Quenington, a quintessentially Cotswold village, exemplified by its vernacular architecture constructed in honey coloured oolite Jurassic limestone with a precisely manicured and precious appearance, is situated about ten miles east of Cirencester. We drove there in balmy weather, from Bradford towards Holt and then due north on the A350, around Chippenham, over the M4, passed the jumbo jet mortuary at Kemble, passed Malmesbury and on from Cirencester.
Our exact destination in Quenington, a straggling village, was the Old Rectory built alongside a parallel wide mill leet and the river Coln, one of the delightful streams running south east from the Cotswolds into the Thames. Here in its generous grounds, for the past fourteen years, Lucy and David Abel have put on ‘ Fresh Air Sculpture ‘ an exhibition of contemporary works which are for sale. They also provide educational activities and workshops for both children and adults, run by artists. This year there were over one hundred and fifty pieces displayed and, although not generally to my taste, there were some very striking items in the array of craft work, using textiles, wood, metal, glass and ceramics. There was an air of tranquillity pervading the place, enhanced by the presence of water, hot summer sounds and the provision of refreshment.
My immediate attention was drawn to two of the permanent displays, a triple fountain in the leet by Alison Berman erected two years ago and the swing bridge across the same stretch of water which reminded me of Van Gogh’s paintings of the ‘ Pont de Langlois ‘ over the canal at Arles. From there on I was intrigued by Derek Elliot’s ‘Puck Seat ‘ inspired by Japanese timber houses and the Arts and Crafts works of Ernest Gimson,’ Wildcarrot Stems ‘ by Ruth Moillet, a representation of umbellifers in stainless steel with flower heads of yellow anodised aluminium, a lovely maquette in chiselled oak of an elderly couple called ‘ Til Death Us Do Part ‘ by Simon Conolly, a pair of sculptural benches by Waywood Furniture Creation and a ground level piece, mostly in chicken wire, by Henrietta Bud called ‘ Colouring the Grass Orange ‘. There were a considerable number of other bizarre creations. One final joy was the circular library designed by Michael Gold in 2008. It was a long walk back up hill to the coach, which was somewhat surprisingly parked with others on the beautiful triangular village green.
By now it was 13.30 pm and the final destination north to Stow on the Wold was south initially via Fairford and Lechlade rather than through Bibury, where Bob, our coach driver, informed me that there was a weight restriction on the bridge over the Coln. The last part of the journey from Burford to the Fosse Way was spectacular, with hedged fields of ripening corn and swathes of poppies, much more abundant than normal, and flax. Stow on the Wold is peculiarly sited at the side of the Roman Road, so you have to turn off it to get into the town, which has a large market place, many antique shops and charity outlets together with the usual Estate Agents and Public Houses. It was the ideal place to break, gather thoughts and imbibe much needed refreshment. There was also a distinct air of opulence about it.
The return journey in one hop was initially down the Fosse Way, fosse meaning ditch. A ruler drawn Roman Road between Exeter and Lincoln passed uninterruptedly by and the memory of the whole day was nothing by pleasant. Well done Claire.