Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Journey around the West Cotswolds part 2

Cotswolds landscape around Rendcombe College in Gloucestershire

Following on from my last post, here is the concluding part of my visit to the West Cotswolds, and I take a little meander through a couple of the Duntisbourne villages. Picture perfect little hamlets that don’t contain a great deal, but are a pleasure to spend time in.

But first up was a stop at Rendcombe, or to be more precise, a stop at a view looking over Rendcombe College and some of the surrounding parkland. In the panoramic image above can be seen the main college building, built in 1865, along with a section of Rendcombe Park, which was established in 1544. As with all the images, just click on it to see a bigger version.

Cotswold church of St. Peter's in the idyllic village of Duntisbourne Abbots
St. Peter's, with it's fetching yellow hedges.

Next up was a visit to Duntisbourne Abbots, one of four villages to sport the Duntisbourne name in quick succession, because of their location along the River Dunt, a rather unremarkable tributary of the River Churn, as it heads towards Cirencester.

Duntisbourne Abbots is home to St. Peter’s Church, a 12th century structure that sits upon a high slope, looking down into the Dunt Valley and its densely wooded basin. The village, filled with large, quintessentially Cotswoldian abodes scattered about its oblique, but perfectly formed terrain, is a beautiful spot, and one of those places that makes you hope that the houses are occupied by permanent residents, who care for the place, rather than weekend second homers, who simply use it as a convenient getaway. 

Beautiful village of Duntisbourne Abbots in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds
Looking down form the churchyard into the village itself.

Having lived in Burford for several years, and in and around the Oxfordshire Cotswolds for several more, I obviously know that the Cotswolds are a desirable place to live, and will always attract those that wish to have a second, or third, or perhaps even fourth home away from London. But sometimes, a place seems so perfect and unspoilt that there is an unexplainable desire for the inhabitants, which you will never know, in a place, which you will rarely visit, to be invested emotionally in it.

I know it sounds like a load of sentimental guff, but the Cotswolds, with its astonishingly rich history, interwoven with its captivatingly, attractive village architecture and its heart wrenchingly, enthralling landscape just does something to a person, which is of course why it’s so popular. 

Path leads to the historic church of St. Peter's in the Cotswold village of Duntisbourne Abbots
The sun decided to make an appearance, and brighten up the scene nicely.

Anyway, after having an intrusive nose around the church and village, spoiling its rustic character no end, I carried on to the hamlet of Duntisbourne Rouse, to acquaint myself with its esteemed church, a rather splendiferous offering that borders on perfection itself.

Duntisbourne Abbots church of St. Peter seen through the old swing gate
Looking through the historic gate onto St. Peter's Church

The hamlet was recorded as Duntesburne in 1055 and Duntesborne in the 1086 Domesday Book, the name coming from the Old English for ‘stream of a man called Dunt’. The affix came from a family called le Rous, who were at one time the lords of the manor.

It’s one of those places that if you’re not looking out for it, you can drive through and miss it entirely. The last census, in 2001, had the population at 70, and I’d say that was optimistic. If the residents, for whatever reason had decided as one, to take on alter egos so enabling each person to be counted two or three times in an effort to reach that figure, I would not be surprised.

Ancient Cotswold church of St. Michael's in Duntisbourne Rouse Cotswold village
A beautiful little scene at St. Michael's.

But what Duntisbourne Rouse lacks in citizens, it more than makes up for in its wonderful church. St. Michael’s, much like St. Peter’s, looks down from a slope, towards the Dunt Valley. It is reached via a small track from a small lane, (which is the main road through the village) and sits in splendid isolation among the scattering of gravestones.

The church dates from Saxon times, and unlike most Saxon churches, it still retains some of its original features, including a small crypt beneath the building, which can be reached from a set of stairs around the back of the structure. The church was designated a Grade I listed building by English Heritage on 26th November 1958.

Cotswold village church of St. Micheal's in Duntisbourne Rouse in the Cotswolds
Looking up the sloping graveyard towards the church.

It is an incredibly atmospheric place, partly of course due to its location, but there is also something else at play. The building just looks old, practically every village in the Cotswolds has its own historic church, well, practically every village in the country has its own historic church. But sometimes you come across one and it just seems, well, different, there is something extra special about it, something deeper, an enigmatic presence, historical rather than spiritual in my case, which lends it an extraordinary tangibility of intense wonder. 

Black and white image of the ancient Saxon church in the Cotswold village of Duntisbourne Rouse
A moody shot of this historic and characterful place.

So after spending some quality time in the church’s company, and having a good old nose around its historic interior, and drinking in the atmosphere, I said goodbye to the Duntisbournes and to this part of the Cotswolds in general, as it was time to return to normal life. 

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