Shropshire in the Sun

It was a bank holiday and we went out exploring a nearby Medieval castle and a village little changed since the industrial revolution. With the wedding nearly two months behind us, we’re still taking advantage of the free things to do around the Midlands for an unusual day out, to enjoy the tranquil lull after four months of non-stop running. As we explored the castle, and wandered along the river with our ice-creams, I remembered my childhood visiting French castles and tiny northern villages, and realised I’ve always been a daydreamer, walking carefully and inventing stories in my head :

This room might have been a drawing room, or an armoury, there were no battles fought here but imagine the nobleman wishing he could prove his might over this area. The King came here, maybe he made some important decisions here, right here leaning against this wall in all its glory with tapestries and candles, with a burning fire and gazing pensively out this window at the valley surrounding the manor, the same valley that surrounds us seven hundred years later when all that’s left is a tangle of stones and stories and imagination…


Acton Burnell and Ironbridge

These old track ways, leading up to the door of what is now the tourist information office – once used for transporting goods from the bank of the river to the warehouse. Now that I work in logistics I think of the money that changed hands, the deals that were made, shouting and running – businessmen with their warm coats overseeing the commerce. A tender of rolled cloth is unloaded from a barge, it reaches the shore and positions itself within the ruts carved in the stone floor. Setting off a loose cutting falls and gets caught in the wheel, the whole tender spills out back into the river, ruining its load. The worker pushing the cart is fired on the spot, a valuable consignment from China is ruined, he walks the two miles home to his family of six children not knowing how he’ll feed them tonight…

Written for Ailsa’s Travel Theme : Tangle

Acton Burnell Castle is cared for by English Heritage and is free to enter

Ironbridge Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, looked after by English Heritage and free to explore


London in Winter

7 Signs of a Perfect Day-Trip

Following Shrewsbury, Worcester and Tewkesbury last year, we took our first UK daytrip of the 2014 this weekend. The weather was forecast to be glorious, not a cloud in the sky and it was my birthday so Daniel took me on the train to Oxford.

1. Public Transport – When I was younger there was nothing more exciting than going somewhere from New Street Station, it meant you really were going somewhere, not like Moor Street where your only options are Stratford (upon-Avon) or Kidderminster. We got on at New Street with our bacon butties for the journey, read trashy magazines until we got off an hour later in a freezing-cold Oxford.

History and Sunny Shades at the School of Languages in Oxford

History and Academia and Sunny Shades at the School of Languages in Oxford

2. Dry Weather – Everywhere in the UK is great for a daytrip – if it’s not raining! I prefer Spring and Autumn so keeping an eye out for dry weekends is essential. I especially like London in that period between Autumn and real Winter, November, early December when it’s still dry but crisp and the leaves are on the ground. But, again, always take your umbrella just in case! There are some cities though that aren’t too bad in the rain, Bronte novels are full of dark, wintry manor houses and rain-lashed moors – so towns in Yorkshire are much more atmospheric in Winter.

3. History – Whether it’s an ancient Abbey, castle ruins or an historic university town, history is what has attracted you to this place so you need to enjoy it! Our normal plan is get off the train and head for the Tourist Information straight away. Then while you’re there you can always top up on tourist information on the internet on your phone, you can even TripAdvisor a bar or an attraction when standing right outside if needs be.

4. Find a Tower – Get your bearings from up high, you might have to pay a few pounds and climb up a horrible spiral staircase but the views are worth it from the top. You can climb to the top of church towers and follys in most tourist towns, in the big cities try a rooftop restaurant or just see what’s at the top of a posh hotel. The best ones we’ve climbed are the tower in Teweksbury, the Monument and the Shard in London, and now the tower in Oxford.

From the tower at Tewkesbury

From the tower at Tewkesbury

5. Picnic – An impromptu picnic is always lovely, in Oxford we went to Taylor’s little sandwich shop on the High Street and then to sit in the sunny park area outside Christ Church College. From students reading on the benches in their college to young families playing in the grass outside, when the sun’s out the picnic is a perfect way to enjoy your surroundings and soak up the atmosphere.

6. Ice Cream – This one is probably best left to Summer trips, to be replaced by hot chocolate maybe in Winter. An ice cream in the park, by the river, overlooking the castle, windowshopping in the town square. Whether an artisan number from a small craft shop to a bog-standard Mr Whippy, there’s something so special about an ice cream in the sun.

7. Beer – Possibly the most important thing about the daytrip, we started in the first place last year with a promise of a sunny weekend and a the idea that Tewkesbury might just have a pub on one of its two rivers (it didn’t!). A nice warm mulled wine or cider in Winter in a typical little pub or wandering in a Christmas market does the trick as well. Taste the local ales, fight off the wasps in the beer garden, strike up conversation with the old man at the bar, enjoy the whole experience!

Two Little Day Trips – Our Search for a Beer Garden by the River

So, British Summer finally came, and we took two little Day Trips out. We do watch quite a lot of history documentaries, about Medieval Kings and warring Tudor families, so we have been trying to discover a little bit of that for ourselves, heading out to old market towns that were once intimately involved with the history of this country.

1. Tewkesbury – July 2013

We drove down to Tewkesbury, it’s not very easy to get to on the train. In reality we went looking for a beer garden by the river but unfortunately the only pub recommended to us was the Wetherspoons which was fenced back to the river, so absolutely no luck with that. And Tewkesbury has two rivers, the Avon and the Severn, so it’s a quaint little town where the rivers meet. P1040459 - CopySo what is lovely in Tewkesbury? Of course it’s the town, it’s small and barely has a high street, but the views are beautiful, we were lucky enough to find a tower tour run by the Sea Cadets, and climbed the tower of Tewkesbury Abbey for a vista of Gloucestershire in its finest. There are two mills that bookend the town, we started by the Abbey and walked down to the Town along the path on the other side. It is most famous for its Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, where the House of York thrased the Lancastrians in one of the most decisive battles in the War of the Roses and ultimately putting them on the path to victory.

2. Worcester – August 2013

P1040499We got up thinking we’ll go to Worcester. Then sometime during getting dressed we changed to Liverpool but then settled on Worcester. And it was definitely the best idea! Firstly less than a tenner and less than an hour on the train, and it was the Worcester Festival so we had earmarked a few things to keep us busy. There was a craft market by the River Severn, and to be honest it wasn’t as nice as you’d get in Birmingham, a lot of glasswork and knitting but it was nice enough to spend a half hour. We wandered up to the Cathedral, and saw the tomb of King John, (of Robin Hood, throne stealing while Richard III is away at the Crusades fame) and Prince Arthur, older brother of Henry VIII, who died before taking the throne.

The best bit, was a free walking tour themed to the Battle of Worcester (1651), run by the Battle of Worcester Society, we learned about King Charles’ lucky escape through the back of an old Tudor house, and King John’s funeral attire. The Battle of Worcester was basically the one that decided the outcome of the Civil War, and King Chares’ escape led him to France, and in the end back to being King once Cromwell died. The most interesting and British I think, is Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s pilgrimage to Worcester, the birthplace of modern democracy and their disappointment when nobody in Worcester seemed to care! We also had a lovely lunch at The Olive Branch, which is in a little alcove next to an old church, and looks like the perfect place for a Summer’s evening drink. Topped off with a ice cream (there was a pub with a beer garden but ice cream won) by the river it was another lovely day.