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Archive for July, 2007|Monthly archive page

Alveston and Stratford on Avon

In Alveston, Georgian, Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire, William Shakespeare on July 25, 2007 at 7:48 pm

4.15pm 8 miles in 1 hr 7 mins 04 seconds

Week to date mileage 15 miles

Month to date mileage 99

Average weekly rate 29.8 miles

Average monthly rate 130

Year to date 877

Lifetime 10470

After 2 nights at Wilderhope manor we moved on to another youth hostel at Alveston just outside Stratford on Avon in Warwickshire. This was a Georgian building and was rated as a 4 star youth hostel. It certainly had more facilities than but I still preferred Wilderhope Manor. The food and restaurant facilities were better and there was a wi fi connection.

Our family room was a combination of bunk beds and single beds. I can’t remember the last time I slept in a bunk bed but it was ok and the breakfast was included in the price and included a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, beans and sausages (for meat eaters) and toast and cereal and orange juice. There was also natural yogurt on offer which was good for me. This place was a lot busier than Wilderhope manor and had a large no of German guests seemingly battling over fresh cooked rolls and cold ham for some reason.

For my run I ran first along a busy b road into the centre of Stratford on Avon. Entering Stratford I arrived at the Waterside and canal basin where there many longboats who stop over before returning to the River Avon nearby.

Stratford is really quite a small town but being the birthplace of William Shakespeare the greatest English playwright tourism is big all year round.

The recent flooding had caused serious damage around this area and the Royal Shakespeare Company being situated closely to the River Avon and the canal works came off badly and there were several skips with collected damaged carpets that had been chucked.

I returned to Alveston and had a wonder around this village.

The church and the village just appear to have a separate identity to the their near by neighbour of Stratford. The church of St James serves a large parish area.

Stratford on Avon Warwickshire

In Stratford on Avon, William Shakespeare on July 25, 2007 at 8:22 am

My first visit to Stratford on Avon and a visit here would be incomplete without a tour of some of the Shakespeare sites.

First off was his family home.

William was obviously born into a well to do family his father John being a tradesman and you can see his workshop at one end of the house for making amongst other things gloves. The house is worth a visit but is extremely popular and if you time it wrong you can be hurtled along by bus loads of tourists from all over the world. As one of the guides said the stone ground floor has been walked on by literally millions of visitors.

There seems to be very few records to determine what schools he attended or even a marriage certificate to prove he married Anne Hathaway. One of the interesting things you can see in the house is his will. He left his wife Anne just the 2nd best bed , everything else when to the rest of his family and friends. However this doesn’t prove they were necessarily unhappy in their marriage as Anne went on living in the family home until her death. However they must have lived apart for a lot of the time when William was in London writing an appearing in plays.

There is also an interesting glass window you can see in the museum on which many people have carved their names including many famous people over the course of many years. The graffiti has now become a protected item so this pane of glass is now protected in its own right.

I have to say I struggle with Shakespeare plays. Perhaps it is something that I shouldn’t admit to but for me the language is so rich every sentence has to be translated to understand the meaning and I feel as if it is a foreign language. Perhaps it also has something to do with the way we were taught Shakespeare at school. The Merchant of Venice was the play we did for our English Lit O Level. I failed – all of that pound of flesh business when I just wanted to be playing football!

The water levels had dropped considerably in a week as the photos of the Royal Shakespeare Company just the previous week had shown water levels high up on the surrounding red boards around this building. However workmen were busy here clearing out damaged carpets into skips and several of the theaters were closed.

William Shakespeare is buried at the local Holy Trinity Church and to visit this site you pay a small admittance fee I think around £1.50 for the privilege.

Warwick Castle Warwick

In Warwick Castle, Warwickshire on July 24, 2007 at 9:07 pm

It is expensive to go most places as a family and we had little change from £60 for the 3 of us to visit Warwick Castle. However if you make a day of it is certainly worth it as there is so much to look at and experience here.

There is a good castle ramparts walk up a considerable no of steps up I think Guy’s tower with some terrific views explaining the well chosen position for the castle. Unfortunately the trebuchat wasn’t operating the day we went. The dungeons are always popular and these with their ghastly means of torture extracted the right sense of awe and fear. The oubilette was a scary underground torture in the dungeons basically where they chucked someone and forgot about them and left them to rot.

The Dream of Battle was also a good attraction attempting to put yourself in the position of a young squire learning to fit in battle for the Earl of Warwick.

