At the end of the summer break, Emily and I took a bus ride to the village of Castle Combe. Though it’s only a few miles away, its not very accessible for us and I hadn’t been there for many years. As a child I remember coming here for many walks down the hill and along the river Bybrook where my brother and I would count the trout swimming in the shallows and throw breadcrumbs to the ducks and swans. Apart from the closure of what I remember to be a gift shop that was once by the market cross, there is no visible change at all from the way I remember it 20 or 30 years ago.
Castle Combe is a quaint little place, that seems to be stuck in time. Higgledy piggledy lanes with old misshapen cottages nestled one against the other. Quiet paths leading away from a narrow through road with infrequent traffic. Some of the 1967 film Doctor Doolittle was filmed here, much to the consternation of the villagers, who are still, I feel, fiercely protective of ye olde village charm. War Horse was filmed here too, and I remember visiting the set of the Robin of Sherwood series which was filmed here in the 1980s.
There are few signs here of the 21st century. Not a brick nor a flower pot seems out of place. Tiny weather-worn oak doors – some no higher than my shoulders, leaden windows and low wood beams (were people much smaller in the ‘olden days’ or what?). There is the obligatory English tea room, of course, and a cake stall with homemade cakes and a little box to put your coins in. It’s the kind of place where you feel guilty about taking out your mobile phone, or even a camera. A place that wants to hold onto its medieval roots – the best bits – and proves that it is possible to do so. And when you visit you feel like you take a little bit of that untouched past home with you when you leave.