London, Actually… and the Cotswolds
March 18-28, 2023 and April 10-20, 2023
“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
When the English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, wrote that line, he expressed the eternal optimism of the human spirit, that spark of hope that keeps us leaning forward to the next great adventure in our lives. For us, that next adventure was England, homeland of a slew of the world’s greatest writers.
For the first time, we brought Go and Write! to England on an adventure to awaken our creative souls, sweeping from venerable London to the iconic Cotswolds: a perfect combo to be inspired by greatness and reconnect with our literary selves.
We arrived in the land of Shakespeare, Austen, Tolkien, and Dickens, not to mention the world of Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Monty Python, the Beatles, and Bridget Jones, just as spring was awakening the earth. At nearly every turn on the ancient cobblestone streets of London, we found a plethora of people, places, and smaller personal moments to write about.
“If you knew Time as well as I do,” said the Hatter, “you wouldn’t talk about wasting it.”
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The Mad Hatter Hotel
When we came across The Mad Hatter Hotel in London, we knew we’d found our spot where a writer could feel like a writer—where imagination could take flight.
Centrally located, our hotel was just a three-minute walk from the River Thames that has for centuries stood as the heartbeat of London, and just ten minutes from the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and its companion Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London’s only candlelit theatre. Nearby was also the National Theatre and The Tate Modern, which houses some of the world’s most amazing art.
As Samuel Johnson has said, “By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.” We felt lucky to walk these very old streets and sit in those ancient pubs and public spaces with the participants of these small group retreats.
On the fifth day of our adventure in England, we whisked away on our private coach to Abbott’s Grange in the Cotswolds. Along the way, we stopped for lunch and a tour of Oxford.
Famous for its ancient, unspoiled beauty, the Cotswolds have clear and strong connections with many authors: Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, J.R.R. Tolkien, and T.S. Eliot, among many others, have found inspiration and respite in this idyllic region.
Once we entered the magnificent halls of Abbots Grange, it was immediately obvious why we chose this out-of-the-way venue for the main portion of our writing retreat. For five nights and six days, we called this luxurious, private space, home. Each participant had a cozy and gorgeous room, and we shared inspiring writing sessions, chats, and quiet writing time in The Great Hall, with its exquisite décor and roaring fireplace.
A former monastery where famous artists and authors have gathered for centuries, Abbots Grange is just a short stroll from the lovely village of Broadway, and both the venue and the village are naturally quiet and creative spaces.
The history of Abbots Grange runs pretty deep. Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Claude Monet all contribute to the lore of this place, while the stories of William Morris and Frank Millet are intertwined with the narrative of the Grange. Built in 1320 as a summer home for the Abbot of Pershore, Abbots Grange is the oldest dwelling in Broadway and boasts unobstructed views of the Cotswold hills. In 2017, the Eviivo Awards, which celebrate independent hotels in the UK, named it “the best B&B in Britain”.
Each morning, we gathered in the rich, wood-panelled dining room for a full English breakfast from locally-sourced, fresh produce. This set the tone for a day of writing with conversation about the craft, publishing, and matters that matter to us.
We enjoyed group writing sessions and each writer had a chance to chat with Gerard about the writing sample they submitted in advance. There were also readings of our work several evenings throughout the retreat, for those who felt like sharing something they’ve written.
Broadway Village, with its delightful variety of boutique shops, inns, and restaurants, was an ideal location. As the town website says, “The pretty High Street is lined with horse chestnut trees and includes a mixture of period houses and picturesque honey-coloured Cotswold stone cottages which have lured visitors for centuries.”
Finally, after our sojourn in the Cotswolds, we returned to London for one last night in England, visiting the Roman Baths along the way.
We were so pleased to bring Go and Write! to England for the first time in 2023, and hope to return with more participants in the future.