During the second week of my three week Easter break, Debbie and I did a little touring in the southwest of England. Not so far from where we were over the Christmas break. The nice thing is that it is close by so we don’t have to travel for hours and there is so much to see–why go further. So, hold on–fasten your seat belt–this is going to be a long one but I hope you enjoy it.
We stopped first in Winchester to make a clock connection but also got a look at the cathedral and the Great Hall which is all that remains of Wolvesey Castle from the early 12th century. This place is famous because it houses a facsimile King Arthur’s round table, hung high on a wall. It was apparently unpainted originally but spruced up for Henry VIII in 1522. Who knows what the real story of this table is but it is at least known to have existed here since at least 1463–not a real youngster.
Next on the agenda–on our way to Bath–was Highclere house–made famous as the location for Downton Abbey television series. It is awesome–but I am glad we came when we did–the crowds of visitors tend to detract from the enjoyment (at least for me).
Next stop was our B&B for a good night’s sleep. In the morning we were off to see the Roman baths in Bath (where else)? Bath also has some interesting architecture with long expansive rows of apartment houses (flats).
Next, a short stop at an old 15th century manor home, Westwood Manor, on the way back to our B&B for the night. There seem to be dozens of these scattered around England and we bought a membership to the National Trust that enables us to visit them for free. This one has surprisingly great artifacts; musical instruments, clocks, paintings–and my favorites, beside the clock (there was a welsh clock here too) are the doors and hinges.
By chance, the B&B we rented was near the little town of Westbury. It is well known for the white horse carved into a natural chalk hillside. The current version of this has been around for at least 500 years but some think many more than that. On top of the hill is what is known as Bratton Castle, an Iron Age fortress. Not much left now but the large ditches presumably around the perimeter of the castle to make a good defensible space.
After Westbury, we headed home but not before checking in first at Wells to see the Wells cathedral. Initially, the draw for going was to see a medieval clock in the cathedral. This is said to be the oldest original clock face of its kind in the world. The original mechanism for this clock, currently in the Science Museum, London, are thought to be the second oldest in Britain. There is a performance by the clock every 15 minutes–jousting knights run around and knock each other down. Aside from the clock, the cathedral itself is the most amazing I have seen, maybe even better than Notre-Dame in Paris! It is enormous for starters but it has wonderful scissor like stone structure on the inside as well as very large stained glass windows and a very large pipe organ. You really have to see this one to get the feel of it.
One more stop on the way home was to Stourhead. This is a large estate with a long and storied history, and a perhaps typical, large estate house–huge library, lots of paintings and sculpture–a bit Downton Abbey like. And there are also large grounds and natural gardens, that Highclere doesn’t have. We didn’t have as much time as we might have liked but certainly enough to be awed and appreciative both of the natural beauty but also of the massive effort it must have taken for a family to build something like these places.
Back home then and I have some serious work to do completing a 2000 word essay on the intangible and ethical aspects of my Master’s conservation project–want to trade places?
We’re off to Spain next week–cheers,