A Travellerspoint blog

England

England's Green and Pleasant Land

sunny 15 °C

When, in the late 1700's, poet William Blake wrote,
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
,
he could have had Oxford in mind.
The great university colleges rise majestically out of the green water meadows of the Thames in a sight as breathtaking and timeless as the karst islands of HaLong Bay in Vietnam. But these magnificent peaks were crafted in medieval times by Henry VIII's masons and not by millions of years of erosion.
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Near to Oxford are the rolling Cotswold Hills, home to a wealth of historic towns and villages. Queen Elizabeth the first would have recognized many of the buildings that still dot this iconic landscape of England. Here are just a few.
These cottages are at Lower Slaughter.
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This Tudor Mansion is near Stow-on-the-Wold.
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While this great house is in Lower Slaughter.
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And here are two adorable ladies crossing the river in the beautiful old village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
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Posted by Hawkson 00:27 Archived in England Comments (1)

A Journey Through the Past

sunny 16 °C

Today we left Jim's hometown of Devizes to visit Sheila's brother in Worthing and found ourselves travelling through time. First stop - Salisbury.
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This Norman cathedral took thirty-eight years to build and was completed in 1258. This may seem absolutely eons ago, but, in British archeological terms, it is very modern. To put it in perspective: just up the road is Stonehenge and the remains of the Neolithic hill town of Old Sarum, (both circa 3,000 BC.). You can still visit the fort at Old Sarum, (built during the Iron Age, around 500 BC), which was used by the Romans from AD 43 to AD 410. Following the Roman withdrawal, Cynric King of Wessex captured it in 552; the Saxons called it a 'considerable town'; and in 1086, following the Norman invasion, William the Conquerer convened his court there. A great cathedral was first built atop the hill at Old Sarum, then taken down and rebuilt on the marshes below - don't ask us why.

Jim was once a policeman in Salisbury and he tells of the night a couple of young thugs armed with pistols and hammers viciously attacked an elderly postmistress and stole the day's takings. The villains made off in a stolen car which was spotted by Jim. He gave chase and frantically called for back-up. Alas, his radio transmitter worked but his receiver didn't - so he was certain he was on his own as he sped after the crooks. But his calls had been heard - he wasn't alone. He didn't know that just over the hill lay a roadblock of trucks and police cars. So, he braced himself for impact and violently smashed the crooks' car off the road, then nabbed them from the wreckage.
The elderly Postmistress survived the ordeal and was awarded the George Medal for bravery by the Queen. So what was Jim's reward for catching these vile criminals and sending them to jail for many years? Jim was ordered to take a one-day driving course as punishment for damaging his police car. There is absolutely no fairness in this world!

After Salisbury we went to Portsmouth to see H.M.S. Victory. Here is the grand old lady.
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This was the flagship from which Admiral Nelson directed the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and on which he died. His nemesis, Napoleon Boneparte, lived until 1821 - sometimes it pays to be a villain!

Also at Portsmouth are the remains of Henry VIII's warship, the Mary Rose, which sank on July 19th. 1545. We would show you, but who wants to look at a pile of rotten old wood - even if it is nearly 500 years old?

Next stop on the road to Worthing is Arundel, the family seat of the Duke of Norfolk. This is his pad.
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This castle was first completed in 1068 so it is not surprising that the owners had to do a few renovations over the years. It's been owned by the same family since 1138, so they can only blame themselves for the lousy plumbing, leaky roofs and ghosts in the bed-chambers.

Posted by Hawkson 09:23 Archived in England Comments (0)