You need to allow several hours to get around all of the attractions and be prepared to walk quite a bit especially up and down steps. The old castle mound is worth a look. A short walk takes you to the interesting water mill.

Shrewsbury Shropshire

In River Severn, Shrewsbury on July 24, 2007 at 7:02 pm

A visit to Shrewsbury in the rain. I think this is the old Gay Meadow football ground which I visited twice. Last season saw the final game at this venue before Shrewsbury move to their new ground. Always something sad about this when a club moves after a hundred years of history playing at this site.

A local told me that a club official had a coracle boat to fetch balls that landed in the River Severn. Not sure if he was having me on but with the price of footballs they obviously couldn’t afford to let them float away. After the recent flooding in the area the river level looked high.

Much Wenlock Shropshire

In Cluniacs, Dr William Penny Brookes, Much Wenlock, Olympics on July 24, 2007 at 10:21 am

Much Wenlock is a small Shropshire town that I have never heard of before but has a wonderful history, medieval timber buildings, a large abbey, a good museum and more than one surprise in store for any visitor.

Our first place we visited was Wenlock Priory which was well worth a visit and includes one of those really good headsets to talk you through your visit.
Not sure if there is anything similar in Bury but it would certainly be good to offer one of these headsets for a visit around the Abbey gardens if it isn’t offered already?

The remains of the 12th century priory are extensive and were once the home of the Cluniac Monastery. The church itself was 350 foot long but the history shows there was always an uneasy tension between the Cluniac monks and the towns people some what similar to the story of the monastery in Bury St Edmunds.

For me the the most interesting part of our visit was to find out the history of a Dr William Penny Brookes surely Much Wenlock’s most famous son.
If like me you have any interest in the Olympic games then you may be aware of Pierre Du Coubertin who was said to have conceived the idea for the modern day Olympic games in the late 19th century. This however would overlook the fact that the first modern Olympic Games was held in 1850 in Much Wenlock.

Dr Brookes was an advocate of physical exercise and was responsible for organizing an annual Olympian games at Much Wenlock to which Pierre Du Coubertin visited and no doubt picked up the idea.

We followed a path called the Olympian trail which begins at the Much Wenlock museum and takes you around the sites such as the home of Dr Brookes and his grave.

Dr Samaranch of the IOC in recent times visited Much Wenlock to pay his respects to Dr Brookes and the town of Much Wenlock which has been rather overlooked as the rightful founders of the modern day Olympic Games.

There was also this interesting house in Much Wenlock called Bastards Hall, now a guest house. I haven’t found a reason for the name but can guess.

The town’s main water course is also known as Shit Brook!

Wenlock Edge Shropshire

In A E Houseman, Wenlock Edge, Wilderhope Manor on July 23, 2007 at 2:52 pm

4.15pm 7 miles in 58 mins 57 seconds

Week to date mileage 7 miles

Month to date mileage 91

Average weekly rate 29.8 miles

Average monthly rate 130

Year to date 869

Lifetime 10462

If you stay at the youth hostel at Wilderhope Manor you are on the door stop of the Wenlock Edge which is a wooded escapement running 15 miles. There are well laid out walks and cycle routes along this area of beauty.

The poet AE Houseman poem on Wenlock Edge captures the wooded nature of the environment.

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

‘Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
‘Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

This was the site of my run today which was certainly undulating. On the section of the edge that I ran I never saw anybody else out walking. Being up high on an escapement the views were potentially very good but in the time I had for my run the woodland prevented any un-obscured view.

I had a run across a wheat field but generally the land is more suited to sheep and there were plenty of these in the surrounding fields.

Bridgnorth Shropshire

In Bridgnorth, Bridgnorth Castle Railway, Civil War on July 23, 2007 at 10:47 am

Bridgnorth is a lovely town in Shropshire which we spent a half day to visit the museum, castle remains and the funicular railway.

Bridgnorth has claim to having the only remaining electric cable railway line in England. It survives no doubt because of the steep climb to get from the high town area to the low town area of Bridgnorth. There are several pathways but for 90p you can get a return journey to save the legs a climb of some 111 feet and 200 steps.

There are some great views of the River Severn and Shropshire from the castle park area but unfortunately not a lot is left of the castle which was blown up by the roundheads during the civil war to prevent the royalists re taking it and controlling the town.

Wilderhope Manor Shropshire

In Civil War, Shropshire, Wilderhope Manor, YHA on July 22, 2007 at 8:15 pm

We are on a short holiday at the moment and for a change we decided on two firsts for us: to visit the Midlands and also stay at Youth Hostels although in our cases except for our daughter we are entering under false pretenses no longer being that young.

