Great Haseley: A Quintessentially English Weekend
Great Haseley, in South Oxfordshire, is just about as charming as it gets.
It truly does feel like stepping into a fairytale, complete with famed thatched stone cottages.
There’s a mystical element that's almost surreal. Every corner revealing another warming home or inviting path in peak foliage.
The fanciful neighborhood, with waving neighbors walking their dogs, is extraordinarily picturesque.
The name of the town is believed to stem from Hazel Ley, more specifically, a clearing in a Hazel wood. Geographically, Great Haseley is about seven miles east of Oxford, and roughly 50 miles from London. Both are easily accessible via train, which doesn’t make the town feel as remote.
Most importantly, Will’s aunt Janice and her husband Ally have a home there.
Will and I visited back in spring 2013, and exploring Great Haseley with them remains one of my fondest memories. It was my first time in England and I was so taken by the tangible warmth of the village.
I was eager to see if this time would live up to my glorified memories. Of course, nothing compares to the village in autumn.
Will’s parents still had four more days in England, and Great Haseley was the most ideal way to conclude our time with them.
Janice also graciously hosted Will and me in their home, which was such a lovely reprieve.
Perhaps what made our time so meaningful, was having a home base. We all congregated in their kitchen each morning, each evening, for every meal. It made living abroad seem accessible.
The elaborate home cooked meals were a treat for sure, but it was the quality time around the table that was invaluable.
In short, we were spoiled. Janice had thought of everything, welcoming us with traditional British sausage rolls and ending each evening with sticky toffee pudding. Although it may look unassuming, this dessert is spectacular. It also makes the entire house smell of sweet gingerbread.
Great Haseley isn’t terribly large in size, about six miles, with a population around 500 people. Even still, there are ample walking paths and places to discover.
North of the village is the Great Haseley Mill. It’s believed that the mill ended its working life in the early 1900s. There has been a long restoration project since.
It was Will’s parents first time visiting Great Haseley, but after this trip, certainly not their last.
After the mill, we stopped by Janice and Ally’s friend’s home for some British crumpets and tea.
We were told the house has been in the family for 400 years. Coming from the States, I find it nearly impossible to comprehend.
Later, we walked by the Great Haseley Manor, which is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. The current manor was built in the 17th century with a Georgian stable block.
Another highlight was when Ally treated us to a pint at The Plough Pub. As the central gathering point, or rather, the only gathering point, the pub was bought by the village community in 2012. We learned that a village isn’t a village with a proper pub.
On one of the days we went to Blenheim Palace, an UNESCO site and one of the largest houses in England.
As someone interested in political history, I found it most notable that it’s the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
Although Will and I typically try to stray from too many guided tours, we’ve come around to audio tours this year. The context is helpful, but we particularly appreciate that you can explore at your own pace.
We learned that the palace was named after the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
It was designed in a English Baroque style, which was a fleeting architectural design.
Blenheim Palace was home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough, and still serves as a family home. It was in the Churchill family for 300 years.
It has an impressively extensive collection of portraits, sculptures, furniture, and tapestries.
Among all of the state rooms, my favorite was the Long Library, holding over 10,000 books, many of them hundreds of years old.
The palace is located on 2,000 acres of landscaped parks and formal gardens.
On our very last day, Ally took us for a spin in his jaguar.
Will loves cars, so to ride in an old classic was awesome.
Crammed in the back, personally, I was more in it for the windy scenery.
Great Haseley signified our last stop in Europe this year. It was so bittersweet, but to share it with family is such a meaningful way to cap off our time here.
A big thanks to Janice and Ally for everything.
And of course, Will’s parents for sharing this part of the trip with us!
Will and I took a double decker bus from Oxford to the airport. We were off to a drastic change of scenery: South America.