Monday, April 11, 2011

Tropical Britain: Naunton and Bristol

The unseasonable temperatures, the likes of which haven't been seen in 50 years*, had Britons out in droves this weekend. We were amongst them, of course, shaking out the cobwebs of a Friday night sending-off party and heading to the Cotswold Farm Park. Lambing season is being heavily promoted across the county right now, and Tea was determined to cuddle a good percentage of the latest to the flocks.

* According to BBC Radio Gloucestershire

A dovecote in Naunton
Despite the crowds, we had no trouble getting our hands on the lambs and kids -- U'm, that's baby goats, folks! Let's keep it clean, now. Even the lambing demonstration -- twenty minutes on all that's involved in bringing healthy lambs into the world -- was scheduled regularly to keep the audience to a reasonable size. The layout of the whole park worked very well, in fact: the fenced areas were such that you could feed the animals that were hungry -- from bags for sale -- while others rested away from the excitement.

After that, it was home for a kip before our table reservation at the Hollow Bottom -- one of the Cotswolds' most acclaimed pubs (and deservedly so).

* * * * *

We were up fairly early on Sunday, planning to hit the boot sale and antiques show at the racecourse before my noon train to Bristol. While the boot sale was packed, the £4 door charge at the antiques show kept the numbers down. The Antiques Roadshow happened to be filming as we wandered the floor; a suspicion we only confirmed later that evening. (Sorry, Mom; should've got an autograph.)

The find of the morning -- thanks to Tea! -- and a recent fascination for me, was a copy of a Ward Lock 'red' guide book of Bath from the 1930s, in beautiful condition. The guy who sold it to us was the spitting image of Tom Baker (in his heyday) -- the best of the Doctors, I'm sure you'll agree. I strung-out the conversation much longer than necessary to revel in it; luckily, he was very friendly.

From there, I hopped a train to Bristol with some friends to see Bristol Rugby host Nottingham at Memorial Stadium. With some time before the 3 p.m. kick-off, and at the suggestion of the Bristol native amongst us, we headed to the Wellington, just down the street from the stadium. A Bath Ales owned pub, the Wellie offered every one of their regular brews on hand-pump, and had plenty of outdoor seating.

Full of Sunday roast, we made our way to the 'cheap' section, which turned out to be the well-shaded area behind Bristol's end (for the first half); we had front-row seats for much of that half's action, and some great moments in the second to boot. Mike, our host, couldn't get over the number of tries: 29-19 for the home team, once it was all said and done.

One of our group was visiting from the States, so Clifton and the famous suspension bridge were next on the agenda. The whole area was something to see, especially on the day -- more like a slice of London than what I think of as the South West -- and folks were out on blankets, soaking up every last bit of it.

Mike had been talking up Exhibition cider, so the wind left our sails a bit when we saw that the Coronation Tap was closed. (Probably for the best, what with work the next day -- the stuff is legendary.) The Mall stood in admirably, though -- I certainly enjoyed my pints of "cellar cool" Tribute -- serving very good food well after 7 p.m. (Unheard of on a Sunday in Chelty, for example.)

Check out our Picasa album of the weekend for lots more pictures of lambs, flora and blue skies.

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