My Cotswold Life: Nick Abendanon, Bath Rugby Club
PUBLISHED: 14:42 27 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:58 20 February 2013
Katie Jarvis discovers South African-born rugby star Nick Abendanon's love for the Cotswolds.
My Cotswold Life: Nick Abendanon, Bath Rugby Club
Katie Jarvis discovers South African-born rugby star Nick Abendanons love for the Cotswolds.
There are times when rugbys Nick Abendanon experiences a conflict of loyalties. For though hes played for Bath since the age of 18, he was born in South Africa. In fact, my proudest moment was probably my first game for England, which, as it happened, took place in South Africa, he says. About 15 of my family, who still live in the country, came down to see me play a few of them wearing England shirts underneath and South African jackets over the top. They were hedging their bets and deciding which ones to take off at the end of the game!
Inevitably, his long-term ambition is focused on 2015, when the next Rugby World Cup will be held in England. I couldnt think of a more perfect moment than lifting the World Cup up on your home soil in front of all the English fans, he says.
Where do you live and why?
Our family moved from South Africa to the little Cotswold village of Minchinhampton in 1986, the year I was born. No one back in Johannesburg had ever heard of the place; but some close friends of my parents, who had moved to this same village, kept telling us how beautiful it was. Weve been back to South Africa lots of times including for a year when I was 11 but, to me, its a holiday destination. Whereas theres nothing like living in the Cotswolds despite the weather!
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
More or less all my life. I often think about how different things would have been if wed stayed in South Africa. I probably wouldnt be doing what Im doing today, simply because rugby over there is what football is here: many more people play the sport and its a lot harder to get the opportunities Ive had.
Whats your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
I love what I do and I couldnt ask for anything more, but my perfect weekend wouldnt be running out in front of 13,000 people and getting beaten up on a pitch! It would be spent relaxing with my family. Id wake up early and go to Minchinhampton Golf Club with my dad, my brother and Bill Endacott the friend who introduced us to Minchinhampton followed by a lovely Sunday lunch, cooked by my dad. Then, wed go for a walk to a good pub, like the Daneway (at Sapperton). During the season, we rarely get weekends off unless were injured: its quite a tough training regime, and I do get tired. Being fit is constantly on your mind youre always fighting with that devil on your shoulder.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
Somewhere in Bisley: I love the village. The family of one of my very good school friends, Julian Erleigh, owned Jaynes Court in Bisley. He seemed to be one of those people who had everything go-karts, motorbikes so I have some very happy childhood memories of playing there!
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
Theres nowhere I wouldnt like, in the sense that Im happy to live in the city or the country. I live in central Bath at the moment, where Ive just renovated an old pub a real gut-out and do-up job which has been a bit of a challenge! Id even love to spend a few years in London, just seeing what its like to live in a really big city. But Im equally at home 40 minutes drive away from Bath, in the countryside around my parents house.
Wheres the best pub in the area?
The Halfway House at Box, near Minchinhampton. My mum is the librarian at Beaudesert Park prep school, which has a lot of gap-year students from South Africa working as teaching assistants. We tend to befriend them, and the Halfway is their local. Niall, the landlord, is obsessed with rugby. He has all sorts of memorabilia hanging up on the walls, including one of my shirts. Ive taken various rugby friends for a drink there, such as Mike Tindall, who used to live down the road in Gatcombe.
My second pub is the Black Horse at Amberley, which my dad bought when he first came over but sold about five years ago. Wed go there all the time as kids, playing round and helping out when needed, so Ive a lot of memories of it.
And the best place to eat?
The Bell in Sapperton: good local produce, great location, excellent food. About 95 per cent of my friends have gone up to London but they all still come back here to escape the stress of the city, and the Bell is one of the places where we meet up.
Have you a favourite tearoom?
I dont really need to go to any tea houses because my girlfriend, Florence, bakes the most fantastic carrot cake.
What would you do for a special occasion?
If were celebrating a win, then its usually a boys get-together; on rare occasions, the girlfriends are invited too! But Bath is a small town where everyone knows each other, and youve got to be well behaved, whatever the circumstances. Bath Rugby is a strong brand, which has given us all an amazing opportunity to do what we love for a living and we get paid a good amount of money to do it. Wed be selfish if we ever went out there and tarnished the name.
Whats the best thing about the Cotswolds?
Firstly, my family: my parents are the reason why Im as fortunate as I am. Its thanks to the schools I was sent to Beaudesert and Cheltenham College that Ive been given the sort of opportunities I have. Then theres Bath Rugby. Its in a fantastic location, with the ground in a two-minute walk from town, so it feels as if were really part of the community. There arent many clubs that sell out their games, week in, week out; but, at the Rec, we manage to do that.
and the worst?
