So at the end of our first full day of riding, we arrived ready for a rest and a cup of tea at the home of Christopher and Marian Houghton near Broadway. To me, this quintessentially British couple and their home epitomised the best of English country life. Christopher has been the secretary and then chairman of the North Cotswold hunt for 25 years, and his family’s affection for the sport is evidenced as soon as you walk in their door with an impressive and worn collection of hunting coats, boots, hats and whips in the front hall. The house itself was cozy. stylish and authentic, much like the Houghton’s themselves, and I was amazed by the graciousness with which they welcomed strangers so intimately into their home. We all felt grateful to meet such lovely people and to be so well looked after. Mr. Houghton encouraged a swim in the pool, and as none of us had brought along swimsuits, we snuck in a skinny dip just before dinner – a hilarious and exhilarating highlight of the weekend.
The next morning, Mrs Houghton encouraged her husband to take us for a ride around the village in his grandfather’s 1935 Bentley. You would die if you saw this car. I nearly did. It had been immaculately restored without disrupting any of the essential character – the leather seats were well worn, the European rally medallions still fixed to the wooden dashboard and even the leather driving hats still rested on the back seat (of course I wore one!).
Late morning we set off for another full day of riding, the highlight being the hills above Snowshill and the breathtaking view down into a long valley. We passed through farmyards, pastures, villages, meadows and woods getting an intimate view of the best of the English countryside on a warm and sunny day. A three day holiday never felt so good!
|Giving a pat to Star, on arrival at the Houghton’s, for taking such good care of me for the day.|
|The entrance hall at the Houghton’s. Could it be any more English?|
|Our room for the night. When I admired the William Morris wallpaper, Mrs Houghton told me she chose it because that guest room overlooks Broadway Tower, where William Morris once lived.|
|The house was filled with hunting mementos and memorabilia.|
|It seems to be a requirement for English countryside folk to have an old Land Rover. This is a particularly good one.|
|Mr Houghton, giving Star a slurp before bedtime.|
|The 1935 Bentley that belonged to Mr Houghton’s grandfather.|
|Mr Houghton told us that he and his wife drove the Bentley to Ireland last year in the spirit of his grandfather who drove and raced it all over Europe. There is not one seatbelt in the car!|
|All the souvenirs and medallions from the former Mr Houghton’s travels.|
|Chanelling the 30’s in a leather driving cap.|
|Setting off into the hills for our last day or riding.|
|One of my favorite things about England is the variety of unexpected people, animals and things you see on the side of the road. These two people had stopped their pony and trap to let a huge truck pass right before we arrived.|
|What a handsome boy!|
|Just after I snapped this pic we cantered up the long hill.|
|Coco is always the first person to make friends with animals. She’s especially a sucker for a Shetland pony, the tinier the better.|
|Passing a pretty gate on our way out of Snowshill, where we got papp’d by Japanese tourists!|
|The stables where we left our horses at lunchtime. Love the hand painted sign.|
|The last furry hills we passed through.|
|Arriving back where we started at Wormington Grange just in time for tea.|