There’s a hotel at each end of our little lane in Stratford upon Avon. The Indigo is a beautifully restored, 100’s of years old, timber-framed property, significantly extended in recent years. It’s a lovely hotel with a magical hidden garden in its inner grounds. My daughter E and son-in-law stayed there for Stephen’s 50th birthday and we had some super cocktails there after a great Thai meal at our local Giggling Squid. It’s a really busy and popular place now that lockdown’s ended. It’s just charming….
If you’re thinking they haven’t finished painting the timbers then you should know that the black painted timbers are the originals whilst the untreated oak is the restored timber and has been deliberately left like that to show it’s a sympathetic restoration but the building’s history can be accurately read. And this building sits across the road from New Place, the location for Shakespeare’s impressive home once he became successful. A later owner, no doubt hoping he’d profit from the Bard’s fame after his death, got so fed up of visitors gawping through the windows, he pulled the place down. It seems incredible but it’s the truth. New Place is now a beautifully laid-out garden and it is located less than 100 yards from the stunning Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre. And about the same distance from our home in the opposite direction. We do feel privileged to live amongst all this fabulous architectural history.
That said, at the other end of our lane sits the Arden House hotel. It’s a handsome-ish building but nothing like as historically significant…
It’s a slightly ugly sister hotel to the more famous Arden hotel which has a terrace that overlooks the theatre and the river Avon. And whilst that hotel is always busy (they have a policy of not encouraging walk-up trade but I blagged a table for us during E and Steph’s recent visit for a late afternoon sundowner) the Arden House hotel has been closed ever since we moved here in November. This is the view of the rear car park we normally see every day with a chained-off exit way…
Quite sad. But here’s the thing since early summer and about once a month the car park has been suddenly full of cars from early Saturday to mid-morning Sunday. All big macho cars like Range Rovers and Jaguar E-Paces. It’s inexplicable. I was telling daughter E this as we headed out for a walk recently and she opined that it could possibly be a gay thing. Wow! I’m normally the one who gets told off for thinking that sort of thing. Ha! But then I thought, well it could easily be. Why not? Maybe a poker evening or historical group thing. But it all seemed quite secretive. A hotel which only opens for one night a month and similar-looking cars parked up each time. What would you suggest was going on?
Very strange. Then last weekend Em and Steph were over again as grandson Georgie was playing a footie match at nearby Henley in Arden. It was fab to see him play again. What a talented pair of central defenders we seem to have developed for ManUtd in a year or so’s time. Ha! Anyway we were treating the guys to a fish and chips late lunch from our local fab f&c shop, and as Steph and I walked around there to collect it, we were passed by a cluster of chaps walking in the opposite direction. They seemed too well dressed for a stag do. Then another cluster.
We collected the food (always good) and headed back home. It’s only a short walk but we caught up with another cluster of chaps. I couldn’t resist it, I had to ask them where they were all headed. ‘To the Races’ came the reply. A-ha of course. There’s an excellent race course, again within walking distance, and the meetings clearly attract a smart casually-dressed predominantly male audience. And that’s who was staying at the hotel – male punters making an overnight stay of it. Some bets, a few beers and a meal afterwards. Of course. And on the Sunday morning they were all leaving I noticed the occasional female partner in the party too. So now we know; they’re betting guys not getting guys.