Retirees Go Abroad – Who painted that picture of a Horse on the Hill – Wiltshire

You may recall in my early blogs about Oxford and Cambridge that I had planned to visit the White Horse. Well we were going through Wiltshire on the way to Long Eaton so I thought we should not miss the opportunity. However, I was not aware how many little lanes and rabbit holes we would have to go down to see very little.

There was a cutting chill wind and driven rain coming down as we made our way to the site of the Horse. Finally upon arriving we walked to where we thought it would be only to find that we had walked in the wrong direction. Chilled to the bone we gave up the hunt when it appeared before us on the top of the opposite hill. Clearly it was a summer adventure with a cut lunch and you would climb up to it. Somewhat miffed we returned to Thistle and Kerry commenced to drive down to the entrance road when we spotted a hillock which may give me a picture opportunity at least.

I climbed out of Thistle, slip slided my way up a chalky path past amused black faced sheep and wiping the rain off my face. The top of the knoll did give me the slightest glimpse but after all was said and done the sheep and the valley below were more interesting than the unexplained White Horse.

Back in thistle Kerry asks “Where to now”

I reply “I have heard there is a roman amphitheatre in Cerincester and it is on the way home”. So that is what we did. It was still raining when we arrived in Cirecester. Cirencester the largest town in the Cotswold District in east Gloucestershire, England, 93 miles (150 km) west northwest of London. Cirencester lies on the River Churn, a tributary of the River Thames, and is known to be an important early Roman area, along with St. Albans and Colchester, and the town includes evidence of significant roman roadworks.”

Tommy had the amphitheatre recorded as a point of interest and took us directly to a Sainsburys Shopping Centre. Hardly a roman ruin! So with directions from the trolley boy we found the amphitheatre.

It was still raining and the ground soft under foot so we gingerly made our way through the gate and into a field. There appeared to be nothing but some mounded ground to mark where the amphitheatre once stood. Disappointing but there you go so we found a pub for lunch.

After lunch we planned to go straight home.

Retirees Go Abroad –Bristol and Bishop’s Knoll

There was a “Bristol during WW1” Remembrance Day exhibition on display at the M Shed. The receptionist recognising our accent invited us to particularly look at the display on private hospitals for soldiers at that time. Amongst the memorabilia war this article about an Australian who threw open his home for Australian soldiers. Here is an excerpt for Bishop’s Knoll and the web links.

“Bristol’s Australians- only hospital

With the outbreak of the First World War a number of wealthy families offered to turn their mansions into convalescent hospitals for wounded soldiers. Bishop’s Knoll War Hospital stands apart as it was the only “make shift” hospital in the area that accepted patients directly from the front. Eventually it was to be used only by Australian soldiers, and it was entirely paid for by former Gloucestershire cricketer Robert Edwin Bush.

Years before the war Bush played for the county alongside the greatest cricketer of all time, WG Grace, but after hanging up his bat Bush spent many years in Australia as a sheep farmer, and made a fortune. On returning to Bristol at the turn of the 20th century, he and his wife Marjorie took up residence at Bishop’s Knoll. With the outbreak of war, Bush wanted to play his part and so set about converting his family home into a war hospital for wounded soldiers.

Having made his fortune in Australia Bush wanted to repay the country that made him so wealthy, and so wanted his home to be used only by Australian soldiers. To start with the Australian authorities refused his offer, before saying that if he wanted to do this then it would have to be staffed by Australians too. Bush disagreed, but finally won his battle in 1916, and for the remainder of the war only soldiers from Down Under were treated at Bishop’s Knoll.

Hundreds of Anzac soldiers came through the gates of the Knoll including Victoria Cross winner John Patrick Hamilton. The care was reported as second to none with Bush himself working there as an orderly. The hospital history reports that after the war a fight broke out in an Australian bar between two men who had been looked after in the West of England during the First World War, both arguing the place they had been treated was better than the other. It was only after the fight that both men realised that they actually been treated at the same hospital – Bishop’s Knoll.

Read more:

Retirees Go Abroad – What a lovely pair of – Bristol

Before our Australian guests arrived in late November, Kerry was anxious that we visit Bristol and experience that city. She had gone there to see a surgeon whilst I was working back in Australia and felt compelled to return. We booked accommodation at the Mercure Hotel Brigstow Bristol in Welsh Back with parking at the parking station in Queen Charlotte St behind the hotel. Our room was very comfortable and overlooked the Canal with a view of Bristol Bridge and St Peter’s Church.

The weather was mild with a slight breeze and the trees were still losing leaves. Every now and then the sun would poke through just to check that we were okay.

I had a few ideas around what I wanted to do in Bristol but once we started walking along the canal toward Redcliffe Way most of my planning went by the way. We came across a memorial to merchant seamen just outside the hotel, then a Tudor style hotel Llandoger Trow, and then further around the canal the memorial to John Cabot.

