With Rich having to attend hospital appointments in Oxford for two days running recently, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally make that visit to Blenheim Palace Gardens, and to stay overnight in Woodstock.

Woodstock is very chocolate-boxy, and despite it being a foggy mid-November day we had to queue to get into the long stay car park. I love quirky towns and villages, but as we’re both quite averse to large crowds, the busy-ness always detracts from the overall appeal. It reminded me a lot of Stow-on-the-Wold in this respect. Pretty n’all, but give me rough around the edges any day.

Fortunately you don’t have to walk far to lose the crowds – in this case just 100 metres or so from the entrance to the gardens. And yet with the trees just starting to change colour, now was the perfect time to walk here.

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The walking is easy – either on paved roads or flat, well-marked footpaths, but you do unfortunately have to watch out for dog poo – one of my bugbears, and yes you guessed it, I stepped in some towards the end of the walk despite always being careful about such things. I have no time for selfish dog walkers – pick it up!

After a very pleasant 5 miles – the longest Rich had walked in one go since our trip to Barra in October, we drove a few miles to our Bed and Breakfast for the night in Bladon. Park House is run by the lovely Sharon, and is full of character. We’d booked the Amethyst room complete with an extremely comfortable super-king sized bed – so big in fact that when Rich woke up from his nap he couldn’t see me on the other side. Whilst the house is on an A-road, the traffic noise does ease off eventually, and with ear plugs I couldn’t really hear much until the morning commute started.

We’d reserved a table at the Star Inn, Woodstock for dinner, and were seated right next to the magnificent inglenook fireplace. They even presented a gluten free menu, allowing me to eat fish and chips without having to first cut away all the batter. Rich worked his way through the biggest steak and kidney pie we’d ever seen, followed by tiramisu for pudding. This apparently was a revelation as he’d only ever eaten supermarket versions. After coffee, which was again of excellent quality, we walked back to the by now almost empty car park, enjoying Woodstock without the crowds, albeit in the dark.

Ignoring the aggressive driver who insisted on sitting on my bumper right to the door, we headed back to Park House to watch ‘Speed’ with Guy Martin, and to chuckle over Sharon’s stories about some of the things that certain B&B guests get up to! The nerve of some people!

The following morning we were treated to a full English in the breakfast room. Before being run as a B&B this used to be a tea shop, and before that an antiques shop, and so the room is filled with curios – Hayley heaven.

After checking out and loading the car we headed over the road to St Martin’s Church to look at Sir Winston Churchill’s burial place. Apparently it attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, but we had the graveyard to ourselves. I’m pretty sure that Winston chose this as a resting place for the same reason – a bit of peace and quiet, close to his family.

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