Everything Taylor Swift needs to know about the Cotswolds

taylor swift cotswolds
Cumming: 'Anglophile as Swift is, she might still need a helping hand for making the most of her new digs' - Getty

For all the column inches, airwave hours and social media wailing dedicated to Taylor Swift, the woman herself remains something of a blank space.

She is the biggest star in music, a self-made 34-year-old billionaire, currently on the European leg of a stadium tour that has broken more records than a rogue elephant in HMV.

Nevertheless, what we know of her interior life is mostly projection.

Nobody could accuse the woman who called her most recent album The Tortured Poets Department of using a stiletto when a sledgehammer was available.

She enjoys glasses of rosé with her friends, little walks in the countryside, shopping for antiques.

Swift with her former boyfriend Tom Hiddleston in Suffolk, 2016
Previous countryside credentials: Swift with her former boyfriend Tom Hiddleston in Suffolk, 2016 - Ben/Jesal/GoffPhotos.com

Given all this, it is a surprise Swift didn’t discover the Cotswolds sooner. As her all-conquering caravan prepares to roll into the UK, the singer has reportedly rented a £3m house right in the heart of Chipping Norton, somewhere she can be alone with her American football player boyfriend, Travis Kelce.

If true, the move makes perfect sense: the Oxfordshire town is the closest thing Britain has to a Marie Antoinette village for celebrities, a place where you can enjoy a sanitised version of the English countryside less than 90-minutes by Range Rover from town.

Anglophile as Swift is, however, she might still need a helping hand for making the most of her new digs. Although it appears serene, the Cotswolds is a seething viper’s nest of class, status and money, old versus new, which it will take all of Swift’s diplomatic skills to negotiate.

The fashion

Where once the Cotswolds was all moth-eaten tweed and cartridge bags, in recent years there has been a marked injection of glamour. There are three broad groups: Old Cotswold Types, new Cotswold Types and Even Newer Cotswolds Types.

They hurtle down the M4 clad in conspicuous labels: Gucci hats and logo socks for walking the dog, Marfa Stance puffer coats when it’s chilly, and Phoebe Philo dresses for the interminable lunches. Swift’s previous pronouncements, and personal style, suggest she will plant herself in the middle of this spectrum.

Cotswold-dweller Alexa Chung
Fashion maven and Cotswold-dweller Alexa Chung - Getty

She could do worse than to model herself on Alexa Chung, sometime Cotswold-dweller and the original leggy millennial. Think wellies, shorts and a Barbour. Of course, no brand is a straightforward brand any longer: they huddle together like ducklings in a frost. It will be Ganni x Barbour, Stella McCartney x Hunter. Can we unequivocally rule out seeing Tay-Tay in a Schoffel gilet? We cannot.

The overlords

Not a conker falls from a branch in these parts without Lord and Lady Bamford knowing about it, let alone one of the most famous people in the world moving in. Thanks to his stewardship of the family business, JCB, Anthony Bamford was already one of Britain’s richest men. But his wife, the formidable Lady B – only the brave call her Carole – has driven the area’s transformation into a lifestyle Shangri-La.

Daylesford, her shop–restaurant-spa, by Kingham, which draws Teslas, Porsche and Range Rovers like buffalo to a watering hole. Inside, visitors feast on hedgehog-sized sausage rolls and buy eye-wateringly expensive chickens to roast in their Agas. It was to a Bamford-owned cottage that Boris Johnson fled with his young family when he quit over Partygate. We may never know the details, but it would be highly surprising if their fragrant handprints were not somewhere on Swift’s relocation.

daylesford
Daylesford: where the upper crust buys its vegetables and expensive chickens - Alamy

The celebrities

The ‘Chipping Norton set’ will forever be associated with David Cameron’s government in 2010. Cameron was always ambitious, but he has now achieved a title beyond even his wildest dreams: not just MP for Witney, not just Prime Minister, but Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton. If Swift wants to pay her respects, she will do well to track him down.  Failing the big man, the singer may have to content herself with the other local talent: Rebekah Brooks, Matthew Freud, the Beckhams, Jamie Dornan and his wife Amelia.

