Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A walk on the Wold side - 22 April 2007

Kings Head Pub, Tealby We started the day by driving back through Lincoln and heading for the Wolds. This is an area of attractive rolling countryside and we did a short walk between the villages of Tealby and Tealby Thorpe and back. Including the oldest thatched Pub in the county, Tealby has 22 listed buildings, including a school built by an uncle of Alfred Lord Tennyson. In this small village this means that one in every 8 buildings is listed.

Louth's church steepleA pleasant drive took us to Louth where Alfred Lord Tennyson went to school. It is a very lovely market town, with a stunning tall tower on the impressive church. It is quite a breathtaking vista as you round the corner on the road into town and see the church steeple dead ahead and framed by the buildings along the street. At 295 feet, it is the tallest Anglican parish church in the UK and, surprisingly, 25 feet taller than Lincoln Cathedral.

Cogglesford Mill, SleafordAlford was the next stop. This attractive town boasts a rare 5-sail windmill and the largest thatched manor house in England.

Tattershall CastleTattershall Castle is one of the many great finds in the middle of nowhere. Built in the 15th century, it has managed to survive thanks to the intervention of Lord Curzon who rescued and restored it early in the 20th century. Tattershall CastleAs it was uninhabited from the middle ages, the castle has never been altered and modernised. Views from the top are stunning: the tower of Lincoln Cathedral to the northwest, and the Boston Stump to the southeast.

Boston StumpAfter lunch here, it was on to Boston. Here, in 1607 in the Guildhall the Pilgrim Fathers were imprisoned and tried for attempting illegal emigration. Later, they did sail for Holland and ultimately, in 1620, to “New England”.

North of Boston is the Sibsey Trader windmill. This stands six stories high and, when built, was the very latest in technology; the Rolls Royce of windmills, with its six sails. Sibsey Trader windmillWe were able to climb as high as the fifth floor, where we could observe the gears and machinery from behind the safety screens. They provide a teashop with cakes and bread baked from flour milled on the premises.

Fortified by a sandwich made to order from their home baked bread, A host of golden daffodilswe set off to Spalding. The guidebook we consult 'Hidden Places of England' had a photo suggesting this area is full of fields of tulips. As tulips are in full bloom, we cruised the area known as South Holland, but although there are many fields of daffodils, tulips are now a thing of the past according to the information centre.

Time for home, but as we happened to pass through Crowland Trinity Bridgewe peered at the Abbey through the gate and were fascinated by the town’s Trinity Bridge over nothing. Once the place where a stream (long since dried up) divided, the bridge was cunningly designed to cross all the arms of the Y. This cute town obviously needs a proper visit when the Abbey is open.

The Pilgrim-age begins - 21 April 2006

Newark-on-TrentLincoln is two hours from London and well worth the trip.

Gainsborough Old HallWe broke the journey at Newark-on-Trent to walk the Town Trail, before continuing on to Gainsborough to visit Gainsborough Old Hall. This is described as an unknown gem: one of the best-preserved timber framed manor houses in the UK.

The countryside is a blaze of yellowAnd it is an excellent little gem, (well, not that little really) well worth detouring to see. English Heritage has furnished it with authentic replica furniture and drapes, to give the feeling of the period. Begun around 1460, the Hall is huge, and visitors get to see a reasonable portion of it.

Kings Richard III and Henry VIII have both stayed here, the Pilgrim Fathers worshipped in it before their journey to a new life in America and townsfolk gathered in the great hall to hear John Wesley preach.

LincolnLincoln was just down a brilliant straight Roman road.

The GuildhallWe loved Lincoln: the higher part of town is the Cathedral Quarter while at the bottom of the hill is the Cultural Quarter. Although we parked at the top by the Cathedral we had to hotfoot it to the bottom of Lincoln Cathedralthe hill to make it to the Guildhall for the 1:30 p.m. tour we had booked.

The tour was most interesting, to see behind the scenes of Civic pomp, to see the original town charter, which predates the Magna Carta and also to learn about many of the old traditions they still follow from when Lincoln appointed its first mayor, 800 years ago.

We followed this tour with quick look at the new £13 million ‘Collection’ Museum. This is a fabulous modern building and the interior displays are very well done and most interesting.

Bishop's PalaceTo get back to the Cathedral Quarter involved a walk up a street simply called ‘Steep Hill’, which lives up to its name. A cup of tea half way up kept us going before we visited the ruined remains of the Bishop's palace. Once again Henry VIII broke the wealth and power of the Bishops.

A Forest StationThe final visit of the day was Lincoln Cathedral: what a statement of power. It is a magnificent building occupying a strategic position at the top of the hill. We particularly like the modern Stations of the Cross, done in various different timbers and aptly called ‘Forest Stations’.

Da Vinci FrescosIt was also interesting to see the ‘frescos’ on the wall of the Chapter House that were put there for the filming of the Da Vinci Code. Lincoln Cathedral was used as the ‘body-double’ for Westminster Cathedral.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Oxford - 15 April 2007

The Bridge of SighsOur two previous visits to Oxford have been on grey and misty days, so it was a real treat to see Oxford on a glorious, unseasonably warm, spring day.

