Alex James: It's pretty, it's friendly, but best of all, it's real
11 November 2004
The Observer

My wife and I fell in love with the area because her boss had a cottage in Little Barrington - a village of "proper posh", snooty-tooty crusties. They were frowned upon because they bought OK! and Hello! - it was that kind of place.

In comparison, the great thing about Kingham is that it is real. Although it has a manor house and a very nice church it also has a crime rate, and the people who live here are not all rich. (Unless they sold their houses, that is.) A guy I know from fishing in the lake nearby used to be a traveller, but now he lives here and works as a teacher.

The houses are pretty and there is a huge village green, but there are no shops in Kingham. We do have the post office though, and that is good for everything - big mushrooms and big potatoes, if that is your sort of thing. They have nice bread too, old-fashioned, white, non-Atkins, stodgy doorstep stuff. But for anything else you have to drive to one of the towns. There is a thriving farmers' market at Chipping Norton and Stow-on-the-Wold.

There are two pubs in the village. The Tollgate Inn is very nice for a pint, I once left my bike there for three months and they looked after it until I came to collect it. And exploring the British Legion club is a treat we have in store. It is fair to say I do not get out as much as I used to.

Another bonus is the schools and the doctor's surgery. I saw the local schoolchildren maypole dancing at the village fête, which was fantastic, and made a mental note to send my son there- in fact, we called up to ask if we could add his name to the list. When we told them he was noughl, they just laughed and told us to ring back in four years.

On the health front, I recently needed treatment for a swollen finger. In London you would have to take a hundred quid with you to get seen that quick. Here you just turn up: in, out, and you do not have to drive 20 miles when you are sick.

If you do need to get out of here, the links with London are brilliant (there is a train station on the outskirts) - that's why I moved here.

I don't know exactly why the judges have chosen our village. Kingham is nice, but it is posher in the next valley.

The important thing about Kingham is that you cannot consider it The Best Village in isolation. It works as part of a web of villages - because if you lived in Kingham you would go fucking mad.

Choosing our village is symbolic of modern country life though, I suppose. People want services, schools, somewhere to actually live. That's the good thing about the Cotswolds: despite the fudge shops and the expensive antiques, my wife came home yesterday morning with a couple of cappuccinos. It's easier to get a cappuccino here now than it is in Brixton.

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