Jim's Past Life Regression

sunny 14 °C

"Once upon a time in a far-off land ... "
The streets of my childhood transport me to a post-war time of gobstoppers, short trousers and a penny'worth of chips; and to a time of boyish pranks on the canal with John, my life-long friend. Much like Tom Sawyer and his mate, Huckleberry, our young lives centered around the waterway. But not for us, the mighty Mississippi. We lived by the muddy banks of the dilapidated Kennet and Avon Canal; a masterpiece of Georgian engineering that cut England in two and provided a vital link between Wales and London. In its heyday in the early eighteen-hundreds, this ribbon of murky water was the pipeline that fed millions of tons of Welsh coal into the fireplaces of the burgeoning metropolis of the world. London today is a clean and beautiful city, but in my childhood we knew it, for good reason, as "The Smoke."
Shire horses no longer pull coal barges along the canal. Today it is a bustling highway for pleasure craft and colourful narrow boats. It is also the venue for the world's longest annual canoe race - The Devizes to Westminster - a gruelling eighty-mile aquatic dash that takes place every Good Friday.
But, the canal's greatest claim to fame are the locks at Devizes - the world's longest single flight.
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Shire horses are still used in Devizes, but not for the barges. Shires, like these two, pull the drays that deliver the beer from the local brewery.
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Devizes is steeped in history - these houses were built in the fourteen hundreds ...
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...and this monument commemorates an event that took place on Thursday 25th January 1753, when a woman called Ruth Pierce falsely claimed that she had paid for a sack of corn in the market. Theft on this scale in those days could have cost her her head, so she stuck to her story and said, "May God strike me dead if I am lying." Ooops! Big mistake! No sooner were the words out of her mouth than a bolt of lightning hit her and she dropped dead.

In and around Devizes can be seen numerous medieval buildings like this Porch House in Potterne.
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There are also many reminders of the past and here comes another quiz question. These hooks hanging on the side of a house are about twenty-five feet long. What were they used for?
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Posted by Hawkson 00:59 Archived in England Comments (2)

A Potted History of Wessex

overcast 7 °C

This enormous stone circle at Avebury, like its nearby cousin - Stonehehenge, was erected five-thousand years ago by ancient Brits with too much time on their hands.
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Two thousand years ago legions of Romans came to bathe in the hot springs of Bath. These are the original lead-lined baths in the heart of this beautiful city.
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And this is one of the famous Georgian crescents built in the mid-17th. century, where the world's rich and famous lived whilst taking the healing waters of Bath. Jane Austen lived nearby and there is a commemorative plaque on her house.
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But the 250 year-old houses of Bath are positively modern compared to many in this region of England. This hotel in Norton St. Philip has been licenced continuously since it was built in twelve hundred and something. A room with a four poster bed in this eight-hundred year old coaching inn costs just £100, (180 dollars CDN) a night, breakfast included.
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Near Norton St. Philip is Bradford-On-Avon - a small town on the Avon River which has numerous medieval buildings dating from the 13th. and 14th. centuries. However, it also has old places like this 8th. century Saxon church.
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Not far from Bradford-On-Avon is the historic market town of Devizes, where Queen Matilda sought refuge in the castle in the 13th. century, and Oliver Cromwell beseiged the town during the Civil War in 1643. Cromwell's army destroyed the castle and left cannonball holes in the Norman church tower. These can still be seen today.
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And here is the house in Devizes where, on the 26th. May 1947, a relatively obscure Canadian mystery author was born. Note the total absence of any commemorative plaque!

Posted by Hawkson 11:07 Archived in England Comments (3)

London

sunny 2 °C

South East Asia may be overlain with a thin veneer of modernity - many people own cellphones, satellite T.V.s and motorbikes - but underneath there is poverty and squalor of Dickensian proportions. We were well aware of the disparity between our lives and most of theirs and we know that few of them will ever be able to hop on a flight and visit our world.
As we walked the broad, clean streets of London, we wondered what our new-found Asian acquaintances would make of sidewalks that are not pot-holed minefields; of pedestrian crossings where drivers actually stop; of motorists who, (generally), obey traffic signals and are considerate to other road users. We also wondered what they might think of these fortifications around a pavement repair.
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Amazingly, it's still 37 degrees here. Unfortunately, that's farhenheit and we are now accustomed to 37 degrees celsius. The sun may be shining here, but it doesn't work. However, Spring is just around the corner and London is already in bloom.
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As we stroll the wide, uncluttered pavements of this historic city, we find ourselves walking through the past, present and future simultaneously. This place has been a metropolis for two-thousand years and relics of every era remain. Roman walls, Norman cathedrals and Elizabethan fortresses stand shoulder to shoulder with modern architectural wonders. Here is Admiral Lord nelson looking down on Trafalgar Square and the Canadian Embassy.
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As for the future - if you are desperate for a pee in London, just text a certain number. Your cellphone will be pinpointed by GPS satellite and you will be directed to the nearest public loo. What a relief it will be when this is introduced on Gabriola.
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Now we are leaving this futuristic city for the medieval town of Devizes in the West of England. We hope the internet has reached this forgotten corner, but we may have to rely on the pony express. So it may be a few days before the next instalment.

Posted by Hawkson 08:35 Archived in England Comments (0)

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