Janie Clifford’s Cotswold life
PUBLISHED: 15:57 01 September 2014 | UPDATED: 16:54 01 September 2014
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Janie Clifford, the woman behind the mission to showcase rural skills,tells Katie Jarvis about her Cotswold life
If you’d like to experience all aspects of the Cotswolds rolled into one, you couldn’t do better than to visit Frampton Country Fair on September 14. A great celebration of the British countryside, it offers a fantastic day out, with activities such as fly fishing, gun-dog competitions, ferret racing, a hound parade, clay shoots, display rings, and plenty of local food and drink.
But fun as it is, there’s a more serious side to the fair; for, at its heart, lies the Living Working Countryside, which showcases traditional rural skills alongside native breeds of animal. It’s the brainchild of Janie Clifford, a passionate supporter of the countryside. “After the wars, an awful lot of the country crafts were lost along with the young men,” she says. “And yet those skills are vital to country life and conservation building work. It’s wonderful that young people have become interested in them once again.”
The fair takes place on the parkland of Frampton Court Estate in Frampton-on-Severn, owned by the Clifford family since the 11th century. Henry II’s mistress, The Fair Rosamund, is said to have been born there.
• Where do you live and why?
I live in Manor Farm at Frampton-on-Severn because I’m married to Rollo, whose family has lived in the village since the Norman Conquest. The family name comes from another piece of land they were given, near Hay-on-Wye, which had a castle – called Clifford - overlooking a ford on the river. Being Norman, they called themselves ‘de Clifford’; and it was Walter de Clifford whose daughter, Jane, caught King Henry II’s eye: he named her his Rose of the World. The Fair Rosamund, as she became known, is said to have been born in an upstairs room at Manor Farm.
• How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
I’ve lived in Frampton since Rollo and I married, 40 years ago. I was born and bred on Exmoor, which gave me my love of the wild, and of open country. I got to know this area because my grandfather retired from the army to live at Bencombe House, Uley. While we were staying with him, we’d come to Frampton to waterski on the lakes – there are too many SSSIs [Sites of Special Scientific Interest] to do that nowadays! That’s how I met the Clifford family.
• What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
I’d love to go for a ride across the farm, probably down to the edge of the Severn. And then I’d just like time to enjoy the garden. It’s lovely to have supper at night under the enormous fig tree, listening to the swifts and the bats. We’ve got a monstrous Datura plant that sends off an amazing scent at night.
• If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
If we won the lottery, we could spend it all on bricks and mortar: there are four Grade I listed buildings on the estate, which is quite a responsibility.
• Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
In one of the towns, I’m afraid: my heart is with nature, which is one reason why I love the village so much. We have more dragonflies in Frampton than almost anywhere else in Gloucestershire; while, on the farm, we have two SSSIs, as well as a Ramsar site on the Severn lands, which signifies a wetlands area of international importance. There is such a variety of wildlife.
• Where’s the best pub in the area?
I wouldn’t mind any pub particularly – though there are two good pubs in Frampton – but, above all, I’m a great supporter of Uley Brewery. I do think it’s wonderful that we’ve a 200-year-old brewery nearby using spring water, with an owner [Chas Wright] who is a tremendous character.
• And the best place to eat?
It’s Frampton Court, of course! When Rollo’s mother was widowed, she turned the house into a B&B; we decided to stick with that, and make the court more of a public place. If you book in to stay, you can order a bespoke dinner for up to 20 people, with ingredients sourced either from the farm or elsewhere locally. Polly and Craig, our house managers, do the cooking. They also do a Monday night at the Salutation in Ham Green, when they cook a pig in every different way you can possibly think of.
• Have you a favourite tearoom?
At the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, which has just been reopened by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester after a Heritage Lottery Fund revamp. You can drink tea in the little café under the verandah, overlooking the docks, and learn all about the soldiers of Gloucester. It’s a particularly special place to Rollo: both his father and grandfather served in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars; in fact, his grandfather was killed serving with them in Palestine during WW1.
• What would you do for a special occasion?
We have lots of special occasions here in our timber-framed Wool Barn, which we hire out for weddings and other celebrations. Rollo calls it Shakespearean – it was built in the mid-to-late 1500s – and was probably used to store the wool or the cloth that would have come from the Cotswolds before being shipped out of the little port down by the church. The plinth wall is made of stones reclaimed at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and is thought to have been part of Llanthony Secunda Priory in Gloucester, quarried in Painswick in the 12th century.
• What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?
The land and the people who’ve shaped it; the farms and the wild places; and the skills that have grown up on the back of all those things.
•... and the worst?
The proposal to build thousands of houses in the Berkeley Vale. The roads are busy enough and the infrastructure is stretched enough. All the water runs off the Cotswolds down here so there’s always going to be a risk of flooding.
• Which shop could you not live without?
The village shop, which is due to close as we speak. When I first came to Frampton, there were four general stores, a baker and a butcher: the village shop, with its post office, is the last of those remaining. We are trying terribly hard to save it.
