It’s almost six months since we made the big move from Edinburgh down to Wiltshire. And despite the work of setting up life all over again and some pretty dire weather conditions, we’ve had a great time getting out and discovering our new home.
After living on the edge of a busy city for a year, this part of the world is a big change. Its very rural, lots of open land and plenty of pretty villages. Each with their own quirks and tales to tell. It’s not a case of seen one, seen ’em all. The following three are my favourites-so-far, and each of them definitely has a Unique Selling Point…
Lacock Village & Abbey.
Laid out on a central grid of four streets with a brook running through it, Lacock is the quintessential English village. If the beautifully preserved streets look familiar, the chances are you’ve seen them on screen. The village has featured in several historical TV shows, including ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
Historical buildings of note in the village include the Tithe barn, the old work house and the medieval church. Although the village and Abbey are now owned and managed by the National Trust, Lacock is still a working village with its own community. I’m sure living in a visitor attraction must have its ups and downs, but some residents are making the most of it. Loved spotting this cake stand with an honesty box outside one of the traditional stone cottages. Cottage industry in action!
Lacock Abbey started out life with monastic roots but later was converted into a beautiful country home. It ended up in the hands of the Talbot family, and grew to be a quirky family home with a mix of architectural styles and sweeping woodland grounds. As if that wasn’t enough, the Abbey sealed its place in history when William Henry Fox Talbot took a picture in the house and created the early version of a photographic negative. The home he left behind is worthy of a photo or two, even though digital photography has made the negative a thing of the past.
And the USP for Lacock? The village lock up, a tiny stone cell where drunks and trouble makers could be contained. My favourite trouble maker gave it a try out, it was a thumbs down from him.
Nestled in a remote location right in the heart of the MoD’s Salisbury Plain training area, Imber is known as the ‘lost village’. Once a small community scattered between the church and the Manor house, residents were evicted in 1943 with just 47 days notice and the promise of limited assistance from the War Office. Imber was taken to create a training are for troops that were to be sent to fight in Europe in WW2.
Residents were told they would be able to return, but none were ever able to do so. Despite a lack of residents, the village has expanded as the MoD has added purpose built streets to allow soldiers to train for fighting in an urban environment. The mix of historic buildings and battle scarred training streets dotted around with signs warning to stay on the path and out of danger make for a unique atmosphere.
Given the way the village is used, it’s understandable that much of it is in a state of disrepair. That is, with one exception. St Giles Church, the heart of the village now and then, sits behind its own protective fence and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and a team of dedicated local volunteers. The Church is open whenever access to the village is granted and acts as a cafe and information point.
The USP for Imber ? You can only access it on certain days, generally when the military are stood down at Christmas, Easter and Summer. Dates and directions can be found here. Make a note of the directions, the village predates the introduction of postcodes so don’t rely on the satnav.
Avebury is a pretty little village now managed by the National Trust. The old farmyard,is cafe, book shop, pub and traditional buildings make this postcard-pretty village a lovely place for a stroll but it’s not the village itself that is unique here; it’s what lies around it. Avebury sits partially within the worlds largest Neolithic stone circle.
The landscape surrounding Avebury with avenues of standing stones and ancient tombs is a beautiful place for a walk , four legged friend is optional. Just remember this is, and always has been, farming land so suitable footwear is a must.
The USP for Avebury ? The village pub, the Red Lion. As well as being a very attractive thatch roofed village pub, it’s the only pub in England that sits within a stone circle. The pub has been in operation since it opened as a coaching inn in 1802 and is said to be haunted by a lady ghost who is particularly drawn to bearded men. A village pub within a stone circle, complete with a haunting? You don’t get much more unique than that!
I appreciate that given the current situation, many people aren’t getting out and about. I’d started writing this post a few weeks ago, it’s hard to believe how things have escalated in such a short time. And hard to think about the impact it will have on the travel, culture and hospitality industry. When things do get back to ‘normal’, I hope we can make a show of love and support for all the companies and individuals who bring us amazing places and opportunities to travel, learn, explore, eat, drink. They are going to need our support when all of this blows over, and facing a period of cancellation and isolation has given me a whole new appreciation for how much we need them, too.
Stay safe and healthy,