I remembered this name from social Studies in Primary School but had no idea what controversy surrounded his exploration. Wikipedia reports“. In May 1497. John Cabot, sailing from Bristol, took the small ship Matthew along the coasts of a “New Found Land”. There is much controversy over where exactly Cabot landed, but two likely locations that are often suggested are Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Cabot and his crew mistook this place for China, without finding the passage to the east they were looking for.”

After the memorial I spotted the M Shed on the other side of the canal. This was one stop I wanted to make. Bristol has been a major maritime port (its proximity to the Americas helped) and large wharves have been turned into a museum housing England’s oldest steam tug, steam powered unlading cranes and a replica of the “SS Matthew”.

There was a “Bristol during WW1” Remembrance Day exhibition on display at the M Shed. The receptionist recognising our accent invited us to particularly look at the display on private hospitals for soldiers at that time. I have prepared a separate blog for this subject “Retirees Go Abroad –Bristol and Bishop’s Knoll”.

After visiting the M Shed we continued our walk through Millennium Square and north to Bristol Cathedral. This is another enormous Cathedral and apparently the only one in the UK to have the ceilings of its halls along the Nave at the same height as the Nave. Kerry was very taken with the stained glass. Although modern, the original having been damaged in WW2, it depicts the heroism of different branches of the  civil services during that war.

After the Cathedral we decided to continue our journey down Deanery Road and we found the Central Library. We poked in side and were surprised to find a structure made entirely out of pencils with furniture made of the same material.

Kerry was wanting to get to Clifton Village an inner suburb of Bristol so we headed to Constitution Hill and what a hill. Probably a 25% grade and 500m long but there no stopping when you are on a mission. It did not take long before we were in the Village – very pretty Victorian shops and houses – pretty pricey too I would bet. There was a pretty arcade where we had coffee and then the White Lion Hotel overlooking the Clifton Suspension Bridge. So we had drinks at the White Lion and by the time we returned to our walk the sun had set and lights were on all through the village. We decided to walk up to the Bridge and then across the Bridge before trying to find The Coronation Tap (the Cori Tap to the locals) a cider house with live entertainment. When we did find it unfortunately it did not open til 8.00pm with no food and the entertainment at 9.00pm. Too late for us.

We strolled back along the narrow streets and found a plaque to the memory of Francis Greenway Father of Australian Architecture affixed to the wall of a hotel design by Greenway presumably before he moved to Australia. The community had erected their Xmas tree and lights making the old town picturesque by night. We dined at a small Italian restaurant (no chips) and then walked back to our hotel through the lights of the modern city.

We planned a return trip through the countryside tomorrow unaware that we would discover Britain’s most complete Roman Villa.

Retirees Go Abroad – Chedworth – grand 4th century Roman Villa

We had a traditional roast lunch at a pub in Cirencester before driving north towards Long Eaton. We were travelling on minor roads so when the sign to “a roman villa” appeared we were able to take a sharp left hand turn in the direction indicated by that sign. Although it had been wet throughout the day the rain was now easing and that damp chill for which England is famous was now hanging in the air, so any detour had better be worth it.

I know I have stated we have travelled some minor country roads but this was down to the ridiculous. And winding through country side that was last seen by the Romans – or so I thought.

But as the sign had said we finally came upon the ruins of the Chedworth Roman Villa. Discovered by a gamekeeper in 1864, the ruins were first dug to reveal the extensive walls, bath houses, and fine mosaics. In the 19th century Lord Eldon constructed a timber shelter for the most delicate remains and ran a small museum. In 1920 the Villa was purchased for the nation through public subscription. It was acquired in 1924 by the National Trust who have conducted a long-term conservation programme, with new on-site facilities and cover-buildings.

The Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the largest Roman villas in Britain. The villa was built in phases from the early 2nd century to the 4th century, with the 4th century construction transforming the building into an elite dwelling arranged around three sides of a courtyard. The 4th century building included a heated and furnished west wing containing a dining-room (triclinium) with a fine mosaic floor, as well as two separate bathing suites – one for damp-heat and one for dry-heat. It is debatable among historians whether Chedworth was indeed a farm or in fact a religious hostel, there is evidence to support both of these arguments, however most historians believe that Chedworth was a farm, owned by a very wealthy Roman.

It was located just off the Roman road known as the Fosse Way, and 8 miles (13 km) north of the important town of Corinium Dobunnorum (Cirencester). It was one of about fifty villas in the Cotswolds, and one of nine in just a 5 mile (8 km) radius. The villa was located next to a natural spring in the north west corner of the complex, which was the villa’s main source of water.

In recent times, it emerged that the Victorian efforts at conservation on the site were outdated and that the early conservation shelters weren’t providing sufficient protection. The National Trust built a new conservation wrap as well as a reception and learning facility for the archaeological site. The new £2.2m project was completed in March 2012.


This was a dramatic find off the beaten path and one certainly worth a visit.