Merton College10 a.m. on a Sunday morning is a very peaceful time to start a walk around Oxford. We started with a free visit to Merton College then had a look around the recently revamped jail and castle complex.

Brasenose CollegeBy then our two hours free parking were up, so it was time to move on and play 'musical carparks’. We were fortunate to find another park on the other side of Oxford, and as it was Sunday we were entitled to another 2 free hours.

New CollegeWe used the time to visit New College and Trinity College. New College is, of course, anything but new. Its great hall is one of the oldest in Oxford and the front gate we entered through was hung 200 years before Columbus discovered America! Our return route to the car was via the Christ Church College meadows.

Trinity CollegeNear Oxford is Rycote Chapel, one of the best-preserved chapels in Britain. It is unusual in that it was competed in one style and the structure has remained unchanged since being constructed in the 15th century and also it was not destroyed or defaced by Cromwell’s troops.

Rycote ChapelInside it was modified to make a special covered pew for King Charles I, again very rare in the UK. Queen Elizabeth I also visited six times during her reign, as well as once when before becoming Queen when she was a prisoner of Mary and being held in custody in Woodstock.

Rycote ChapelThe yew outside the church is reported to have been planted in 1137 but they can’t locate the gardener who planted it to confirm the date.

Blossoms - 14 April 2007

The Almonry, EveshamThe Vale of Evesham is billed as one of the 4 best Blossom Trails in the world. As the weather forecast was excellent and we had accommodation booked in Oxford, we decided to fit the trail into our weekend.

Blossom walkThis area has many old plum and apple orchards: the blossom was pretty much at its best, so we did enjoy the drive. As part of our total blossom experience we also did one of the ‘blossom trail’ walks.

Pershore BridgeOn the trail we passed though Pershore. It has a beautiful old medieval bridge with an excellent picnic spot, quite a rarity on British roads.Broadway Tower
The final stop was a picture opportunity at the Broadway Tower. It could only be a picture stop as we arrived just after they had closed the Tower to visitors for the day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Windmills - 9 April 2007

No trip to Holland could be complete without seeing some genuine Dutch windmills.

Zaanse Schans from the river
Zaanse Schans is an area beside the River Zaan that used to have The water pumping mill200 windmills. Today there are eight working windmills left. As well as the expected flourmill and water-pumping mill (both quite tiny) there is a sawmill, a mustard mill (family run since 1792), an oil mill and the last remaining paint mill where they grind pigments for artist’s paints. The area has been turned into a model village, by the addition of houses that have been relocated here. There are merchants' houses along the river and workers' cottages on the lower-lying ground. In spite of the tourist buses it is a tranquil and fascinating place to visit.

Oil Mill, Paint Mill & Saw MillMerchant's houses
Back in Amsterdam we had a final wander through the city before heading to the airport for a dream run home: the BA pilot managed to chop 20 minutes off a 65-minute flight; the immigration queue was three people long; bags were 4th and 7th on to the carousel; the inter-terminal shuttle was waiting; the Southern train was at the platform when we got there; we had 5 minutes to wait at Clapham Junction; and the Harrow & Wealdstone Tube had just pulled in to Wilesden Junction as we ran down the stairs. 2:40 from take-off gate to front door at the end of a holiday weekend - quite remarkable.
Workers' cottagesWorker's cottage

Haarlem - 8 April 2007

An interesting old doorwayForgoing our free bus ride, we paid for a train ticket to speed us back to Haarlem, our final stop of the day. This is even more attractive than Delft: the town square is impressive and there are many interesting streets to explore leading off the square.

Down one of these side streets, we came across an Indonesian restaurant, which we decided to try. We had read that one must try Indonesian food in Holland, as this was one of the Dutch territories.

Haarlem Grote KerkHaarlem Grote Markt

An excellent way to approach this is to have a rijsttafel, The canals are everywherewhich on this occasion was 14 separate dishes plus rice. Unfortunately, like our selection of fish in Hoorn, we ended the day none the wiser as we had absolutely no idea what we had sampled. What we did establish was that it was another fantastic meal: so, when in Haarlem, dine at De Lachende Javaan.

Delft - 8 April 2007

Church on the squareDelft Town HallTo get to the Keukenhof Gardens from the train we purchased another all day Bus Pass; so, following on our success of the previous day, we decided to use our pass in the afternoon and visit Delft. This proved to be a 2½-hour expedition, and included a bus change that required us to walk though the centre of The Hague. We did not enjoy this city: compared to the other places visited in Holland, it is most unappealing.

Delft is attractive and, naturally, full of Delftware shops. We wondered at the similarity to Chinese Willow pattern china, but this was explained when we leant that Delft was another of the cities where the Dutch East India Company was based.

Keukenhof Gardens - 8 April 2007

The main reason we choose Amsterdam in April was to visit the Keukenhof Gardens: the best spring bulb garden in the world. However, after paying €13 each to get in, the miserable toads charge €0.30 to use the toilets. How mean can you possibly get?

Nevertheless, the day was brilliant,

and we spent several very enjoyable hours

wandering around the gardens.

It was a wonderful way

to spend Easter Sunday,

enjoying the symbolism of the 'dead' bulbs

becoming new life

with their beautiful blooms.