Tolkien Reading Day – Where better than Talybont on Usk reservoir!
Tolkien reading day is an annual event held on the 25th March to celebrate the work of the great author J.R.R Tolkien. Why the 25th March? The fall of Sauron from Lord of the rings of course! Tolkien was at one point good friends with C. S. Lewis – the famous author of the the Narnia chronicles! (Note – this post was originally posted on 25th march on the old website. We have added more information for you on this update!)
Talybont on Usk Reservoir is a beautiful place to visit. From it’s crystal water to it’s dramatic hills, you could not wish for a more scenic destination. Wales has inspiring landscapes, giving birth to myth and legends across the world. It’s stunning scenery has inspired many over the years and strangely enough it is understood that Tolkien himself spent time in the village of Talybont on Usk in the 1940s whilst working on parts of Lord of the Rings. It is easy to see similarities between the landscape and his books. He named the hobbit settlement Crickhollow after Crickhowell, just 9 miles away.
Visiting the reservoir
The village is just a few miles from the reservoir and Talybont has a bit of everything – from a canal, 2 rivers, a reservoir, hills, woods, waterfalls, wildlife, local arts and crafts, a village shop and wi-fi cafe, 3 pubs and a restaurant. It can even boast its own fascinating history from the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution.
We visited Talybont On Usk and loved it so much we stayed for 2 days! We looked up the location on searchforsites and decided to head here. A small layby set off of the road held enough room for around 6 comfortably. The reservoir was just 100 yards away from us and was full of life. From the waters edge the hills climb steeply creating a very protected and sheltered area. Wildlife was abundant, from the birds of prey above to the frogs and fish in the water.
We met up with a gentleman on the first night who was camping in his tent. He told of us a walk up the hill behind us that was worth a visit. The next morning we woke early to find others had joined us in the night. The car park was busy – possibly because it was Saturday. A walking group who had arranged a hike up to the ridge of the hill behind us and all around the reservoir in a circular walk. They said it would take them around 7 hours to complete with the first mile almost vertical! We let them go first as we didn’t want to embarrass them 🙂
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
A long walk up a steep hill!
They were right, the first mile was quite good going as we followed the forestry trail up the hillside. We stopped after a couple of hours, with the sun peeking through the cloud and the reservoir looking so small beneath us. High up on the side of the hills we sat in awe of this place. We could hear a small bird of prey eeping for its mother, and food of course! We continued our walk and came across so many different plants and trees, small waterfalls where the rain was running off of the hills. Oh it was just so beautiful!
We were walking for a good 2 hours before re realised how far we had gone and then had to decided whether we turned around or carried on walking! a quick look at google maps showed we could continue and would join up at a road a mile or 2 away. Once we met the road it was a flat straight walk back to the van but our feet were very unhappy. About 2 or 3 miles on the road after walking on the gravel felt very hard to our feel and it was so much harder! We must have walked a good 7 or 8 miles.
Our walk was very different to the professional walkers, however it still took us 5 hours. We didn’t rush, and stopped to look at the many waterfalls and natural rock formations.
After that, back at the van we has a little rest and cooked some dinner on the gas hob. Some quality time to read was in order for Tolkien reading day. Where better to get lost in myth and legend? Amongst the landscape that inspired so many authors and poets of course!
To read about other areas we have travelled to, click here!
Evesham is filled with fruit orchards and rolling hills galore. I fell into the same traps as many and forgot to investigate my local area, opting to travel long distances for the next adventure – but not this weekend! We had a blast without spending a lot on fuel or hours of driving.
Evesham is a Market town with an Abbey, Armoury and history steeped in legends. The abbey was, in a roundabout way, responsible for the name of Evesham. It seems that, Eoves, a herdsman of the Bishop of Worcester, had a vision of the Virgin Mary at this spot. Evesham Abbey, and consequently the town that grew around it, immortalised Eoves name.
The Vale of Evesham prides itself on its varied exports. Evesham Asparagus Festival is held annually to celebrate the harvest. The Round of Gras pub is the centre of the festivities, holding an annual asparagus auction (the village asparagus festival lasts a full week). They hold carvery’s as well at certain times and their food is delicious. We tucked into a lunch of freshly made baguettes and jacket potatoes with a couple of pints of lager shandy.
The other exports around the area include Apples, Plums (The Pershore Plum Festival is also a great one to visit!) and vegetables.
Sadly the town centres retail catalogue has shrunk, as it has in many local towns now. Projects are underway to restore footfall in the town and I would certainly say it is still worth a visit. The changing architecture, the park by the river, the history… all amounts to a wonderful trip out. (If you like your history you may even find links to the Knights Templar here if you do a bit of research! I don’t want to give away all of her secrets!)
For dinner we ventured into Evesham town and had a meal out at the ‘Casa’ Italian restaurant. Stylish and tasteful décor greeted us as we entered into the Bar area with dark beams and cosy lighting. It set the tone for a relaxing and enjoyable meal. We sat by the front window gracing us with a view overlooking the Abbey. They have a large conservatory at the rear of the venue with ample seating so you do not feel as though you are being packed in to get more tables, but spaced out where the emphasis is on the enjoyment factor. Their large menu caters for everyone in the family, offering vegetarian food, authentic pasta dishes and fish dishes.