The original concept of youth hosteling was aimed at the young so that they would be able to travel and gain an appreciation of the countryside in an affordable means. However you know see all ages and nationalities staying at Youth Hostels and gone are the days when I am told you were expected to share in some of the chores such as cleaning and making breakfast.

The Midlands is generally a place that I have passed through on the way to some where else to visit the Lake District or Wales. Apart from attending meetings in the Midlands and visiting the NEC the Midlands is an area that hasn’t excited me to want to visit.

Our first stop was at a place called Wilderhope Manor near Longville in the Dale. Shropshire isn’t a county that I can recall having even visited much before apart from a trip to the wonderfully named Gay Meadow home of Shrewsbury Town to watch Ipswich in the 1980’s. This was probably my last visit to this small county.

Wilderhope Manor is owned by the National Trust and is set in extensive grounds on the beautiful Wenlock Edge a walkers and cyclists must providing a long distance walk with great views.

The house has considerable historic interest dating as it does from the 16th century. Leading up to the bedrooms there are some very solid oak timbers creating a spiral staircase. Many of the ceilings have plaster work with intricate patterns such as the Tudor rose and Fleur de lis and the initials of the original owners.

There is even a civil war story to the house. The owner was a Major Smallman on the royalist side and was captured by Cromwell’s parliamentarians and taken to Wilderhope Manor and kept prisoner upstairs. Unbeknown to his guards the Major was able to escape down a garderobe flu passageway. You can see this if you stay here and looks very narrow to be honest but reaches to the ground level as it would as this was the early form of fashionable toilet.

The Major managed to escape on his horse from the stables but was chased along the Wenlock Edge where there is a spot called Majors Leap where he apparently jumped and survived making his escape but the horse died.

The house was seemingly on the point of being pulled down having lied empty for many years in the late 19th and early 20th century but thanks to chocolate it was saved as the Cadbury Foundation restored the house and donated it to the National Trust.

Ironbridge Shropshire

In bridge, Ironbridge, River Severn, Shropshire on July 22, 2007 at 1:17 pm

On our way to Wilderhope Manor YHA we stopped of at Ironbridge which is said to be the birth place of the industrial revolution.

It is home of course to the Worlds first iron bridge built by Abraham Darby in 1779. It would seem that a considerable loss was made by Darby on the venture having agreed to build the bridge for a cost of £5k when costs exceeded this he became liable for the rest.

Darby had perfected a means of smelting iron with coke rather than more expensive charcoal.

The River Severn had abated from the worst of the flood conditions that had arisen just the previous week but there was evidence of a number of shops that had closed due to flooding here. There wasn’t time for us but there are 10 museums to visit here which would make a good day trip.

Horringer Fete and Flower Show Suffolk

In fete, flower shows, Horringer on July 21, 2007 at 9:22 pm

Today was the 122nd flower and fete show at Horringer Suffolk. Horringer is just a couple of miles from Bury St Edmunds many people passing through in order to get into the National Trust run Ickworth Park.

However doing so means you will miss a lovely village with some considerable history the more recent of which you can read in a good book by Zoe Ward called Curtsy to the Lady. She was the postmaster’s daughter and the book refers to the relationship between the village and the Hervey family when the Earls of Bristol were owners of Ickworth House and one of the leading employers in this village.

The fete takes place on the village green at the entrance to Ickworth House and in front of St Leonard’s Church. Fete and flower shows are said to be the new rock and roll perhaps because of the publicity brought on by the BBC programme the Gt British Village Show presented by Alan Titchmarsh. The tales of competition to grow the largest and best presented vegetables and flowers is like an oasis in tv viewing compared to the soap, reality shows and repeats that tend to dominate.

The weather was good until a storm at about 4.30pm at about the time of the tug of war contest was due. There was a car boot and a range of stalls with a coconut shy, a bowling and football game, lots of gardening stalls selling plants, food and a brass band. As usual there was a large book stall trying to off load books at very cheap prices.

In the village hall the judging had long been completed when we visited to see a wide range of vegetables, fruit, flowers and photos which had been judged. Prizes and commendations were laid out against the broad beans , onions, shallots, carrots, french beans, tomatos and to many others to mention.

Competition must have been every bit as competitive as on the Gt British Village Show.
If you haven’t been before look at for the next fete and flower show at Horringer it really is a good afternoon.