I wonder if local aristocrat and old Etonian Robin Smith-Ryland, who hosted the annual Effrenata Lifestyle Festival for couples on his estate a few years ago, ever went along. He was Master of the Warwickshire Hunt when I was in pony club in my teens and my late mother told my sister and I that he had a reputation for being something of a restless romantic, warning us to give him a wide berth – and keep a firm hold of our whips at all times – when he was in situ.
Speaking of colourful men, the stately home just up the road in nearby Warwickshire was once owned by the late John Profumo, the disgraced former secretary of state for war for Harold Macmillan. Profumo was renowned for his affair with the then 19-year-old Christine Keeler (and part of his former house, Avon Carrow, is currently on the market, see box, below).
I also learned about some former famous residents who lived in a village near Banbury, including The Hellraiser himself, Richard Harris, who divided his time between his Grade II listed manor house near Banbury and the Savoy. The actor, who was as well known for his colourful life off screen as his onscreen roles (his last, most famous one probably being Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter) was often seen staggering back from the Plough pub, where he once chatted up two women who were not of that persuasion, and used to enjoy Guinness and whisky, his white hair glinting in the moonlit pond on the green as he staggered back home.
Having grown up around Stratford-on-Avon and worked at the famous RSC actors’ pub, the Dirty Duck, in the 1990s, I wasn’t that surprised to hear about Harris’s antics. I remembered our late night lock-ins and one particularly memorable evening when the gorgeous Rupert Penry-Jones came in with his girlfriend of the time, Kylie Minogue. I was so speechless it took me a few minutes to pull myself together and serve them.
Kate’s corner of the Cotswolds, near Lechlade, is, however, a bit of a trek from the area I live in.
Let’s not forget the Cotswolds actually covers nearly 800 sq miles and over five counties including Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.