Woodstock on the Ottauquechee

Last winter when we were in Woodstock – a few miles away from Winston Churchill’s family seat of Blenheim Palace in good ol’Blighty – sauntering down a quiet lane past a gaggle of Georgian cottages with their white-trimmed windows, limestone churches, Norman doorways and period buildings latticed with tangled ivy, I did not picture us in another Woodstock roughly a year later. A vastly different namesake.

But the passage of time is wonderful in that introduces change, an unsettling feeling which takes time to be slowly washed away by time itself, and along the way it also opens your eyes to places you would have not dreamt of seeing. As we found ourselves in this other Woodstock, I scoured google. It turned that there are 34 Woodstocks in the world if you will believe that, 22 of them in America alone. How utterly odd that people in 33 places around the world had the same brainwave – apart from the fact that these might have been settlers who possibly wanted a slice of home in new lands. I wondered if they had been enamoured of the old Woodstock. If they had found themselves warmed to the cockles of their heart on a cold, grey noon as they sat in an ancient pub there with a fire going in its equally ancient fireplace bordered by duck-egg blue walls, food procured locally and prepared with an expert touch.

If you are thinking of the Woodstock where the sixties peaked with the famous music festival that was the epitome of hippie grooviness, I have to quickly point out that we were not in That Woodstock in upstate New York.

We were in the Woodstock in Vermont that sits on the Ottauquechee river and was named after the Oxfordshire Woodstock as homage to one of Churchill’s ancestors, the 4th Duke of Marlborough.

At a glance it was obvious. Woodstock in Vermont has the patina of old money. It is written large over its central square designated the Green, the historic inn built by the Rockefellers where people tend to take many selfies, in its antique shops and leafy streets bordered by houses reflecting a mix of old styles of architecture. Late Georgian, masonic temples with Greek columns…The air of wealth arrived with industry in the 1760s when the first settlers set up a gristmill and a sawmill. They made scythes and axes, wool processing machines and woollens, guns and furniture and carriages and leather – leaving behind a legacy of industriousness. After all, wealth does not come about from sitting on one’s haunches.

There we had brunch in an old-style cafe, omelettes fattened with feta and veggies, fluffy pancakes and black coffee served by women who looked like they had been put on a permanent diet of pancakes. We overheard little girls sing birthday songs for themselves, friends exchange travel notes, a man telling the staff that he used to live there years and years before, possibly twenty years ago, which reminded me of that wonderful O.Henry story ‘After Twenty Years’. Then we set about town, peering at the old library and county house, stoked by signages that pointed the way to genteel ski resorts like Suicide Six where they say skiing started in the country. And then those covered bridges, ah. They stood upon the river that the Abenaki called the Ottauqueechee, ‘place of mushy land’, combining romance and functionality within their covered timber frames with such ease.

But the most interesting part of the day, as it is with any traveller, was a leisurely natter with a local. An elderly owner of an antique shop where we examined many vintage objects, Victorian wicker doll buggies, antique Dutch book presses, a gym dandy, grinding mills, old China ware…you know the kind of antiquated things that lie forgotten in those stores, waiting to be owned and loved all over again.

It was an unusual conversation. For the first time I met a woman who spoke differently of her country’s leader, that ‘my grandma would have turned over in her grave if she had heard the kind of disrespect people show to their own president’; that she dressed in black for Lady Di’s funeral; of lines drawn in the sand, the Sykes-Picot line and her brother, a director of Broadway plays, who’s been travelling to Israel for years seeking truth, the kind of truth that is hardly disseminated among the public, and of his screenwriter who has fixed notions and refuses to be budged by his view of the truth. A flow that bespoke stream of consciousness thoughts but you know how thoughts mingle – and when they mingle how they reveal fascinating aspects of people and their lives.

And there it lay – the crux of what travelling does for me. Introducing me to different ways of thinking, different lives, different stories, different characters, the ability to observe and distance the self from an obvious predilection towards judgment – it feels somewhat like reading a hundred different books at the same time.

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Taftsville Covered Bridge, built in 1836, lies on Route 4.
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The comparatively newer Middle Bridge located by the Green in Woodstock.
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Homesteads in Woodstock
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Congregational churches built in the 19th century
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The kind of stores where you can lay your (greedy) hands on precious junk.


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Adi, chuffed by the sight of Suicide Six. 
English muffin, omelette and fried potatoes
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Reminded me of Bettys tearoom in Harrogate
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Signages that tell stories

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Masonic temple
A house upon the Ottauqueechee
A gym dandy
Dutch book press
What kind of grinding mill could this be?
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Victorian doll buggy


Teagle’s Landing named for a printer called Frank Teagle who lived in Woodstock, one who it is said took care of those overlooked and worked to make things better. 


Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

75 thoughts on “Woodstock on the Ottauquechee

  1. Gosh, you photos are gorgeous! I had absolutely no ideaa that there are SO many Woodstocks on the planet. You took me to my first visit ever to a Woodstock! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dina 🙂 A cherished compliment from a wonderful photographer herself. I was a bit gobsmacked too by that figure 😀 And why you will love the Woodstock in Oxfordshire. It is so pretty and quiet. Though the American one made me happy too. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An eloquently written post and lovely pics, which your readers have come to expect, spoiled as we are. I loved your concluding summation as to what travel does for you. But for me, what great about traveling, even if for a brief getaway, is that it knocks one out of one’s routine. Simple as that. I know, most folks lock in, like pitbulls, obstinately clinging to rigor. I think too much routine for too long can make one disastrously myopic. An occasional shakeup is exactly what is needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And see how I love your comments. They always make me smile. Apart from the generosity in them, there is something to make me think. You are so right about the necessity for the shakeup because without it we do run the danger of slipping into a myopic existence. May I confess on a completely different note that I do not care for pitbulls, especially the metaphorical ones. Now let one judge me on that 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m generally not a fan of pitbulls either, based on both personal experiences as well as the frequent newsworthy incidents, though I should clarify that I find fault more with the owners than the canines.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you that your travel makes you feel like reading hundreds of books at the same time. We observe more and faster than we can absorb at the time. There’s a Chinese saying, “Walk 10,000 miles, better than studying for ten years.” There’s some truth in it. Your photos captured the essence of Woodstock. Excellent photos, Dippy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Miriam! 🙂 That Chinese proverb captures the essence of my thoughts perfectly. As I travel I find that it is way better education than the one I received in a classroom. But I suppose everything has its time and place. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, you’re right. We have a set of traveling video. We watched them one after another. At least they feature the highlights of the countries. I also have many books to read….

        Liked by 1 person

  4. When I first saw the title I thought you were talking about a festival. Woodstock is a festival as well as many towns isn’t it? But anyway, as always i loved reading and seeing all the pictures. I love how you talked about your love of traveling, and how it comes from meeting so many people, listening to their stories and being a part of their lives even for a while ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you love. Correct, that is the first association that springs to the mind – the famous festival of the 60s. It was held in the town of Woodstock in upstate NY from where it derived its name. I believe there is a Woodstock in your country too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is?? That’s news to me. Course theres many many towns I dont know the name of I’m my own country. Especially all the small ones

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 It reminded me of your covered bridge experience and the wedding – I think I want to lay my eyes on all these wonderful bridges (which would be a tall order), especially the ones in Iowa that they showed in The Bridges of Madison County.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. I love your photos, your description of the town and the description of your conversation with the lady in the antiques shop!

    I didn’t know what a Gym Dandy was in the text…and I’m still not sure I know what it is after seeing the photo! Is it a sort of buggy?


  6. I suddenly feel like watching The Bridges of Madison Country 🙂
    Such a nicely written story. I had to look at your pictures twice, I really liked them a lot. And like you, my husband and I also like interacting with the locals during our travels. It adds depth to our travels.
    – Amor

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Amor, thanks. It is what makes any travel experience complete 🙂 You and I get it.

      The Bridges of Madison County…I am planning to rewatch and reread it. I sob like a maniac when I read it – more than when I watch it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Visited Woodstock in Vermont in mid-nineties, your writing brought it all back for me. Spent a very pleasant week exploring Vermont in the fall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bringing back memories…ah I love it when that happens. I am sure you have stories too from your visit. I wonder if it would have been very different in the mid-’90s. But then I am thinking maybe not…Vermont in the fall sounds dreamy. We were planning it but then decided to head to Pennsylvania for our first fall. But we have to see Vermont in the fall surely. xx


  8. If you have an open mind and an open heart, travel is the greatest education. Your story of the elderly lady you spoke with is a wonderful example of that fact. I loved Woodstock VT … such a gem and like you I have spent much time in Woodstock Oxon so the comparisons flowed free and that is a gift for an open mind and an open heart. I wonder what Churchill would make of the old lady’s views 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah Churchill. He would have turned up his pug nose and squashed her straightaway with his witticisms perchance? I would not be caught in that crossfire. Instead I would arm myself with a sizeable bowl of ice cream and witness the repartee 😛

      Thank you Osyth…it is a liberating feeling to learn and unlearn. I would rather unlearn than hold on to rigid thoughts for a lifetime, and if travel helps, why bring it on 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love it when things link up like that. From one Woodstock to another. The universe is so small and everything is connected. And I love the names – Ottauqueechee and how did a ski area get to be called Suicide Six? Lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tracey 🙂 I read in your other comment that you googled it. We were tickled by it too.

      From Woodstock to another indeed. Life sometimes has its own surprises in store for you and isn’t that quite so wonderful? It is like Forrest said, a box of chocolates. xx


    1. Hah yeah I used to always wonder about it even when we used to go to Woodstock in England. But clearly Woodstock has fans all over the world 😉

      Thanks Jen. I use a Samsung Edge. I am quite a diehard Samsung fan. My husband however will vouch for iphone of course 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Enjoyed reading about the historical connection between the Woodstock in Blighty and the one in Vermont. Wonderful photos and sensory descriptions of the area. The covered bridge is so lovely but the thought of a ski run called “Suicide Six” gives me the shivers 😉 Now, if I could only pronounce Ottauqueechee

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha sounds like a mouthful ain’t it and so full of character. Places with such evocative names just ace it. Thank you for the lovely comment. Suicide Six does sound more ominous than it actually is. So you could say it is a misnomer 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have always wanted to visit Woodstock, since I’m only a few states over. I will have to bookmark this so that I can find those covered bridges you visited! They look so cool and we don’t have many of those in Connecticut!


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