National Trust’s ‘undiscovered gems’

By Tedi Siminowsky
This item appears on page 13 of the February 2016 issue.
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Helen Harper’s letter “National Trust Sites, England” (Nov. ’15, pg. 27), about tours by the Royal Oak Foundation, motivated me to write with more info. Many travelers, even if they’re Anglophiles, might not know about England’s National Trust (P.O. Box 574, Manvers, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England, S63 3FH, U.K.; phone +44 0344 800 1895, www.nationaltrust.org.uk)

The National Trust is sort of a combination Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, preservation-and-historical society, public/private-donor-supported, not-for-profit marvel of an organization. It operates many historical properties and nature preserves as well as individual dwellings, ranging from cottages to castles, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Several years ago, my husband and I walked the Thames Path, following the River Thames from its source to the Thames Barrier. The locks were most fascinating. Thus, when I was viewing the National Trust website trying to choose one of hundreds of cottages to rent for a week in August 2014, one cottage jumped out because it was located two locks into our earlier trip. 

Lock Cottage is right on the Buscot lock and weir in Oxfordshire, very close to the Cotswolds. The rental cost is currently £375-£878 (near $556-$1,303) per week, depending on the season.

I had imagined a place that was dark, dingy and moldy, so I was very pleased to walk into a toasty, warm, totally charming, perfectly decorated cottage that was formerly the lockkeeper’s residence. Heat came from a night furnace, which discharged an even heat all day long, and from a fireplace. (There was a woodpile out back.) 

Totally updated and modernized (but not too much), the cottage had a cozy lounge (not too small), a kitchen with table and chairs, and a bathroom. Upstairs, under the pitched roof, was a comfortable double bedroom.  

We rarely rent a car, so getting around was an issue, but it became a delight; we liked the “no car” challenge. We walked about two miles along the canal to Lechlade, the nearest town, to shop for provisions. One day we hitchhiked into Faringdon to catch a bus to Oxford (No. 66, which left twice an hour). Upon our return, we tried hitchhiking back but ended up having to walk the four miles “home.”

There was a luncheon/tea shop in a little village nearby and a few pub-restaurants within a mile or so. We walked on local paths every day. We also visited Buscot Manor (also a Trust site) a third of a mile away.

We walked one night to a wonderful restaurant, the Trout Inn (195 Godstow Rd., Wolvercote, Oxford; www.thetroutoxford.co.uk) and took a taxi back. 

We didn’t manage so well another night when we walked to a pub only to find it closed for a private party. They did offer crisps and beer on the lawn, but it was a long, hungry walk home. 

I think the National Trust accommodations are undiscovered gems. From sea to moors, from north to south, there are hundreds of possibilities, from one-bedrooms to great houses accommodating 12 to 18. The only lack is properties in more urban settings. The Trust also does hostels, historic hotels, camping, working holidays and even a few cruises!

Their website invites trip planning and is very well organized, although it does help to have some sense of English geography. Emails get quick replies, and the Trust is willing to help in narrowing choices. One can request a printed catalog too. Ten new properties are added each year. 

I’d be happy to communicate more about our experience, especially about walking from inn to inn. I can be contacted c/o ITN.

TEDI SIMINOWSKY

Berkeley, CA 

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Helen Harper’s letter “National Trust Sites, England” (Nov. ’15, pg. 27), about tours by the Royal Oak Foundation, motivated me to write with more info. Many travelers, even if they’re Anglophiles, might not know about England’s National Trust (P.O. Box 574, Manvers, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England, S63 3FH, U.K.; phone +44 0344 800 1895, www.nationaltrust.org.uk)

The National Trust is sort of a combination Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, preservation-and-historical society, public/private-donor-supported, not-for-profit marvel of an organization. It operates many historical properties and nature preserves as well as individual dwellings, ranging from cottages to castles, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Several years ago, my husband and I walked the Thames Path, following the River Thames from its source to the Thames Barrier. The locks were most fascinating. Thus, when I was viewing the National Trust website trying to choose one of hundreds of cottages to rent for a week in August 2014, one cottage jumped out because it was located two locks into our earlier trip. 

Lock Cottage is right on the Buscot lock and weir in Oxfordshire, very close to the Cotswolds. The rental cost is currently £375-£878 (near $556-$1,303) per week, depending on the season.

I had imagined a place that was dark, dingy and moldy, so I was very pleased to walk into a toasty, warm, totally charming, perfectly decorated cottage that was formerly the lockkeeper’s residence. Heat came from a night furnace, which discharged an even heat all day long, and from a fireplace. (There was a woodpile out back.) 

Totally updated and modernized (but not too much), the cottage had a cozy lounge (not too small), a kitchen with table and chairs, and a bathroom. Upstairs, under the pitched roof, was a comfortable double bedroom.  

We rarely rent a car, so getting around was an issue, but it became a delight; we liked the “no car” challenge. We walked about two miles along the canal to Lechlade, the nearest town, to shop for provisions. One day we hitchhiked into Faringdon to catch a bus to Oxford (No. 66, which left twice an hour). Upon our return, we tried hitchhiking back but ended up having to walk the four miles “home.”

There was a luncheon/tea shop in a little village nearby and a few pub-restaurants within a mile or so. We walked on local paths every day. We also visited Buscot Manor (also a Trust site) a third of a mile away.

We walked one night to a wonderful restaurant, the Trout Inn (195 Godstow Rd., Wolvercote, Oxford; www.thetroutoxford.co.uk) and took a taxi back. 

We didn’t manage so well another night when we walked to a pub only to find it closed for a private party. They did offer crisps and beer on the lawn, but it was a long, hungry walk home. 

I think the National Trust accommodations are undiscovered gems. From sea to moors, from north to south, there are hundreds of possibilities, from one-bedrooms to great houses accommodating 12 to 18. The only lack is properties in more urban settings. The Trust also does hostels, historic hotels, camping, working holidays and even a few cruises!

Their website invites trip planning and is very well organized, although it does help to have some sense of English geography. Emails get quick replies, and the Trust is willing to help in narrowing choices. One can request a printed catalog too. Ten new properties are added each year. 

I’d be happy to communicate more about our experience, especially about walking from inn to inn. I can be contacted c/o ITN.

TEDI SIMINOWSKY

Berkeley, CA