My Cotswold Life: RIAT’s Caroline Rogers
- Credit: © Thousand Word Media Ltd
For Royal International Air Tattoo commercial director Caroline Rogers, the four corners of the Cotswolds are South Africa, Norway, the Far East and America! But nothing beats her adopted home town of Tetbury
Caroline Rogers is commercial director of the Royal International Air Tattoo, which takes place on the weekend of July 20-21 at RAF Fairford. Just over half the £6.5 million needed to stage this, the world’s largest military airshow, comes from corporate support. “These companies love what we do: from the unique air display, to the aircrews and sheer variety of aircraft which come to us from all around the world,” Caroline says.
Among the highlights at this year’s tattoo will be a special tribute flypast to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters’ raid, as well as a display by four American warplanes – the P-38L Lightning, B17 Flying Fortress, Catalina Flying Boat and F4U-4 Corsair – rarely seen in the UK. “We’re also very much focusing on looking after our visitors,” Caroline says. “We’ve learned such a lot from the staging of the Olympics and, as a result, we’ve created our own volunteer Air Tattoo Crew, who’ll be out there helping people to enjoy their day – everything from giving directions to offering to take photographs of the family!”
• Where do you live and why?
In a beautiful little dolls’ house in the centre of Tetbury, built around 1730. I’m a Londoner, born and bred but, when I got to the age of 27, I decided I wanted a more rural life. The day I moved into Tetbury was the same day I was offered the job at the air tattoo! I’m lucky in that work takes me back to London six times a month, on average: I can get my fix of the smoke and the noise. I’m still very familiar with the city. I learned to drive there so I instinctively know my way around. (In fact, when I was about 18, I ran out of petrol in Berkeley Square, with my grandmother in the car – one of the most stressful things you can do!) I love going back but Tetbury is very definitely ‘home’.
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• How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
For 23 years. Tetbury is an interesting town. When I first arrived, there were three butchers, a greengrocer, a cobbler, an old-fashioned menswear shop; and there was the old cattle-and-sheep market down at the bottom of Gumstool Hill. Since then, it’s gone through an enormous transition; but what I love about it is that it’s still thriving; it’s still busy; it’s got new shops and still has so much to offer. For me, it’s the best of all worlds: I can walk out of the door and go on four or five wonderful walks; equally, I can walk into town to the shops.
• What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
The rest of my family – for all sorts of different reasons – have ended up down here, and my perfect weekend would consist of all of us together - no question about that. My partner, Matthew Webster, has two boys of 18 and 21, and they’re best friends with my two nephews, who live three doors away. So it’s tennis, a mooch around the Tetbury shops and a trip to Calcot Spa. We all play tennis, and we’re very lucky to have Tetbury Tennis Club and a kind neighbour with a tennis court.
• If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
I just adore Tetbury and I’d definitely want to stay here, but I’d love a bit more space in the house, as well as a garden. (And, if money were no object, a grass tennis court, too!) When all the boys are with us, together with girlfriends, we’re bursting at the seams!
• Where’s the best pub in the area?
My favourite is the Cat and Custard Pot in Shipton Moyne: a real traditional old pub. In Tetbury, we tend to go to the Ormond; but the big tragedy is the fact that there are two beautiful landmark pubs that have been sitting empty for the best part of three years – the Royal Oak and the Crown. (In fact, the Royal Oak has been sold to a local businessman and is about to reopen so we’re really looking forward to that.) The properties were owned by one brewery – and shame on them! If you own a beautiful Cotswold building, with all that history and tradition, you have a responsibility to make it work for the community.
• And the best place to eat?
If Matthew and I are eating out, then we enjoy walking to Crudwell and the Potting Shed. On the way back, you hit the top of Long Newnton and look down over Tetbury and the church – it’s lovely. Also The Trouble House is great. When it comes to entertaining dignitaries at the tattoo, Williams Kitchen [now known as Calcot Kitchens] at Calcot Manor does a lot of our outside catering, including a huge dinner on the Friday night. But we also hold an informal barbecue on the Saturday, which always takes place somewhere that offers the perfect Cotswold experience. This year, we’re taking guests to the Old Rectory at Quenington, where the Fresh Air exhibition takes place. [The outdoor sculpture exhibition runs until July 7: www.freshair2013.com]
• Have you a favourite tearoom?
I love a beautiful pot of Earl Grey. One of my nephews works in Hobbs in Tetbury so I tend to pop in on his shift. There’s also a lovely shop on the corner of Long Street, called Quayles: just to sit there with a cup of tea and watch the world go by is lovely.
• What would you do for a special occasion?
