Monday 31st October 2005
On my way to Chipping Camden, I stopped in Worcester with the sole objective of visiting Worcester Cathedral which has long been on my list of must-sees – and not just because Edward Elgar is buried there. I had hoped that I might catch a concert, recital or whatever, but had to settle for the not too melodious sound of metal-legged seats being moved for a special service to be held that evening.
Apart from the beauty of the Cathedral itself, I was moved by the spare simplicity of the recently refurbished Norman Chapel in the Crypt. All in all, a visit well worth the half-hour walk it took from the car park.
The Brits – or perhaps their local councils – are very enamoured of the “Pay and Display” system, which on earlier trips meant putting the requisite number of coins in a slot, collecting your ticket and displaying same. At the car-park in Worcester, a numeric keypad had been added to the coin-gobbler on which you enter the numbers from your registration plate – only the numbers, not the letters and, as I discovered at the third attempt and only after reading the step-by-step instructions, this entry must be made before any coins are put in. If you get the sequence wrong, the dastardly machine just ignores you. Having mastered that, I confidently approached the “gobbler” in that well-photographed village of Broadway, only to find that in the short space of half a day technology had outpaced me.
For here, both alpha and numeric buttons are provided so that the whole of the registration number has to be entered – again, of course, before you put your money in. At which point Alzheimer’s struck and I had to foot it back to the car, find a scrap of paper on which to write the number and then foot it back to do battle again. It’s true – travelling is a learning experience!
But I’m ahead of myself a little. Chipping Camden is a most attractive Cotswold village where the long High Street has even more of those beautiful honey-coloured buildings than the aforesaid Broadway! After fewer than normal, for me, wrong turnings I found “The Eight Bells” where I was to spend the next three nights.
As my room was not ready, I opted to visit Broadway – no more than fifteen minutes away. It is indeed a very photogenic village but seemed to me to be more the sort of place you visited than lived in, the latter being very much the case with Chipping Camden. A brief survey of prices in Real Estate Agents’ windows confirmed the impression that I was very definitely in silver-tail, if not silver spoon, territory. But I did find a café that served a really good cup of coffee – needed only for medicinal purposes after my joust with the “gobbler”.
My room at the Inn, recently refurbished, was very comfortable, but could have been lifted out of any mid-range hotel/motel around the world. Not in the least Inn-like, though my head won’t miss the low doorways.
The bar and dining area were much more traditional but lacked the nooks, crannies, multi-levelled floor, mismatched furniture that made the Weobley one so appealing.
First dinner there – a beautifully tender lamb-shank on chives mash – was the highlight. Subsequent meals were OK, but not memorable.
Tuesday 1st November 2005
On Tuesday I headed off in the rain to see what I could see.
“Hailes Abbey” had, as suspected, closed for the winter – “Sudeley Castle”, likewise. So to Gloucester to visit, yes you guessed it, the Cathedral. Quite different in character from Worcester, but impressive in its own way – being a happy marriage of both Norman and Gothic architecture.
I still think York Minster my favourite, though Lincoln and Durham have to be up there too. What a feast!
Heavy rain deterred me from my hoped-for walk through Cirencester, so I carried on to the Roman Villa – or at least the remains of it – at Chedworth. The 2-mile drive in off main road was along one of those single carriageway tracks with occasional passing places which, as my reversing skills will testify, were less favourably placed for me than for the approaching coaches and trucks.
On the positive side, I don’t doubt the practice will come in useful in the Highlands when I get there!
On no evidence at all, I suspect the site doesn’t attract too many visitors, which may be why it looks badly in need of having some money spent on it. Apart from the visitors centre, which is relatively recent, the site itself is in need of attention – not just to make it more attractive, but more importantly to conserve what they have. The shelters over some of the major exhibits date from Victorian times and look it. The villa and what remains of the mosaics are less impressive than those at Fishbourne in Sussex, but for all that, worth the demands of the drive in – and back!
Wednesday 2nd November 2005
On Wednesday, North rather than South – to Kenilworth Castle – that I knew would be open. Another ruin – what is it about them?
However, if ever a castle was an integral part of English history, Kenilworth is that. Originally a Norman Castle, it has associations with many of the “stars”: Simon de Montfort, John O’Gaunt, who embellished it with an impressive Great Hall, and Robert Dudley who, as Earl of Leicester, spent a fortune on it to impress the lady who he hoped would become “the love of his life”, Elizabeth I! As every schoolboy/girl brought up with the benefit of a classical (for which read, English) education would know, she didn’t!
Another really good audio-guide helped make visiting this “ruin” a pleasure! I spent close to three hours there, that put paid to my plans to visit Witley Court 45 miles away in Worcester – which was just as well as it turned out to be open only from Thursday to Monday.
Being “castled-out”, so to speak, it seemed to make sense to head for home and repack the suitcases or car or both for the onward expedition into Norfolk via Cambridge.
Thursday 3rd November 2005
Thursday was one of those frustrating days. The plan for the day was to arrive at Cambridge about noon and spend a couple of hours there including revisiting one of my favourite places – Kings College Chapel.
Intermittent rain slowed me up somewhat and I didn’t reach Cambridge until after 1:00 pm by which time the rain was no longer intermittent – just steady. This combined with the unavailability of parking within swimming distance, led me to abandon my Cambridge plans and head a little South to where I was booked for the night.
I had plotted my course, knew exactly where I was going and which junction I was looking for. And guess who got thoroughly lost? Now, in my defence m’lud, it has to be said that it was bucketing down and it was hard enough competing with the semi-trailers for lane space without having to press my nose to the windscreen in a forlorn attempt to read the small white – as opposed to the big green – direction signs.
After two or three failed attempts, I just pulled over into a lay-by and waited the thirty minutes or so until it cleared. To discover later that I had passed the junction I was looking for at least three times did nothing for my self-esteem but, by then, that didn’t matter as much as having a really hot shower!