October 23rd, 2018 / posted by paularath

Coopers Cottage, our home for two weeks

Following our rather intense two-week watercolor workshop with Australian artist John Lovett, we wanted to have some time to absorb what we learned and paint on our own before touring more of England. It’s way too easy to lose your rhythm as an artist, and once you let go, it’s often hard to get back.

The back of Coopers Cottage. The open door on the left leads right into our “studio.”

I did some homework early this year and asked several friends from England if they would recommend a small, quiet, quintessential English village for us to live and paint for a spell. Two sources came up with the same village: Lower Heyford, in Oxfordshire. One of those friends was Chris Oliver, a dear friend and colleague, the former travel editor at The Honolulu Advertiser, who lives half the time in Kailua and the other half in Cambridge, England. Chris has a friend who lives in Lower Heyford and she and her husband, Gareth, have visited there often. The other source was Brett Thiebaut, who attended Oxford and fondly remembers Lower Heyford.

Jerry enjoyed painting on the patio at the back of the cottage.

I went online and found just one cottage for rent in Lower Heyford: Coopers Cottage, available through ShortLetSpace, a company based in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. I booked it immediately.

We were happy that the TV didn’t work, as we had plenty of time to read novels.

The cottage is 400 years old, at least the central thatched part is. On either side are additions. Where ladders once were, there are now stairs going up to the bedrooms. The kitchen and bathroom are new and very efficient, except we didn’t have hot water the first week. But we had a tea kettle and I just boiled water for a bath.

Lov ely claw foot tub with a garden view

The wood fireplace in the living room is lovely, although it was seldom cold enough to warrant a fire. Our good weather continued after the watercolor workshop.

The back garden of the cottage

Lower Heyford is very quiet and rural. Traffic is sparse and non-existent after about 6 p.m. There are lots of lovely walks to take, around the neighborhood and up and down the canal on the Cherwell River.

A typical morning walk along the canal going toward the train station

Lower Heyford is known as a hub for long boats, the barge-like boats that people can rent to travel on the canals, through locks and under bridges.

On weekends the long boat business really picks up.

We were delighted and surprised that there are many thatched roof homes in Lower Heyford. One such home was being thatched while we were there and we had an interesting discussion with the thatcher.

A professional thatcher at work

The average roof needs to be thatched about every 25 to 30 years. The decorative portion, which also keeps the thatch pinned down, is refurbished about every 15 – 20 years. Luckily, there is a new generation that is learning the trade, so thatching will continue to be viable.

Isn’t the design of the thatch beautiful? The job took about five weeks for two or three men.                                                           Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Here are just a few of our neighbors’ thatched roof homes.

 

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

 

I love these windows.

 

Can you see the little red box? That’s the community’s mail box, inside this private home.                                                                            Photo by Jerry Mayfield

 

A five-minute walk away was the local pub, The Bell Inn, with good draft beer and yummy steak and kidney pie. Kizzie’s, where they served a delicious breakfast and lunch with great coffee, was a godsend.

Our local pub in Lower Heyford

Lower Heyford offered us the perfect respite for a quiet, serene and creative time well spent. Perhaps next year we’ll rent a cottage near Cambridge or in Chipping Campden….

Paula Rath

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