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Londonspring in the square mile

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Jason Oliver Nixon in the Cotswolds


Barnsley House.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have cool parents who traveled the world and often took me with them. We sailed up the Adriatic and down the Aegean and climbed a mountain in Switzerland. And when my mom decided to finish her doctoral studies at summer sessions in Oxford, England, the Nixon family decamped from Tampa, Florida. My dad and I would spend lazy afternoons exploring the nearby countryside while Mom dove headfirst into the works of Edmund Spenser.

It was during these idyllic summer breaks that I first discovered the Cotswolds, the charming region of postcard-perfect villages, narrow lanes and rolling hills that sits little more than an hour west of London. As a child, I was smitten by the names of the market towns that make up the area: Chipping Campden, Stow-on-the-Wold, Nailsworth and Moreton-in-Marsh. And I lapped up the endless rose-covered cottages and vast meadows filled with sheep. The whole experience was like a fairy tale come to life.

Fast-forward several decades, and I am still in love with the Cotswolds. As are Londoners, the Japanese and other Americans who descend on the region in droves. Hence, it’s an area that I favor in the late fall and winter when the villages are free from camera-toting day-trippers.


My home base of late has been the whimsical Barnsley House (in the town of Barnsley), the former home of renowned gardener Rosemary Verey. I like to settle into the contemporary country house and head right for the hotel’s sprawling gardens to take tea. I might also visit nearby Hidcote, the former home of an early 20th-century American with stupendous gardens run by the National Trust, or the nearby Kiftsgate Court Gardens, which boast a bluebell wood and all-white sunken garden.

I recently toured Highgrove, Prince Charles’ country estate with its exceptional grounds near the village of Tetbury. And, of course, there’s Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough in charming Woodstock.

My favorite way to end a day in the Cotswolds is back at Barnsley House with dinner at its casual tavern, the Village Pub. I like to wind down in front of the roaring fireplace with a glass of white wine, an ale pie and a book on English gardens. It’s pure bliss.

Get there via London Heathrow Airport (LHR)

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