Friday, August 06, 2010

Strolling Down the High Street

About a week ago, I showed you some photos of my favorite house in the village of Riseley, in Bedfordshire, England, and I asked if you'd like to see more. Since several of you replied in the affirmative, here I am to give you a second helping of Riseley. As always, click on each photo to view it full size.

Denis and I spent three weeks in England in April 2007. One week was spent outside Riseley because it was so close to our family in Bletchley and Letchworth. The next time we're in England, we fully intend to stay in the same place because the owners are so nice and the accommodations are wonderful.

We stayed on a working farm just outside Riseley. The fields of oilseed rape were a brilliant yellow, the hedgerows were in bloom, the birds were singing and staying out of camera range. It was April in England, and the weather was glorious.

Our "cottage" (part of the former piggery at Coldham Farm) was perfect, with three huge arched windows to let in all the brilliant light. At night, floor to ceiling drapes pulled shut to make the space cozy. I'd show you photos of the inside as well, but this post isn't about the cottage. It's about Riseley.

Denis and I drove through the village at least twice each day, and I fell in love with the houses along the High Street. One day we made the time to stop so I could get out of the car and walk along the street, photographing anything that took my fancy. That turned out to be quite a lot.

The first house to take my fancy was this one because of its checkerboard brickwork. In doing a little research on the village, I discovered that Riseley had its own brickworks, so this house may be made from Riseley bricks. I also learned that it used to be the White Horse Pub, and... it's for sale right now. A cool £730,000 if you're interested!

Speaking of pubs, Denis seemed to show an inordinate interest in those. The first one he took a look at was The Five Bells, which I have learned is now closed. That's Denis on the right, walking up to the pub to see if it was open.

So now the village only has one pub open for business. It's the biggest of the bunch, the Fox & Hounds seen below.

While Denis was discovering that none of the pubs were open, I was walking up and down the High Street, looking at the small stream that flowed along the side of the street and all of the houses.

Riseley has several thatched cottages-- and one of the few master thatchers left in England. Most of the thatched cottages were little beauties, like the one here on the right. Village life wouldn't be complete without a fixer-upper or two, and here's one with a few bags of rubble at the curb for the skip.

Fortunately we'd chosen a good time of day to explore because I found myself walking back and forth across the street as I found one beauty after another.

I never knew what would catch my eye next. Would it be shingles in a decorative pattern? Lovely bow windows? Pretty pink flowers in bloom over a door? A vine that seemed to have a stranglehold on the upper story of a house?

I didn't try to plot any strategy. I let my eyes and my feet guide me without rhyme or reason, and I hoped that I had enough camera batteries to last as I strolled and acted like a typical tourist besotted with the location.

Riseley is one of those places that Anglophiles envision when they think of the English countryside. It has roughly 2,000 residents, which is the same size as the village I grew up in thousands of miles away in central Illinois. As I walked and observed a villager or two walk into the small grocery store and off license or felt myself being observed by the occasional driver of a car or lorry, I felt at home.

I wondered if I were to find myself transported here and living in one of these lovely old homes, if I'd feel as content with reality as I would with the daydream. Who knows? One thing that I do know is that, like all small villages, you never stroll along the High Street completely unobserved.

At the end of a boxwood-edged path, an asthmatic WOOF sounded through the mail slot of one door. One of the four-legged villagers wanted me to know that I had been seen and that I shouldn't even think about getting into any funny business. The thud of two front paws against the door emphasized each bark.

At another house, I had to smile. Every village has at least one curtain twitcher-- someone who stands on the other side of those net curtains to keep an eye on all the comings and goings in town. I had found Riseley's in the thatched cottage to the left. Since I lived across the street from one growing up in Illinois, this really made me feel at home!

When I finally stopped strolling and clicking, I went back to our rental car where Denis was sitting reading a book. As I buckled my seat belt, I had the feeling that I was going to be the subject of a conversation or two at The Five Bells and the Fox & Hounds that evening.

That little village still calls out to me. I want to see how the restoration of that thatched cottage went. Are they going to be able to reopen The Five Bells? Will I have the nerve to walk through the gate of the "orange house" to knock on the door and ask about its history? And-- best of all-- will I have enough camera batteries on hand as I stroll down the other streets of this lovely place? I'll be sure to let all of you know!


  1. What a lovely article to remind me of the beauty of England.

  2. Just beautiful - every one (including the fixer upper!)

    I often think I would like to live about six months in a quaint English village like this one, but like you, I wonder if I have romanticized the experience a bit too much for it ever to meet my expectations.

  3. What a lovely village! I'm like you though, I always wonder if the reality would be as good as my dream.

  4. Cathy, the place you stayed looks wonderful. We stayed in an assortment of good and not-so-good places on our trip. Love the bits about the dog and the curtain twitcher. This must have been a very enjoyable day for you.

  5. I loved this visit! I too take tons of photos of houses and doors. Just love them. I need to dig out some of my UK photos and digitalize them.

  6. I don´t think I have to tell you this is exactly my kind of post! And even more so because I am researching British villages for my cozy mystery. So I found out what English bond brickwork and peg-tile roofs were last week, but this is the first time I have come across a curtain twitcher. Hilarious.

  7. How beautiful Riseley is!! Love the cottage you stayed in and all the cute houses!

    I have an award for you HERE

  8. Wonderful Cathy, I really liked reading about this. England is in most ways nothing like Denmark, but some of the houses look like those in the tiny village my mother lives in. Oh, and my brother is a professional thatcher, believe it or not :-)

  9. Sounds like a lovely trip! I just finished Elizabeth George's latest novel, and was wondering what a thatched roof looks like - now I know!

  10. Lindy-- I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Molly-- I moved away from the village I grew up in for a reason. I think if I were to move out of the city, it would be to an even more remote location than a village.

    Kathy-- Probably not! LOL

    Barbara-- It certainly was. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Beth-- Yes, you do because I want to see them!!

    Dorte-- There have to be some in Denmark. You just call them something else! I've even been a curtain twitcher a time or two.

    Vicki-- Thank you so much for the award. I'll grab it in another day or so!

    Lou-- Your brother is a thatcher? How wonderful!

    Belle-- Man, I should've posted the photo that showed the thatching details!

  11. It sounds wonderful! I love the smaller towns in England - so different from what we have in the US.

  12. Kris-- I'm glad you enjoyed my stroll. :)

  13. What a beautiful typical English village this is - I'd be happy to live in any of those houses and I live in a small English village lol.


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!