The quest for England’s best cheese
I am a New Yorker, and by definition (as much as I hate to admit it), I am occasionally afflicted with the “Me First, Out of My Way” syndrome. This usually involves eye-rolling and raging heart palpitations. Train travel in the United States provokes this behavior as I white-knuckle my way along centuries-old tracks while fellow passengers play unmuted games on their mobile devices. Imagine my surprise to discover that BritRail could transport me to the English countryside and I would arrive exactly when the schedule said. I even had time to stop and eat the flowers—sort of.
When I told my friends that I was heading “across the pond” for a spontaneous holiday, everyone assumed London was my destination, but not so. I was on the quest for England’s best cheese and that meant heading to the Cotswolds. After a short, civilized train ride from Paddington Station to Kingham Station, I met the founder of the British Cheese Awards, Juliet Harbutt. We sampled a variety of cheeses at Daleysford Organic (along with a handful of wild chervil from the side of the road) and I knew I was on the right track.
The Cotswolds is a cheese lover’s dream as well as an idyllic locale to explore your inner farmer. From the Cotswold Cheese Company in Moreton in Marsh to CheeseWorks in Cheltenham—both accessible by BritRail—the bucolic hillsides are like stepping into a Sargent painting. I could have spent the entire weekend napping in a wheel of oozy Reblochon de Savoie, but a cookery class with Rob Rees, the Cotswold Chef, and an edible foraging expedition at Thyme Food School kept me poised for the next adventure.
With a bit of extra time on my hands, I took advantage of my BritRail 4-day pass and took an overnight jaunt to Bristol. This maritime town is packed with casual eats, great shopping, and a laid-back sensibility that offers the best of a big city without the frantic hustle. To bring my cheese quest full circle, I stumbled across Trethowan’s Dairy, a charming cheese stand nestled in St. Nicholas Market.
Before I knew it, it was time to hop on the Heathrow Express and head back to the Big Apple. Dreading that my stateside travels wouldn’t be nearly as relaxing and efficient as BritRail, I did manage to sneak a wedge of Stinking Bishop into my luggage, which kept most of the seats around me vacant so I could dream of Cotswold cheese and my time in the English countryside.
Photos: Matthew Wexler