After a late start we motored to Pangbourne on the Thames, just west of Reading where we stayed with Joan’s nursing friend from Zambia.
For dinner we drove to a Thames crossing and walked across on a temporary footbridge, because the privately-owned (act of Parliament) bridge was being rebuilt/renovated in heritage style – a complex undertaking with a few engineering challenges.
Long drive from Mundford to see Joan’s nursing pal in Guildford. On the way we availed ourselves of Ely’s cathedral. Ely (actually the Isle of Ely) was originally an island sitting in a swamp. The interior of the cathedral was one of the most beautiful we have seen.
On to London then. We did the Dartford Crossing of the Thames on the east side of the city. It was a good bridge, but not nearly as beautiful and impressive as the Humber bridge at Hull several days earlier.
We had almost a full day with the friends, very enjoyably spent. A walk up Guildford Hill gave, on the northern side, distant views of significant features on the horizon, including London (we could make out the Shard) and Heathrow T5. On the southern side of the hill was a view of the beautiful North Downs.
Today we had a relaxed day visiting Norwich. We drove via Swaffham, a larger village to the north of us and the location for the filming of town scenes for the Kingdom TV series starring Stephen Fry. He may possibly even live thereabouts too.
Norwich was a lot easier to get into than Cambridge, and parking was a breeze as well, setting a good tone for the day. It seems like a laid-back kind of town but still plenty of interesting buildings, including two cathedrals and a castle.
After the obligatory coffee to wake us up, we found and looked at the Norman castle, which has rather a modern appearance. From there we spotted the Anglican Norwich Cathedral and made our way there. This cathedral is relatively unchanged from Norman times. We had lunch the the refectory there, where I had the pleasure of queuing next to a woman of my height – this is very rare indeed.
baptismal font originally used to make chocolate
We then made our way across town to the Catholic cathedral of St John the Baptist, the first RC cathedral we’ve encountered this trip. It was completely empty and silent when we arrived, being off the main tourist trail. It had a good lot of stained glass that appeared to be pre-Victorian. Also notable was the black stone used for small polished pillars. It contained fascinating fossilised plants and sea creatures. I wonder what Bishop Usher would have made of that.
On return to our home village, we explored the grounds of the grounds of the nearby Lynford Hall, now a country hotel. Queen Victoria visited here and even considered buying it, but opting for Sandringham instead.
Did I mention it was warm today – 25℃, just like yesterday.
We’ll be staying with friends over the next two days, so blog posts will be deferred until we are in London.
Today was our Cambridge day as we wanted to see how it compares to Oxford.
No sooner had we arrived in the city centre after our Park and Ride, than the touts for the punt tours accosted and persuaded us to take the plunge with them. As before, there is a difference in the types of people that you deal with in the process. The tout is a well-presented and well-spoken person meeting our expectation of a typical Cambridge man (tall, male, slim). The next chap, who guided us through the streets to the punt, was short and from the sub-continent, but an energetic people manager and very personable. He handed us over to the younger and athletic “puntsman” who had been drilled in the tour commentary but was probably not a student at the Cambridge colleges. We were very pleased to have had this quintessential Cambridge experience floating along the “backs” on a sunny June day being followed by swans and ducks..
After this, while trying to sneak into one of the closed colleges, we overheard a porter on the river side telling other tourists that if they hurried around to the front they could get in. We took off like a shot, with Joan streaking away (a first). We just got into the quadrangle of Trinity before the doors closed were closed behind us. We found about 1500 people there milling about. Almost immediately we noticed choristers on the top of towers on two sides of the quad. They began to sing like angels, in alternating parts accompanied by trumpeters on a tower on the other side of the quad. The performance lasted about 15 minutes. It was magical to be there in the quadrangle with so many people in hushed silence. We later found out it was an annual tradition “Singing from the Towers”, so we were very lucky to catch it.
We then toured St John’s college which had a wonderful chapel and crossed its Bridge of Sighs (much more impressive than Oxford’s). The puntsman told us it got its name from the students who sighed crossing over the river to exam hall on one other side.
Our next stop was King’s College Chapel, which managed to blow our socks off (even after all our cathedral visits) with its walls of superb stained glass and amazing vaulted ceiling.
Back in the city I climbed the tower of St Mary’s church before we visited the pleasant outlying village of Grantchester, for a quick half pint in a lovely old pub.
We had dinner in a neighbouring village pub and Joan got to drive back due to my two-pints consumption. She found driving a six-speed manual an interesting experience, but managed quite well. She even got to do it twice, because we had forgotten an umbrella at the pub.
Back in our home village we made the short stroll to the village church and saw some strange sayings on the wall of the ex-alms-house across the road from it.
Today was a transit day from Scarboro to Mundford outside Cambridge, albeit a fairly busy one.
Our first stop was the charming village of Hunmanby, the birthplace of Joan’s friend Anne. Joan collared a local (I hesitate to use the word elderly) lady, who tuned out to have lived there all her life. She was able to point out the shops where Anne’s father ran businesses. It was quite touching to have this connection. Small disaster: as Joan got out of the car here she realised that we had forgotten her camera back at the digs in Scarborough. So thanks to the Anne connection we were not that far from Scarboro when we discovered this omission, and were able to dash back to fetch it. Had we discovered this further into the day, say at Hull or Lincoln, we would not have bothered.
Speaking of distances, today was the furthest we have travelled in one day – 213 miles = 343 Km. Interestingly, a lot of it was over flat countryside. England just keeps throwing up new types of scenery. One section at least 80 Km was flat, and I mean dead flat – just amazing. And still very beautiful.
We headed for (Kingston upon) Hull so Joan could indulge in a bit of nostalgia (she lived here before emigrating to Australia 38 years ago).
Before getting there though we were seduced into detouring to Beverley, a beautiful historic market town with a charming minster. We had a quick tour around town and minster and regretted that we had not planned more time for this place.
Once in Hull, we tried to find the house where Joan used to live with her friend Linda, but the GPS apparently took us to the only Trinity Grove it could find, which she did not recognise. Traffic here on a rainy day was dreadful, with lights every 100m or so. We eventually got to the old town and had a wander around. Some things were recognisable, but obviously much had changed.
Nostalgia appeased, we set off for Lincoln to see the famous cathedral there. We had to pay a small ransom to see it, but it was worth it, with great vaulting, arches and of course glass.