A New Home for Woolly, Birds and a Tricky Maze…… Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire

Woolly says – With the sun shining brightly and Zoe with us I was eager to get to my destination, the traffic jams however had different ideas and having been stuck in queues of cars for weeks I was in danger of starving to death before we arrived!

Although it did feel like weeks it only really added an hour to our journey time which allowed me to tell my small friend and Zoe about our day out.  Bourton-on-the-Water is a village and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England that lies on a wide flat vale within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Much of the village is designated as a Conservation Area and was I place I had enjoyed visiting many years ago. Before I could start on the finer details the small furry one decided that it was time to complain about his rumbly tummy.

Woolly says – Well I hadn’t had a snack for over an hour and my energy levels were dropping dangerously low.  Imagine my delight as we crawled through the small place to see that not only was it pretty but there were food places in every direction, these however would have to be shared by the thousands that had already arrived.  The parking Gods were looking down on us as Jo managed to get the last place in the car park and I was finally able to stretch my paws and take in the picturesque setting more fully.  The village is set on the river Windrush and as I padded along the shallow bank avoiding the picnicking families, paddling children and swimming dogs I could understand why so many had come to see the lovely place.  I spotted an empty table outside of an eatery and plonked myself down, you can’t be an explorer on an empty stomach. 

The food was good and the service excellent and having cleaned up the smallest one in our group removing a stray piece of lettuce from his tail and deciding that whatever was stuck to the back of his ear would have to remain there we set off to have a further look.  Apologies for the number of people in the pictures but it was proving tricky to take a single shot without someone being there.

Woolly says – Although home to the Cotswold Motor Museum we had decided to give this a miss having recently visited a much bigger one in Coventry…check out the blog for further details, instead, choosing three of their other tourist attractions.  The walk along gave us a chance to admire the beautiful houses and shops which were all built from the local Cotswold stone, a proper chocolate box picture from every angle.  The St Lawrence Church was delightful, a Grade II listed building, part of which was built in the 14th century followed by major modifications made in the 1780s and in the late 1800s.  I trotted into it’s cooling interior to find a wonderful place of worship with wonderful wooden beams gracing the ceiling and an alter that was delightful to behold, even better was the lack of people for all of two minutes!  We carried on through the village taking note of the independent shops and ice cream parlours on offer until finding our first place to visit, Jo seemed to think that I might like it rather a lot, that remained to be seen.

As the only grade II listed model village in the country it was a one-ninth scale replica of the heart of the village and ideal for the mammoth as everything was the right size for him.

Woolly says – As the women paid at the ticket desk, I took my first look at the miniature world, for once I was speechless…..

That didn’t last long!

Woolly says – …….The village was created by a previous landlord of the Old New Inn, taking local craftsmen five years to build, and it was officially opened on the Coronation Day of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) in 1937. A whole world for me to live in, I raced along the one tiny street intent on finding my new home and possibly one for my bestie Sion, each garden had miniature trees and bushes with green houses and flowers galore.  With so many wonderful buildings to choose from I decided that it might be a good idea to have several houses for myself and spend a different day of the week in each one, I peered into the tiny shop fronts which had displays relevant to their signs and checked out every nook and cranny they had to offer.

Zoe and I watched from the viewing platform as he raced up and down the small streets, every now and then we would spot his trunk or his tail as he made his discoveries.

Woolly says – It was such a wrench to leave and having put sold signs on the houses that I had selected for my new life, I reluctantly followed the females back into the land of giants. 

Our next stop was Bird Land, first opened in 1957, the park moved to its current location in 1989 having originally existed in the 5 acre (2.0 ha) grounds of a Tudor manor house called Chardwar and had been started by Len Hill, who was often referred to as the Penguin Millionaire.  I knew that Jo was excited to see the penguins and they didn’t disappoint, several very chubby ones were enjoying a shower while an incredibly scruffy one stood preening himself, the smell of rotting fish wasn’t the greatest and having filled my trunk several times with the stench I was happy to move on. 

Many of the cages had close wire mesh fences which made it tricky to see much inside let alone take pictures, we passed by owls, pheasants and parrots before arriving at a large area which was home to the ostriches.  Women always seem very keen to look at baby animals and the girls were not disappointed to see some baby ostriches running around their paddock teasing their mother. 

An area called Juristic Park came next where instead of real animals we followed a pathway past a large range of plastic dinosaurs placed strategically in the trees, I wondered if they had thought of using moving models similar to those that we had seen in Bangkok (https://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Thailand/Central-Thailand/Bangkok/blog-1011151.html) maybe an idea that I could pass on. 

A small lake was a wonderful backdrop to the pinkness of the flamingo’s the black swans and a large number of ducks that were all happily going about their daily business.

Having found a shady area and acquired some drinks as well as a rather large ice cream for my small companion we enjoyed watching the lake scene while we rested our feet and cooled our bodies.

Woolly says – Our last port of call for the day was a maze, something that has been sadly lacking in my world although I know that Jo has visited quite a few in her lifetime.  Opened in 1997 The Dragonfly Maze is a traditional yew hedge maze, not only do you get lost you also need to find 14 numbered clues as you walk around to allow you to find the hidden dragonfly which is located in the centre, sounded easy enough to me. 

I set off with the women trotting behind me and within moments found a clue, having noted it down I was off again, five minutes later I found another clue, this was way easier than even I had thought, I chuckled to myself and continued onwards.  As we twisted and tuned around the pathways I came to another clue, except this one was the one we had only just found, I huffed out loud and set off again only to find myself back at the first clue, I looked at the high hedges and wondered about digging my way through the bottom, Jo seemingly having the ability to read my mind gave me a hard stare and shook her head.  I walked on and a few minutes later resulted in a new clue, feeling rather more positive I raced round the next corner only to find the first clue all over again, this was impossible, I was going to be stuck here forever, my snack levels were low, water would need to be rationed immediately and I wondered if I had packed my bedding into Jo’s bag to at least give me a comfy nights sleep.  More bushes passed by as we twisted and turned each new looking pathway leading us straight back to the clues we had already found, my paws started to throb and my head to spin with hunger, I looked to Jo who seemed to lack any concern over the dire situation we had found ourselves in.

My small friend looked harassed and hot, having found a bench and plonked him on it I opened a new bottle of water for him and handed over one of the secret snacks that I keep for emergencies like this, as he gulped and gobbled away I explained that mazes usually have rules and that if we were to follow on direction at every point possible we might find our way out, his face told him that he wasn’t convinced.

Woolly says – Is the women stupid? This was the end, I’d never get to move into my new village, I’d never see Sion again, my life was over and all future explorers would find would be my bones!  I reluctantly followed the girls who were going with the left theme, a few turns passed and we found a new clue quickly followed by another, before I knew it we had reached the centre and had only to crack the code to find the dragonfly which I was ably helped to do by a five year old who seemed very clued up.  As the dragon fly was reviled inside a large gold frogs’ mouth, I breathed a huge sigh of relief as Jo leant down to me and whispered, ‘always have faith in your abilities Woolly’, now we just had to find our way out!

Sorry but here’s some more penguins…..well they were cute