Stepping into cow pats when out running on Minchinhampton Common.
Which shop could you not live without?
My dad and I jointly own the building housing M&B Stores in Minchinhampton, which weve been renovating. Its one of the few village shops thats actually being extended, which means there will be a lot more produce stocked. Brian and Jane, who run it, are such nice people; its a 10-minute walk for us, and great to have on our doorstep.
What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
What we would have is a lot different from your general Cotswold family; it would be more of a barbecue a braai, wed call it cooking boerewors (a South African sausage) that we get from the butcher in Stroud. Many a time, my dad has been out in the rain, barbecuing under an umbrella, while were all cuddled up inside! During the rugby season, I have to be careful what I eat: we get put on weighing scales every day. Theyre not going to tear up your contract if you put on a couple of kgs but, at the same time, I feel it personally on the pitch. One guy I know eats boiled chicken and broccoli pretty much six days a week. I could never be that regimented I love crisps and pizza too much.
Whats your favourite view inthe Cotswolds?
The view from Winstones, the Cotswold ice cream factory, on Rodborough Common, is one of the nicest in the Cotswolds.
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds
Cotswold stone; Minchinhampton Common; and cattle grids. When we were young, wed have to chase the cows out of our garden, until mum and dad decided to get a cattle grid installed in our driveway!
Whats your favourite Cotswold building and why?
I love the Beaudesert Park School building Victorian, with black-and-white panelling probably because I had such an amazing time there. I loved the sport, of course, and got involved in anything I could cricket, hockey, tennis, football, rugby. My other choice is Pulteney Bridge, one of the most iconic images of Bath. When we walk out of the ground, its the first thing we see. I enjoy visiting the little shops on it.
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
Push kids too hard in sport it takes away the enjoyment. I sat next to someone at a meal the other day who spent the whole time telling me how he wanted his son to be a professional rugby player. My dad is probably the proudest dad alive because he loves rugby so much; but if I hadnt ended up playing rugby, hed have been just as proud of me. You cant push your kids to be something you wanted to be. You have to let them figure out their own lives.
Starter homes or executive properties?
Starter homes, but they do have to be in the right locations. I cant believe they want to build in green fields when there are so many empty houses around. Many of my school friends are in London, in their second or third years of jobs, and they still have to rent.
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
In terms of rugby clubs: Bath, Worcester, Gloucester and Bristol.
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
I hope Ill get a chance to live abroad. South Africa for a year or two would be a dream, though I couldnt see myself there permanently. What Id take is a bottle of elderflower cordial. When I was young, we used to go round picking elderflowers by the bagful and take them down to the Bottle Green company (in South Woodchester, Stroud). Theyd weigh what wed brought in and give us a fiver, which wed spend on penny sweets!
Whats the first piece of advice youd give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
If youve got kids, join your local rugby club. I was a member of Stroud and wed travel to different parts of the Cotswolds, playing against other clubs. Its a great way for all the family to meet new people. Or join the golf club if you can afford it!
And which book should they read?
They should read Cotswold Life magazine, and Minchinhampton and Amberley Through Time by Howard Beard, who used to teach me at Beaudesert. It contains a lot of photographs showing what the area used to look like.
Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
We used to walk along the canal to Chalford swings. There were very few people when we went there and I always used to wonder why: wed have hours of fun in that place. Mum would make us a picnic and wed go down and swim in the river or swing over it on the rope-swing.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
Something to do with horses Cirencester Polo Club, Gatcombe or Badminton Horse Trials. My brother, Simon, who is very much into his polo, has a good friend called Charlie Hanbury who owns his own polo farm, so hell often come back from London and play.
If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
Id visit a quintessentially English family during Sunday lunch and see how they live. A friend of mine would eat round a big long table with silver service, whereas ours is a very laid-back family.
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
The Marquess of Reading. The family does so much work for charity, its unbelievable. One of their daughters went to India and worked with prostitutes, trying to rehabilitate them, for example. But the main thing theyre involved with is Plant for Peace; 90 percent of the heroin in the world at the moment comes from Afghanistan and this charity is trying to get the farmers to change to planting pomegranate seeds, which will make them the same money.
With whom would you most like to have a cider?
Steve Jobs: I love every gadget hes invented Im a crazy Apple fan. Hed have been an amazing guy to speak to I really enjoy stories about people starting up huge FTSE companies from out of their garage. Id also like to ask him how someone earning millions could have been so smelly!
For information on Bath Rugby Club, including fixtures and results, visit www.bathrugby.com
Further details on the charity Plant for Peace are available from www.pforp.org or 01793 643992.