Jeremy Clarkson and Kaleb Cooper
Jeremy Clarkson, Kaleb Cooper... and two pigs - Prime Video

If she craves musical company, there’s Ellie Gouldling, Max Richter and the Blur bassist Alex James, who also makes cheese and a “Britpop” sparkling wine. If that’s not enough in the way of local produce, Swift could visit the popular local farmer Jeremy Clarkson. Should it fall through with Kelce, perhaps Swift could seek out Clarkson’s charming assistant, Kaleb Cooper, a blonde Englishman in the mould of Swift’s actor ex, Joe Alwyn.

Clubs

Thought the countryside was for everyone? Think again. The area around Chipping Norton has become Pall Mall in wellies, thick with private members’ clubs. Soho Farmhouse, Nick Jones’ ersatz farm hotel in Great Tew, was the first, offering Londoners the chance to drive two hours into the countryside in order to wait an hour for a hamburger. Meghan Markle had her hen do there. Recently it has faced new competition in the form of Estelle Manor, ten miles to the south, the rural outpost of Maison Estelle, a Mayfair private members’ club.

Estelle Manor is a rural outpost of a private Mayfair members' club
Estelle Manor is a rural outpost of a Mayfair private members' club - Estelle Manor

Then there is The Club by Bamford, Carole Bamford’s health club, where members pay £3,500 a year (plus joining fee) for access to a swanky gym. In the video for her recent single ‘Fortnight’, Swift is seen playing pickleball: The Club by Bamford has courts for pickleball’s European cousin, padel. Luckily there are no fees for the most insufferable club of all: wild swimming.

Carole Bamford's health club: "Where members pay £3,500 a year (plus joining fee) for access to a swanky gym," explains Cumming
Carole Bamford's health club: 'Where members pay £3,500 a year (plus joining fee) for access to a swanky gym,' explains Cumming - Estelle Manor

Pubs

We know that Swift likes a pub. The Black Dog, in Vauxhall, has been mobbed by Swifties since she used the name as the title of a song on her latest album. Her new home is rich in options, but there are factions. Take the charming village of Charlbury, just outside Chipping Norton: where The Bell, a 17th-century foodie pub owned by the Bamfords, stands just metres away from The Bull, a 16th-century foodie pub owned by the Public House Group, who also have The Pelican in Notting Hill.

Is Swift more Bell or Bull? She will have to pick a side. The Bamfords also own The Fox at Oddington and The Wild Rabbit at Kingham. For a marginally more traditional experience, she could try The Chequers, a medieval pub in the heart of Chipping Norton.

bull pub
The Bull pub in Charlbury

Shopping

If Swift is not already partial to crystals, gongs, floaty tea dresses and cashmere shawls, she would do well to develop a taste for them. You can hardly move without being offered an expensive piece of quartz. Without an interest in cashmere, or at least linen, she may find the local shopping options limited.

Perhaps Swift will visit Jesse Smith's, the butcher in Cirencester
Perhaps Swift will visit Jesse Smith's, the butcher in Cirencester, writes Cumming - Alamy

To indulge her interest in antiques, she can head to Stow-on-the-World, where mostly old people buy and sell mostly old furniture and trinkets. Naturally for groceries she will hit the Waitrose in Chipping Norton, perhaps mixing it up with a trip to Jesse Smith’s, the butcher in Cirencester. Wherever she goes, she will need to brush up on the favourite local small talk: planning permission, celebrities and how the influx of people from London is clogging up the roads.

Entrepreneurship

If Swift truly wants to join the Cotswolds set, she must start a lifestyle brand, ideally something involving ‘hosting’. What it might lack in profitability, this business will more than make up for in opportunities for smug Instagram posts showing off dinner parties.

The novelist Plum Sykes, who lives in the Cotswolds, has set her latest book amid its rolling greenery. “I realised that an intriguing new breed of female had evolved: the Country Princess,” Sykes wrote in Tatler. “She was rich, she was glamorous, she was amusing, she lived (almost exclusively) in the Cotswolds and she had a lifestyle to die for.”

It is almost as if she’d had precognition of Swift’s imminent arrival. Sykes added: “I overheard one wealthy man saying to another: ‘You’re not really rich unless you’re losing ten grand a week funding a business your wife has set up where she lays tables all day.’”

Losing money does not come naturally to Taylor Swift; but that is the price of fitting in.

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