Get the most out of your trip to England with tips and ideas for places to visit.
English summertime brings blissful thoughts of quaint villages, birdsong, and a sleepy way of life for many, yet the reality is often far from this. With our fair share of busy roads, hectic urban life, and frequent bad weather, the country often is not how you see it in the movies.
Yet there are some hidden treasures off the beaten track that can be easily missed by a visitor when planning a trip to England. Tucked away in the stunning Cotswold Hills is a special place where the fields are washed with purples as far as the eye can see.
The Cotswolds: An Area of Natural Beauty
The Cotswolds are renowned for their beauty. Located in the heart of England, this region of hills in the heart of England straddles the five counties of Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Warwickshire. Located around 30 minutes from Stratford-upon-Avon, famous for its associations with the playwright William Shakespeare, the region is an easy place to plan a trip to if you're in the area, and well worth it!
Towns and villages such as Morton-in-the-Marsh, Broadway, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Snowshill will delight you with their old world charm. An excellent place to spot classic cars and country gardens; there are many museums, stately homes, and other attractions such as wildlife parks to visit during your trip to this part of England.
The Cotswolds are famous for their honey-coloured dry stone walls and quaint stone buildings, which delight with their old world atmosphere. Possessing an "Area of Natural Beauty" status, the entire region is carefully managed to make sure that the modern world does not ruin the look of the place. Any visitor to the area will fall in love with it, and it is certainly a region that I keep returning to again and again.
The area's economy is driven by agriculture, and grew rich in Medieval times thanks to the wool trade. Still very much rural, land-owners have made the most of the high ground and good weather to diversify. With a climate very much like France's Provence, it is no wonder that lavender does so well here.
Tea rooms, farm shops and local breweries are aplenty for those that wish to stop and try the local fayre, with plenty of free range meats, and fresh and organic produce available. I would certainly recommend the ice creams, and an English High Tea if you get the chance to sample!
Ideal Conditions for Lavender
A short drive along the picturesque lanes will bring you to the place where you may enjoy visiting a charming and unique location. Few tourists have heard of the lavender fields, but they are truly unforgettable and a must-see if you are in the region.
With the high ground, plenty of sunlight, and well-draining soil, the Cotswolds are ideal for lavender to thrive. The plants start flowering in England in June and are at their prime at the start of August when they are harvested.
Cotswold Lavender is a company that grows acres and acres of this fragrant plant, prized for its medicinal properties. It has been produced and harvested for many years, but with natural remedies seeing a resurgence in natural products, lavender as a crop is now very viable for farms.
Whilst the plants are in flower, Cotswold Lavender open their fields to visitors, who are given the opportunity to explore the hill on which one of their main crops grows. But you have to be quick, the fields are only open to visitors from the start of June until the beginning of August, after which the flowers are harvested.
A Haven for Wildlife
I cannot express what a joy it is to drift about these lavender fields. Their gentle scent hangs in the air, which buzzes with bees greedily pollinating the flowers. There is a timelessness about the place, a calm, and a certain magic which casts its spell over all that enter the fields. The aroma seems to soothe and calm all who wander the rows of plants.
Sadly, thanks to intensive farming methods and the use of herbicides, meadows filled with wildflowers are not a common sight these days. Thanks to gentle land management techniques, the area around Cotswold Lavender is a haven for wildflowers, offering the visitor the opportunity to visit such a meadow and enjoy the truly breathtaking scene of a sea of colour before you.
Woodlands and wildflower meadows line the hillside, with a beautiful view of the rolling Cotswold landscape as a backdrop. It is a unique and charming place to visit, and it provides many opportunities for photographs that will be the envy of your friends. It is not uncommon to see the place used for wedding photographs!
Wildlife thrives here, and as well as the insect life that is supported by these meadows and lavender fields, you may see birds of prey such as European Buzzards, Red Kites, and Kestrels. Listen carefully, and you will hear the beautiful song of the Skylark as it hovers above you.