• What’s the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
The obligation on families to upkeep ancient buildings. Our options are limited: to sell or to hope that one of the family will go and be a hedge-fund manager, which is not what any of us want. I do think it makes a huge difference when there’s a family still connected to a place, because it gives a rootedness and an interest and a passion that you simply don’t have if it belongs to a charitable body, no matter how well intentioned.
• What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
We’re on the estuary here, so elvers or perhaps salmon to begin with. (My mother-in-law used to produce elver sandwiches, which I always enjoyed.) We would follow that with Gloucester Old Spot gammon from my pigs on the farm, served with veg from our garden; and then we’d have a Jonathan Crump single Gloucester cheese made from his Gloucester cows, washed down with our own perry.
• What’s your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
From the escarpment, looking over Berkeley Vale to the Forest. My mother-in-law always used to say that the huge divide between the hills and the vale was because it was too steep to take a horse and cart up. In some ways, there’s still a barrier that persists today.
• What’s your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
This village. It does have an enormously long green, with houses all around, that centres the village; but it also has a wonderful community spirit. There’s a church school and umpteen clubs and societies. You can see from the names on the headstones in the churchyard that many families have been here for years and years.
• Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds
The hill, with stone, sheep and arable; the forest, with the timber we need for our buildings; and the vale, with its dairy, fishing, and the river.
• What’s your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
Frampton Court, with its orangery. The Manor Farm has been a lovely place to bring up our four children; Frampton Court is more sophisticated and ‘grown-up’, with its very classic architecture. It has wonderful levels of craftsmanship, particularly the panelling and the carving, which is thought to have been done by a pupil of Grinling Gibbons. It was built in 1731-33 by a bachelor – some bachelor pad! – who never married, so it was reasonably impractical in some ways. Ten years later, he built the orangery - a glorified greenhouse - in Strawberry Hill gothic style. It’s a fantastic building; slightly fairytale-ish.
• What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
I would never limit freedom of choice for country people, especially as far as their sports and pastimes are concerned. We all felt very strongly when the bill came in to ban hunting. People who hunt can’t really explain what it is that makes it so important to them, but it goes very deep. In losing hunting, we’ve also lost some connection with the wild; something the politically-correct would like us to lose.
• Starter homes or executive properties?
In the village here, there’s a great need for affordable starter homes and also bungalows for the elderly. Rented accommodation keeps people in the village, too. We have houses on the estate, with a great long list of people wanting to live in them. Rollo feels very strongly about keeping our rents as low as we can so that we don’t price out locals.
• What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
Our craftsmen at the country fair come from all four corners of the Cotswolds.
• If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
Halo Films made a DVD, Frampton – an English Country Fair, which is constantly recycled on the Horse and Country TV channel. It’s quite fun, especially as it includes all of our old cars breaking down as we’re setting off!
• What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
That just might have to be: come to the country fair! It does give a flavour of all of Cotswold country life, including just about every craft you can think of: stonewalling, roofing tiles made from stone and wood, lime-work, hedging, metal-work, gates, fences, logging, and the making of nets, coracles and salmon traps.
• And which book should they read?
The Frampton Flora. Rollo’s largely unmarried great, great, great aunts, of whom there were eight, painted about 300 watercolours, mainly of the local flora in the mid-1800s. Rollo’s mum came across them in folders in the attic at Frampton Court in the early 80s – a marvellous record of the flora in this area in the 19th century. They were made into a book, which was written by Richard Mabey [broadcaster and nature-writer].
Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
I love to walk when the Berkeley hounds are in the Berkeley Vale. The beauty is that you never really know where you will be going; you end up in places you wouldn’t normally see.
• Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
Frampton Country Fair once again! I’m not sure that many people realise the proceeds are almost entirely given away. In addition, many good causes are given free stands at the fair. The event was started in 1985 by the Gloucestershire Wildfowlers, but it outgrew them. Rollo and I took it over in 1994, moving it to the park and running it from the estate office with the help of our secretary. At that time, Rollo was chairman of the British Field Sports Society in Gloucestershire and felt very strongly about country-sports issues. I had always had an interest in crafts, and so I started the ‘Living Working Countryside’ part of the fair. We couldn’t do it without our band of volunteers, who help give the event its unique atmosphere.
• If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
I would love to know what happened between Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and The Fair Rosamund. The story is that King Henry took Fair Rosamund to Woodstock, where he made her a bower with a rudimentary maze around it. She was a great needlewoman and, so legend goes, one of her threads got caught on the King’s spur. Queen Eleanor used it to trace her way through the maze and threaten Rosamund with a dagger or poison. History says that the Queen ‘dealt with her’; but, actually, we don’t know what happened. I tend to think Rosamund probably just retired to a nunnery.
• Which attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?
• With whom would you most like to have a cider?
With the craftspeople from the country fair, such as Albert Rixen, who has a wonderful portable cider press, Eric Freeman, Ginger Blayney, Simon Cooper, Don Riddle and Deryck Huby. And then there’s the Prince of Wales, who must be the biggest champion for the Living Working Countryside of our generation: Hedge-Layer in Chief!
For more information about Frampton Country Fair, which takes place in the parkland of Frampton Court Estate on September 14, visit www.framptoncountryfair.co.uk
This article by Katie Jarvis is from the September 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.
For more from Katie, follow her on Twitter: @katiejarvis