The Scottish AdventureApril 17, 2023
A Photo An Hour – 24th June 2023July 7, 2023
Deary me it’s taken me a while to write up this adventure. Nearly a whole month has passed since I got the privelege of turning 44 and I’ve been so busy with other work since that I’ve only just got around to finishing this post.
Mr Gem and I share the same birthday, and this particular adventure has been booked for a whole year since we found the cottage in a coffee table book on out last birthday and discovered its next available date was for our birthday this year.
But I won’t get ahead of myself, because this adventure started with a little adventure all of its very own. A bit of stress just to really enhance the weekends fun.
A few days before, we’d noticed a screw stuck in our car tyre, and, not wanting to drive 200 miles with a screw stuck in the tyre we decided to book it in to be changed. The next available appointment was 8:30am on the morning we were due to leave, so Mr Gem got up, and drove the car across the city to what turned out to be completely the wrong branch of Halfords. With only mild curse words (probably I wasn’t there) he got back in the car to drive to another branch, only to notice smoke pouring from the bonnet after a couple of minutes. With (I imagine) some slightly stronger curse words, he pulled over to let the car cool down and asked me to call the garage and let them know he’d be late.
The car limped onto the garage forecourt while I was on the phone to a very nice lady who promised me they would try and fix the car so we could go on holiday.
And, not to ruin the suspense or anything, but a few hundred pounds and a few hours later than planned. They did.
So, yeah, not the most auspicious start to a holiday, however, if we hadn’t had the garage appointment booked already then smoke would likely have started pouring out as we were just leaving and we definitely wouldn’t have been going. So thanks to that screw in our tyre the holiday was saved.
It was a long drive. It was grey and cloudy, and it now overlapped rush hour around Birmingham.
But we finally arrived. Tired and hungry, at about 8pm. To glorious late evening sunshine and bird song.
The place we were staying was St Winifreds Well near Oswestry. The property is managed by the Landmark Trust and is a Medieval Well Chapel dedicated to St Winifred. St Winifred was a Welsh Princess in the 7th Century. She was pursued by suitor who became angry when she rejected him (A tale as old as time…) she ran away to see refuge in a local church, and he cut off her head. Her Uncle asked the congregation to pray for her, and she was restored to life, though had a scar for the rest of her life. There is a shrine to her in Holywell in Wales, but it seems her bones were transported to Shrewsbury Cathedral in the 12th Century and they rested overnight in Woolston, where a spring, er, sprung, and a chapel was built.
The cottage feels like a little witches cottage in the woods and is reached by a long overgrown country path. It was dimly lit, and gorgeous, so we drank fizzy wine, ate pizza, and let the days stresses drift away.
We awoke the next morning to birdsong and sunshine. Seriously, it was like someone organised special birthday weather for us.
We ate Croissants and took the Pugs for a walk, The first part of our walk crossed a field behind the cottage. We had planned to do more field walking, but it was hot, full of sheep, and therefore sheep poo, which is inexplicably Peppa’s FAVOURITE THING and we had to spend the whole trip across the field stopping her rolling in it with glee. So instead we found the canal path and took a little bimble down there in the shade, looking at ducks.
Then Mr Gem went out for a slightly longer walk, while I did Yoga in the garden like some kind of hippy and then made up for it by cracking open a bottle of Whispering Angel I’d bought as a birthday treat and laying in the sun with a book.
Once Mr Gem returned, we commenced the birthday celebrations. These started with taking our rose wine down to the healing waters of the well beneath the cottage. I mean. I have cancer and a broken spine so it seemed worth taking a little dip, just in case. The waters were not deep in the second pool, and the first pool, that could be blocked to make it deeper, was full of algae (Though Mr Gem cleaned it out later on, and discovered it had a leak anyway so didn’t get super deep either), so immersing my collapsed vertebrae was an inelegant challenge, but you never know, maybe it’ll at least stop it getting any worse? Thanks St Winifred.
This is the view of the cottage from the pools fed by the spring under the cottage. That’s the kitchen window. Which we’ll visit again later on, so hold its location in your mind.
After our refreshing dip, we headed inside to decorate/ruin the perfectly lovely cake we’d ordered from Sponge. We decided to decorate it ourselves, rather that get one already decorated. And then we decided that, even better, we should decorate half a cake each.
This is probably not our next business plan. Mine, in case you were wondering, is the right hand side of the picture.
Our next step birthday step was to decorate our medieval well cottage in brightly coloured paper decorations. Because nothing enhances the peace and quiet of a medieval cottage like brightly coloured birthday banners.
And then we completed our preparations for a night of entertainment by locating one single corner of the cottage that got 4G, on the windowsill of the kitchen pictured above, and then precariously balancing my phone there over a long drop into a pool of water, so that we could watch Eurovision because the cottage doesn’t have a TV. It might not be in the spirit of this whole country peace thing, but Eurovision happens once a year, ok.
And then there was birthday wine, cake, and only the owls to listen to us cackling along to Eurovision.
And then it was Sunday, and we restored the cottage to a place of peace and quiet to make the most of it for our last night.
We took a little drive out to eat cheese and marmite scones in a cafe, wander along the canal path a bit, then eat a huge roast dinner in a pub.
Then we went back to the cottage where I had a 2 hour “nap” because that’s what I do on holiday these days.
For our final night we sat by candlelight reading the cottage logs. All Landmark properties have guest books going back to when the property was first opened, so you can read the full history. But visitors don’t just write “Lovely stay, thanks”, oh no. There is art work, there is poetry, there are little insights into peoples lives, and, in the case of St Winifred’s Well, there is Mrs Nicholson. Mrs Nicholson appears to have stayed at the cottage shortly after it was opened in 1992 and has achieved a certain level of fame among later guests. She is regularly mentioned in the guest book entries for her 8 page entry that covers the failings of the Anglican church, The Landmark Trust and Oswestry, her inability to buy a turnip, dislike of chicken nuggets and the people who eat them (“…the debased palate of the common people.”) and a sprinkling of casual racism.
Honestly it’s worth a visit just to read. I provide a sample page for your delectation if you can decipher the handwriting.
When we woke up on our last morning I genuinely did not want to leave. I want to live forever in a medieval well cottage with an outdoor bathroom and wild flowers growing in the garden. I want to listen to the birds sing and the sun stream through the windows in summer, and the winds howl and the crackle of the wood burner in winter. Sigh.
Peppa didn’t seem all that keen on leaving either. Sitting looking folorn on the garden wall. But then I reminded her that at home we had a nice big sofa to lie on and she got over it.
All in all I would heartily recommend this adventure! Shropshire might not seem like the biggest place for adventures. But adventure is definitely a state of mind, and sometimes an adventure is about the places and people rather than distance.
The Landmark Trust is well worth a look if you’re looking for adventures, it has properties in Italy, Lundy and the Channel Islands as well as all over the UK, and they are amazing and unique places to stay. I have my beady eye on a few for the future…