The Lavender Harvest
When the meadows close to visitors in August, the plants are harvested by a special machine that clips the flowers from the plants. These are then returned to the farm's distillery where they are steamed. Through a gentle process, the essential oil is extracted with the hot, humid air, and is gathered into a chamber. The oil is matured for around one year before it is ready to use. During your trip to the farm, you will be able to see the distillery and learn about how this extraction process works.
Once matured, the oil is then used as an ingredient in the many products sold and exported by Cotswold Lavender.
Some of the harvested flower heads are not processed, but are dried. Referred to as lavender "grain", it is used as a cooking ingredient and is delicious in shortbread, cakes, chocolate, and even ice cream, all of which can be purchased on site.
Lavender and Chamomile Products
A natural antiseptic, lavender is famed for having calming effects, helping with anxiety and sleep problems. Balms and ointments made with the essential oil will help heal bruises and reduce irritation from insect bites. The oils and grains are used in dozens of different products, many of which are produced and sold by English Lavender to visitors, or exported to customers around the world.
Lavender grain is available to purchase in bags for those wishing to make their own lavender bags at home which are used as a sleeping aid when tucked under a pillow, or used to keep drawers of linen fresh. The grains are also used to make wheat warmers, used to ease aching joints and muscles.
The essential oil is used for many things. As a beauty product, lavender helps keep blemishes at bay thanks to its antiseptic properties. Cotswold Lavender produces bathing foams, moisturisers, perfumes, massage oils, skin creams, soaps, and a room fragrance which gently aromatises your home with a soothing scent.
Cotswold Lavender also produce chamomile, and this plant is used to manufacture a spray that was an absolute godsend for helping my toddler settle down to sleep for the night. One squirt, and she was yawning her head off! We found it also helped soothe those temper tantrums. The calming powers of lavender are also put to use as sleeping spray which is misted before bedtime to help you settle for the night. The Cotswold Lavender Slumber Gel is a product that I never let myself run out of. As a natural 'night owl' with an active mind, it has gently helped me relax and get a good night's sleep.
Visiting Cotswold Lavender
The farm has free parking for visitors, with bathroom facilities, a plant store where you can buy your own lavender and chamomile plants. Their restaurant serves tasty fresh produce, many of which contain lavender as an ingredient, whilst unique and delightful authentic gifts and products produced using plants grown on the farm are available at their shop.
You are also able to take a look at the area where the essential oil is extracted, with a display explaining the process and history of the use of this plant in the UK. Although there is evidence that the Phoenicians first brought lavender to Britain, it is widely held that it was the Romans who brought it with them to the UK for use as a medicinal plant, and their ruins can still be found in the region. You are most likely to be travelling over one of the old Roman Roads on your way there, as the ancient Fosse Way crosses the Cotswolds and is still in use in modern times, although these days it is largely covered in tarmac!
When's the Best Time to Go?
The fields are generally at their best in July, with the flowers maturing just before they are harvested in August. Ideally, visit when the weather is good, although even in the rain, it is a beautiful sight to behold.
Planning Your Visit
Cotswold Lavender is a short drive from Broadway and Snowshill, and is open from the start of June until early August, open from 10:00am–5:00pm each day.
Parking is free and whilst there are facilities for people with mobility issues, some may find it difficult to walk through the fields as the ground is on an incline and can be a little uneven. Typically, entry to the lavender fields is around £4.00 for adults, £2.00 for children aged 4–15, and free for children aged 3 or under. The shop and restaurant are free to visit.
Please refer to their website for specifics on opening and visitor prices, and the harvest.
How to Get There
© 2019 Pollyanna Jones
Pollyanna Jones (author) from United Kingdom on June 16, 2019:
Thank you Lorna, my photos don't do it justice!
Lorna Lamon on June 16, 2019:
I really enjoyed this article and your photos are stunning. Lavender has so many uses and the smell is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.
Pollyanna Jones (author) from United Kingdom on June 15, 2019:
It is one of my favourite plants, Meg. Great for the bees too!
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on June 15, 2019:
I totally love lavender, I have had bags of lavender that I kept in clothes drawers for a couple of years. I must get some more. I currently have a large bar of lavender soap in our small bathroom and it keeps that smelling lovely.