Travel review: Wildlife spotting in the Cotswolds
Jade Wright and her mum get back to nature with a wildlife spotting trip to the Cotswold water park
I REMEMBER quite clearly the moment when my friends all decided they were too old to go on holiday with their parents, and quickly ditched their doting mums and dads for the joys of trips with other people their own age.
It was understandable – they longed for something more adventurous than safe family package jaunts to predictable locations.
But my childhood holidays weren't quite like that. I remember fondly our trips to East Germany (when it was still East Germany) to see what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. There I glimpsed a way of life I'd not seen before or since, and it taught me more about the legacy of the Cold War than any history lesson ever could.
Then there was the time we hitch-hiked around the South of France, camping and staying with people we met along the way.
Even now, when I see the lavender fields of Provence it takes me back to being seven and smelling them for the first time.
As a result, I've never given up on holidays with my mum, Erica. I left home long ago, but for a week every year we go away somewhere.
It’s rarely as adventurous as those childhood trips – apart from one slightly scary jaunt to Africa – and normally we pick a UK destination.
This year we chose to go to the Cotswolds.
It’s hard to beat its quintessentially English countryside, and we headed to one of the country’s most famous areas of outstanding natural beauty in search of Britain’s rarest rodents.
In recent years ramblers have spotted otters and beavers in the Cotswold water park. The 40 square mile water park is a haven for walkers and nature spotters with 147 lakes and 10 sites of special scientific interest.
We booked in to a luxury lodge at Hoburne Cotswolds to be as close as we could to the wildlife.
It was the perfect base for our relaxing family holiday.
We enjoyed the indoor and outdoor pools and sat back on the decking of our traditional timber lodge, looking over the fields and lakes rolling into the distance.
The lodge itself was well-equipped, with a full size kitchen, three bedrooms (with one ensuite) and a large comfortable lounge area.
The staff couldn’t do enough to help, giving us welcome advice on places to visit and tips on where to park when we got there.
Every morning we went out in search of the otters and the beavers.
Try as we might we just weren’t quick enough to spot them frolicking in the water or running on the bank.
Undeterred, each day we visited pretty limestone villages, beautiful lakes and gentle countryside.
The nearest big town is Cirencester – a beautiful market town with a good selection of shops and some stunning architecture.
We visited the Church of St. John the Baptist and admired its perpendicular porch, fan vaults and merchants' tombs. Over the last few years it’s been painstakingly restored and the results are well worth a visit.
While we were in town we stocked up at the well stocked Waitrose.
There’s something about a self-catering holiday that somehow justifies spending more than normal on the shopping, so we delighted in buying naughty treats – and spotting Liz Hurley doing her weekly shop in high heels and huge sunglasses.
The Cotswolds is a surprisingly good place for celebrity spotting. My great aunt who lives near Stroud says Kate Moss is a regular in her village and our beaver walks took us past a £7.5m house in the shape of an orchid – the buyer’s identity was being kept top secret but rumours suggest various film stars, musicians and artists might be signing the cheques.
It’s easy to see why the rich and famous are drawn to the Cotswolds. On sunny days, it’s hard to beat its pretty villages and rolling hills.
Our favourite was Bourton-on-the-Water, with its picturesque high street, flanked by long wide greens and the River Windrush that runs through them.
The river is crossed by several low, arched stone bridges – giving it the nickname of the Venice of the Cotswolds.
We pottered around lane after lane of independent shops, and watched the world go by from outside one of dozens of quaint little tea shops.
By the end of our week away we were relaxed and recharged, having enjoyed the best of the English countryside.
We may not have seen any beavers but the villages were stunning and the holiday park was friendly, convenient and full of things to do. As family holidays go, it’s hard to beat.
JADE Wright stayed at Hoburne Cotswolds, where a one week stay in a three-bedroom Carolina Lodge starts at £455.
Use of the pools and other facilities are all included in the cost. Hoburne Holiday Parks have just celebrated their centenary. Find out more on 0844 288 2050 or online at www.hoburne. com/booking.