Just 3 miles from Evesham you will find the text book definition of a Cotswold Village. With its wide high street and shops built with traditional Cotswold Stone, you can’t help but fall a little bit in love regardless of your age.
Places to eat in Broadway
There are an abundance of places to eat and drink to suit any budget.
Russell’s – Fish and Chip shop
We know the best chip shop is Russell’s in Broadway. Tucked down a side road you will find a rare gem. The design of the interior combines life jackets, sea fearing paraphernalia and candles on the tables with posh nosh! In the summer it is lovely to sit and eat outside under umbrella’s with the dog after a long walk.
Their menu is surprisingly large with the take-away option of beer battered cod/haddock, breaded or grilled plaice, scampi, chicken goujons or fish cakes as well as vegetarian pies, battered halloumi and a catch of the day. Customers can buy an alcoholic beverage in the licensed restaurant. The Take-away meal is presented to you in a lovely box with plenty of chips, including a serving of tartar sauce and a slice of lemon.
The Broadway Hotel
With a choice of spots to settle including a relaxed lounge, a bar area with an open fire (both dog friendly) or a formal serviced restaurant. You can relax here any day of the week and enjoy fine wines, excellent food and a friendly atmosphere. The decor changes through-out the hotel with the Broadway Hunt featuring largely in the local artwork upon the walls.
Stocked high with different local foods, treats and gifts. There is a cafe in there serving all manner of home cooked food with many vegan and gluten free options. They work with producers and suppliers from around the world who focus on the quality, integrity and provenance of their produce.
The Market Pantry
This small cafe sits about 20 people at a time. Vegetarian vegan and gluten free options, this British cafe serves meals ranging from £5-£9. Open 7 days a week and serving locally sourced, quality food, fresh seasonal and natural ingredients. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea or simply a coffee and a homemade cake.
There are so many other places to try, your taste buds will definitely be tickled in Broadway.
A walk around Broadway Village is a good way to walk off all of the food! It’s traditional Cotswold stone buildings pack in the charm with style and grace. Other shops include Kitchenware, Art gallery, old fashioned sweet shop and fashion items.
Broadway Tower and The Cotswold Way
Broadway Tower is a unique Capability Brown Folly tower. Its one of England’s outstanding view points, at 1024 feet above sea level, you can see over a 62 mile radius and as many as 16 counties from the roof viewing platform. William Morris also spent time here being inspired by the arts and crafts scene in the area.
Refreshments are available at the Morris and Brown cafe which is open all year round. It serves hot drinks and full meals or just a slice of cake if you prefer. Sit by the log fire and relax or browse their shop.
You can tour the tower with 50 acres of woods and parkland offering scenic walks and cycle routes. Spend time watching a heard of Deer housed there or go down and investigate the nuclear bunker between March and October.
The Tower just happens to be on the Cotswold Way, a 1000 mile footpath from Chipping Campden to Bath offering panoramic views of the Cotswolds. We have walked from Chipping Campden to Broadway so far and hope to walk other parts in the future. You don’t have to walk the whole thing and the paths are well sign posted.
Evesham Country Park / The Valley
Offering ample car parking. You can go for a riverside walk, do a spot of shopping, or grab a coffee with a friend. For the kids over the summer they have a ‘beach’ with sandpits for the children to play in. There are inflatable slides, carousel, swings and food and drink available.
A steam train runs from the car park, around the orchard, to a wooden castle built for the children. You can stop here and walk back or pick some apples and plums while you wait for the train to return. It is not an exceptionally long ride, but for £1.20 adult fare it is a good way to keep the family quite for 10 minutes!
Hillers Garden Centre
Hillers Garden Centre, Alcester, Warwickshire. Part of the Ragley Hall Estate, it has operated on one form or another on this site since the 1920’s. They have changed from a fruit farm to a pick your own and now a farm shop and garden centre. The shop sells produce either grown on site or sourced from a 10 mile radius. Farmers then invoice the farm shop what they need to make a living.
Honeyed ham, Ragley beef and pork are all roasted in their own kitchen for sale on the deli counter, along with a range of homemade salads, continental meats, pâtés and locally made cold pies.
Make your selection from the self serve olive and antipasti bar and stock up on all your groceries from the wide selection of specialised and everyday food. Bread is freshly baked throughout the day and they also have a selection of rolls and breads from local baker Lawrence’s.
The garden centre has well established flower beds and a rose garden. There is also a bird hide where you can see some of the 40 species of birds spotted. Fallow deer have also been known to feed here. There are avid bird watchers with camera lenses bigger than their heads, sitting next to children. For the children (and adults apparently) there is also a miniature railway – and the trains ARE small. It only lasts a few minutes but costs just 90p a ride. You can only fit two people in a carriage sitting opposite each other.
There are tea rooms here to enjoy your afternoon after walking around the garden centre. Staff members waited on you and come to your table to take your order. The tea rooms were dog friendly and we saw several well behaved pooches resting their paws in the shade.
There are many other places to explore nearby including Snowshill Lavender, Chipping Campden and Bourton on the Water. Stratford Upon Avon, although not in the Cotswolds, is only half an hour by car from Evesham – as is Cheltenham. Why not plan a stop to stay over and visit either the Cheltenham or Stratford races? Birmingham is also in close reach for a bustling nightlife or larger retail experience.
The Cotswolds are full of attractions and travel between the towns is easy with good public transport links. You can find accommodation to suit your budget and tastes.
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