Workwise, any special occasion we put on comes with the splendour of the military; at our Friday-night gala dinner, we do a sunset ceremony and Beat the Retreat. For me, that solemn moment when the flag comes down is always a reminder of what so many people have given for their country. The moment that happens in the ceremony, we have a beautiful Spitfire fly-past. It’s incredibly special.
From a personal point of view, last year my sister Jo, a professional cook, and I hired the Market House in Tetbury for my father and step-mother’s wedding anniversary. Guests were bowled over by this special occasion in such a beautiful building; you look around the walls and think of all the things that have happened in there over the centuries.
• What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?
Where we’re lucky is that we get a real sense of the seasons here. When the sun’s out, you see the wildflowers: the greens of the trees, the rapeseed, the cow parsley. But, equally, the winter is wonderful (apart from what it does to our roads). To walk out of the house after a heavy dump of snow and see the grey countryside come alight with whiteness is magical.
• ... and the worst?
From a business point of view, we would be able to improve the tattoo if we had a better road system – just for three days of the year, anyway!
• Which shop could you not live without?
Oops a daisy [Cirencester] and Twig [Tetbury] because I love flowers. I can walk outside my door to a choice of three places where I can buy beautiful bread. And the other shop I couldn’t live without is Waitrose, which I pass on my way home every night. Everybody in there is striving to do the best they can for their customer. You really get the feeling they care: they want to help people and they want it to be good.
• What’s the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
The quality of the health service. I’ve been in hospital on three occasions since I’ve been in the Cotswolds and, each time, I couldn’t fault the surgery; I couldn’t fault the hospitals.
• What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
I love my food! I’d go for local asparagus with hollandaise sauce made from George’s eggs, from Fosse Farm just outside Tetbury; a rib of beef from Jessie Smith’s [Tetbury butcher]; followed by Williams Kitchen’s bread and butter pudding.
• What’s your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
There are two: from the top of Frocester Hill; and the view of the Churn Valley, from the old Cirencester to Cheltenham road, just past Colesbourne, with the river snaking through.
• What’s your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
That’s got to be Minchinhampton, especially when Giffords Circus is on the common. When I first walked into that tent, I entered a world of magic like nothing I’ve ever experienced elsewhere.
• Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds
And the smell of aviation fuel at an air tattoo.
• What’s your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
St Mary’s Church, Tetbury. You see the top of that spire and you know you’re coming home.
• What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
I’d never go onto the A417 to Birdlip on a bank-holiday Friday.
• Starter homes or executive properties?
Starter homes. I really admire the way building companies and planners are developing new estates where the architecture and the style complement the surrounding areas. A colleague of mine has bought a lovely cottage inside that development by the Tesco roundabout in Cirencester. It’s an estate built around youngsters and affordability, but they’re equally developing part of the community for the older population.
• What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
As far as the air tattoo is concerned, it’s South Africa; Norway; the Far East; and America.
• If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
A never-ending supply of local eggs. I’m forever striving to find the perfect egg: very fresh, with a beautiful deep-rich yolk that makes the perfect poached egg on toast.
• What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Learn about the history. When I moved to Tetbury, there were two books I devoured: one was The Tetbury Branch by Stephen Randolph – a history of the railway - and the other was Tetbury Through Time by Lynne Cleaver. You learn so much by looking back at old pictures and hearing old stories from local people.
• Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
I love to walk up to Long Newnton, crossing the Monarch’s Way – Charles II’s escape route - and the Fosse Way. The other great walk is on Minchinhampton Common, where you feel you’re on the top of the world.
• Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
The air tattoo, but I’m biased! I equally love Tetbury Woolsack Races and the Cheltenham Festivals. I was up at the jazz festival recently and you couldn’t fault it – an outstanding event.
• If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
If I could go back in time, I’d like to see how the wool trade worked. Every Cotswold town has a market place. What did they do there? How did they sell? Even my little cottage had something to do with the wool trade – a store room, probably!
• To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
To the sheep.
• The Cotswolds – aspic or asphalt?
It has to be both. We need to treasure the traditional but we also need a society that can thrive. We’ve got four boys in the family and we’d like them to stay or return to the Cotswolds, but there have to be job opportunities and houses to buy.
• What attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?
An enormous sense of pride in the beauty of the area. Our overseas participants come from all over the globe and, to a man and a woman, they are bowled over by our countryside.
• With whom would you most like to have a cider?
It sounds a bit staid but it’s my Silver Street neighbours from Tetbury; we’re such a close community.
To buy tickets for the Royal International Air Tattoo, including Cotswold Life’s VIP enclosure, the Spitfire Lawn, visit www.airtattoo.com