive, ‘two-up, two-down’. It’s clearly been lovingly renovated to a high standard but keeps its period features; ‘wonky’ floors and doorways my partner had to duck through – much to the hilarity of our daughter. The kitchen had everything we could possibly have needed including coffee maker, microwave and dishwasher whilst the bathroom is surprisingly modern with a tub for lazy soaking.
Out and about in Watlington Village
After an evening by the fire and a great night’s sleep (very comfy bed) and feeling like we’d put in a good initial stint of ‘hunkering down’ we ventured out on the most beautiful, glistening morning to discover what Watlington village had to offer. First off, I’m told its actually England’s smallest town, and it turns out pulls this accolade off rather well. After a wander through the lanes of lovely old houses we found the high street and – happy days – the local deli which naturally required a visit for coffees, hot chocolate and cake – all of which were delicious. Food, as well as ‘hunkering’, being a theme of the weekend, we had to go into the impressive butchers (complete with a dry age display fridge!) followed by the little fresh food market at the town hall to stock up on provisions.
Walking off lunch in the Chilterns
Early afternoon, and after some deliberation over which of the myriad nearby walks to do, we headed for the nearby Chiltern Hills, and a gorgeous walk in Cowleaze Woods, then over to Christmas Common, and Watlington Hill with the kind of views that really do take your breath away. Magnificent red kites wheeling overhead were an almost constant presence with a particularly inquisitive one we think was nesting right outside the cottage.
Eating out nearby
This area seems to have an inordinate number of great pubs, which made deciding which to have dinner in tricky. We plumped for The Fat Fox an easy walk away, and weren’t disappointed; great food and very welcoming. From the visitor’s book comments, it seems like the more ‘local’ pub The Chequers would have been an equally good choice – next time. There’s also the renowned Belmond Le Manoir Aux’ Quatre Saisons, just make sure you book with plenty of notice!
Something for everyone
The joys of another immensely satisfying evening by the wood burner and more dedicated hunkering, were slightly lost on our daughter by Sunday. A day trip to Oxford was planned but she’d heard the Roald Dahl Museum was nearby so that was where we went for a lovely few hours of story-telling and Dahl magic.
Wisteria Cottage is a lovely place to call home for a while and hideaway; the bonus being its location with so much to do and to explore nearby. Right on your doorstep there’s running tracks, cycling, walks, whilst further afield there are day trips galore – Oxford, stately homes, Windsor… We’ll be returning to Wisteria Cottage in the summer, so we can make the most of the pretty garden and terrace (complete with barbeque), do some long runs along the ancient Ridgeway and explore some more. Less hunkering and more hiking maybe.
Getting to Watlington Village
The M40 is close by making it super accessible by road, and you can use bus and train links if you’re happy to hole up, but a car makes things a lot easier.