Getting out and about in the UK is my husband’s new mantra. Short Autumn breaks away are a tonic especially as winter approaches. We recently decided to have a weekend away with some friends who were visiting from Australia. We did not have to go far as there is so much on our doorstep.
Our first stop was Westonbirt, the National Arboretum. It was just what we needed, a lovely long Autumn walk amongst the magnificent trees enjoying their colours and splendour. I love Autumn, a time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for its grand finale.
It was LM Montgomery who wrote in her book, Anne of Green Gables, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
Westonbirt was created by the wealthy Holford family, back in the heyday of Victorian plant hunting. Today the arboretum is internationally renowned not only for the diversity and importance of its collection but also its breath-taking beauty. It boasts 15,000 specimens, 2,500 different species from the far corners of the globe.
We were a little early for most of the trees but the Japanese Maple collection was a glorious spectacle of burnt oranges and reds. The whole Arboretum is 600 acres in total and you can take your dogs (on leads in most areas). The car park seemed quite full however, due to its vastness, it did not feel crowded at all. We chose our route starting out across the Treetop Walkway. Our route took us about 2 hours and towards the end there was a well-placed restaurant for post-walk refreshments.
We then drove 3 miles to stay in Tetbury, a market town in the heart of Gloucestershire. We had found, with the help of Google, an unusual and quirky hotel. It is called Oak House No. 1 and your hosts are Gary and Nicola Kennedy, who in every way reflect their hotel – warm, exotic and colourful. They are so friendly and welcoming from the moment that you call them to say your Sat. Nav. has taken you into a dead-end road outside a nursing home! Having been re-directed we found Gary, standing at the front door, waiting to help us park. The house stands in a large, open square behind Tetbury’s main street. Once you step into Oak House No. 1 you enter a world of colour and warmth, surrounded by a most unusual art collection.
We were ushered into the Majorelle blue sitting room for a lavish cream tea, much of it home-baked by Nicola. Sinking into the plush sofas you wonder if you need ever leave as you are immediately enveloped by the friendliness of the hosts. Gary and Nicola make you feel like you are their first and only visitors – ask them about their lives together and you will be entertained and fascinated for some time.
The bedrooms, only three, are luxurious and very comfortable with everything that you could possibly need for your stay. Everything that Gary and Nicola do is to make you feel like you are staying in your own home. You can wander into the kitchen if you need anything. You are surrounded by the works of art and artefacts that they have collected whilst on their own travels.
Breakfast is a true full English breakfast and black pudding is even offered! All the guests sit at the same dining table and so it gives you the opportunity to chat to other visitors and find out their top tips. We had a pre-breakfast stroll through the very pretty market town of Tetbury and found so many gorgeous independent stores and coffee shops. It is exactly how all small rural towns should be as it attracts shoppers. I visited Hobb House Bakery, a favourite with The CountryWives as you can get their bread online and delivered by post.
To find out more about Oak House No. 1 click HERE.