Charming town is scone's throw from other sites ENGLAND


March 15, 1992|By Christina Williams | Christina Williams,Contributing Writer

In the Small Talk Tea Shoppe, smiling waitresses serve huge pots of tea accompanied by home-baked scones piled high with lavish lashings of whipped cream and strawberry jam.

Outside, along the wide High Street, flame-red roses caress the honey-colored facades of 300-year-old limestone cottages. Ivy climbs profusely around windows and doors. Neatly trimmed front gardens reveal an intensity of gold, crimson and magenta.

Around the village, wind rustles in the horse-chestnut trees and pigeons coo softly, while gray-haired couples rest on benches in the shade.

In the distance, puffy white clouds slide briskly past the 18th century tower, which dominates the escarpment.

This is Broadway. The guide books call it one of the most beautiful villages in England. Few people would dispute the claim.

Nestled in the Cotswold Hills in the very heart of the English countryside, Broadway makes a perfect center from which to tour not only the Cotswolds, but farther afield as well. Alluring villages with thatched cottages and 12th and 13th century churches, and market towns with names such as Morton-in-Marsh, Chipping Campden or Stow-on-the-Wold, await just a few miles away. And towns such as Oxford, Warwick, Worcester and Birmingham all lie close by.

Broadway is especially well-known for the length and breadth of its grassy High Street, which lazily ascends from the village green up the slopes of the Cotswolds. Almost every building exudes historical and aesthetic interest.

The Lygon Arms Hotel is by far the most spectacular building in Broadway. The oldest portions consist of ocherous fieldstone crowned by a mossy slate roof. Particularly appealing are the elegant chimneys, the high delicate gables, the mullioned windows and the elaborate doorway topped with the inscription "To John Travis and Ursula his wife 1620." Both King Charles 1 and Oliver Cromwell patronized the inn. Now its antique-laden public rooms enchant with smoke-stained Tudor fireplaces, glittering brasses and oak paneling. The restaurant offers "country fare" and daily specialties, such as braised beef with stout, topped with a Stilton scone.

Broadway also has a wealth of restaurants, tea-rooms and country pubs that serve traditional home-cooked snacks and meals.

A wide choice of accommodations is available, ranging from small family-run bed and breakfasts to elegant but rustic four-star hotels.

In medieval times, the Cotswolds gained prosperity from the wool trade. Now visitors can find many stores tucked away along High Street, selling earth-toned and brightly colored sweaters, rugs, hats and other wool products. Many of these shopkeepers will pack the Arran or cashmere jerseys and mail them to the United States. Antique shops, art galleries and specialty stores invite discovery.

Cotswold Court, a tiny arcade, entered from beside the village cross, houses a collection of curiosity shops selling everything from pottery, framed paintings and prints to huge field mushrooms, minute berries and a vast assortment of mouth-watering English cheeses. One store entices with a selection of glass jars containing all kinds of sweets imaginable. Eight sorts of mints tempt with names such a mint humbugs, mint imperials and mint toffee eclairs.

Halfway up High Street lies the Cotswold Bear Museum, created and owned by Wendy Lewis, where almost 400 teddy bears are on display. Anyone who has ever loved a teddy bear will delight in magical settings, such as "Teddy Bear's Picnic" and "Bathnight in Bearland." Exhibits range from 4-foot-high mother and father bears in "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" to 3-inch miniatures. Many of the bears are rare antiques from Europe and America.

The bear-lover will find the "Teddy Bear Hall of Fame" irresistible. Here, poignant stories abound.

Buddy's tale is typical. Buddy originated as a 1930 American Ideal Bear. He traveled to England with an American serviceman, who fell in love with a local girl named Penny Ashton. Before he left to participate in the D-Day landings, they became engaged, and he gave Buddy to Penny. Sadly, he died in action.

Ten years later, Penny married, but never let Buddy out of her sight until her death in 1983. Then he came into the care of Ms. Lewis.

If visitors want a bear memento, Ms. Lewis' Antique and Collectors Dolls and Teddy Bears Shop, which is attached to the museum, offers more than 200 vintage bears for sale.

For the hiker, Broadway represents paradise. Well-marked pathways and bridle ways radiate from the village, allowing leisurely two-hour strolls or daylong rambles. Also, the town serves as an overnight stop on the 100-mile-long Cotswold Way, which runs from Bath in the south to Chipping Campden a few miles to the north.

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