This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England
11.04.2017 - 18.04.2017 15 °C
After the gruelling week and our trip to Dover, we decided a well earned rest was in order, so Tuesday found us content to lounge about the Manor in Herringswell. So satisfying was it that we almost did exactly the same thing on Wednesday until guilt at wasting away our time found us heading for the nearby village of Thetford. It is a picturesque place which has been inhabited since the Iron Age. We were quite surprised on emerging from the local carpark to find ourselves confronted by a huge mound of dirt sitting in the middle of a broad ditch. Naturally we went for a walk around it and located a sign which confirmed our suspicions that it was in fact the remains of an Iron Age fort. In fact, Thetford was the capital of the Iceni tribe of East Anglia, whose queen was none other than Boudicca!
The Icknield Way, reputedly the oldest pathway in Britain runs through Thetford and in fact we had the honour of walking along a part of it on our first ramble through the English countryside a couple of weeks earlier. There is a network of streams running through the area crossed by several small bridges, which we strolled over. We then proceeded to follow the course of the main stream as it flowed through the city, eventually emerging into the centre of town. Having spoken to a friend only the day before about the likelihood of us ending up in a modern day version of dad's army, if Mr Trump goes troppo, we were surprised indeed to find a statue of Captain Mainwaring sitting beside the river! It appears that much of the TV series was actually filmed in and around Thetford.
Crossing over a pretty wrought iron bridge built in 1890, we walked up into the old town centre which really was delightful, containing numerous stone buildings and edifices as well as the odd Tudor era establishment. As you would expect, there appeared to be no attempt at planning the wending and winding streets and lanes, which of course meant we managed to get lost for a while, before finally emerging on the opposite side of the carpark.
We determined that Thursday would be a good opportunity to visit Birmingham and subsequently Stratford-Upon-Avon. The traffic gods had other ideas though and after persevering with thicker and slower traffic jams on the way, we finally decided to give Birmingham a miss and peeled off to Stratford instead. What a delightful town it is. The ancient buildings abound everywhere you look and of course Shakespeare's ghost is ever present. The number of puns on his name were all over the place, with Shakesbeer proving to be our favourite. Naturally we headed into an old Tudor Inn to enjoy a pint of it.
We took the plunge and bought tickets for the full tour which started with a walk through the house he was born in, which is situated in a very pretty garden, where a couple of young thespians were entertaining a small crowd with an excerpt from one of his plays. It is remarkable to see the rough hewn timber and daub structure with its rough wooden floors, which we were told were in places actually earthen back in the day. The doorways were small and the ceilings low, so that we had to be careful not to bump our heads. It was all the more interesting insofar as Shakespeare's family were quite wealthy by the standards of the day and yet they lived in very cramped quarters.
Exiting the house and gardens via the ever present shop, of course, we strolled up the street and off to see the house Shakespeare bought after he became successful. It turned out to in fact be a garden, as the house had been demolished many years earlier! Nice marketing folks.... At any rate the gardens were quite delightful, although the hedges had clearly been trimmed by someone with a deranged mind, neither resembling a natural look, nor a geometric one, but rather bordering on the work of someone who is totally pissed having been set loose with an electric hedge trimmer and challenged to get just one straight line. Fortunately we saw no arms, legs, fingers or toes lying about, so at least he hadn't damaged himself.
On past the grammar school where the bard was schooled we strode, eventually wandering around the corner and up another street to admire the house his daughter had lived in with her doctor husband. Some bright spark had decided this would be a prime opportunity to treat the visitors to some examples of the tools and other devices the good doctor had used on his poor patients, to cut and bleed them, or to remove offending, malodorous parts of the body. We were delighted then to step out of the house into the gorgeous garden, where the spring blossoms and sprouting tulips greeted us. My word they do lawns very well here in England.
The final stop was the Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare and it appears most, if not all of his family have been laid to rest. It is a beautiful little church, secluded in a wooded field replete with ancient headstones. The interior is simple and elegant, with plain leadlight windows in the upper section and stained glass on the lower wall. Cath took the opportunity to look in on the family, who are all buried under the floor, with the exception of Shakespeare's head, which we later learned, had been stolen for some nefarious purpose not long after his death. It seems phrenology was rampant at that stage and it is assumed that some interested parties had wished to conduct their own measurements.
So we finally left for home and another three hour drive. It is interesting that you can't be any further than 80 miles from the coast anywhere in England, but you can drive forever.....
After our big day out in Stratford, we decided Good Friday should be observed at home and so trotted down to our local at Tuddenham, where Cath enjoyed a fish finger sandwich (bloody big fingers!), while Ian tucked into a scotch egg, which wasn't too bad. Of course it was all washed down with a couple of pints of the best.
We have stated before, our opposition to paying to go into churches, so when we found out that entry was free in Lincoln cathedral on Easter Sunday, well we were off like a shot. Lincolnshire appears to be relatively flat, however the cathedral sits atop a rather steep hill, which we foolishly parked at the bottom of. So it was that we had a long climb up the well named, Steep Street, through the old town to get there. It was however, well worth the effort. The old town clings tenaciously to the side of the hill, ancient shops either side of a cobbled road, not much bigger than a laneway. We were joined by quite a few other sightseers on the struggle up the hill and were rewarded for our efforts with a small market at the top where the local antique collectors had gathered to sell their wares. It was a motley collection of old walking sticks, decommissioned rifles and in one case a glass urine bottle, which Ian offered to buy for Cath as a vase. She happily declined. At one end of the market was the imposing castle, built at the behest of William the Conqueror, in the eleventh century and at the other, the church.
We wandered about the grounds of the castle first. It mostly consists of a large treed and grassed area with only a few buildings, although the crown court buildings at one end are quite impressive, clad as they are by a massive climbing ivy of obviously very ancient origin. The walls were built from sandstone, as is the cathedral and they both are very pleasing to the eye with that natural warmth that sandstone seems to impart.
The cathedral is another matter altogether and we both rated it as one of the best we have seen. The interior roofing consists of multitudes of steep pointed archways and when viewed from the entrance, they are quite stunning. The great age of the building is evident in the well worn flagstones and inlaid tombs and the masonry and woodwork are quite intricate. We spent a considerable time there marvelling at the skills of the builders and carpenters, the stonemasons and artisans who had obviously poured their lives into their work.Oh and for those who know about the famous Lincoln imp, we did find him!
Easter Sunday and Monday saw us both working on our upcoming website, which we hope to bring live in the next month or so. It will enable us to present much more in terms of our travels, pictures, advice and encouragement to others to get out and possess the world. For those interested, we already have set up social media sites at instagram@possess_the world, twitter@possesstheworld and a couple of others in the pipeline. Until next time Good day Chaps.