Sunshine greets us at 7.30 am. Autumn is in full gear with the days being considerably shorter, the mornings colder and the hotel central heating overheating the room. However today may have some promise. We are going to Banbury which is famous for – the nursery rhyme
Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.
No one knows what the rhyme is really saying and there have been a number of speculations about it. Whether the Cross is one of the three crosses destroyed by Protestants in the 1600s or the crossing of the Jurassic Way with an old Roman road no one is certain but it does not relate to the Cross at the crossing of the High St today nor does the bronze of the fair lady riding the white horse but both pretenders have some of the tourists fooled.
I had done some research and found that it was claimed that Oliver Cromwell planned his part of the Battle of Edge Hill from the Globe Room at the Yea Olde Reine Deer Inn so I thought a visit and soak in the atmosphere might be a good idea. But the pub did not open till 11.00am so we headed for the tourist information centre which was somewhat hard to find. We made our way to Castle Port Shopping Centre and behind the centre is the canal servicing Banbury and the canal boat basin and repair yards. One mariner was in the midst of sailing through the canal so we watched and helped raise the draw bridge, lower the lock waters and see the narrow boat safely on its way.
Now where were we? Yes the information centre. It is in the museum but what is this Tolley’s Slip and Repair yard – free to enter. So in we went and what a little jewel. History of the canal and industry in Banbury through the centuries. We chatted with the receptionist and the manager of the dry dock (even got to see inside the dry dock where they were repairing a boat). The industry is alive and well with many young people taking on apprenticeship but the problem for the industry is the repair of the old wooden work boats constructed with timber beams steamed to be bent into shape and shaped with an adze – very few shipwrights have those old skills as most new boats are built with steel). As the manager said “If you cut a piece of timber short you cannot add a bit on but cut steel short and you weld on the missing bit”.
It is past 11.00am and time to return to the Olde Reine Deer. We get there order some coffee and it is delivered to us in the Globe Room where it is said that Oliver Cromwell planned the attack on the Royalist Army marching on London. Well this may not be true because the Battle of Edge Hill took place outside nearby Kineton (you will have read my blog on Kineton Edge), it was the first battle of the first Civil war and occurred in October 1642 with Parliaments army lead by the Earl of Essex and the King’s army by his cousin Prince Rupert. Cromwell did not arrive in time to participate. Too much thinking at the Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn perhaps. Anyway it was interesting to visit. The room contained a copy of the painting of Charles 1 and part of his Army in the field to give it some authenticity.
And so we leave Banbury and its romantic remembrances of Oliver Cromwell. Onto Burford. A tourist village. So we have lunch at the Mermaid and then visit the Oxford Shirt Shop and find something for someone for Xmas – shush it is a secret. When returning to the bus I spot the Cotswold Arms and the autumn colours of the vine draped over its rocky facade. Then onto Moreton-on-the-Marsh; another tourist village. We march up one side of the High Street (Kerry finds the scarf of her dreams for £3 quid) then march down the other side, a beer and Pimms with a bag of crisps in the Black Bear and around the block – I spot a hotel where they have preserved the old coach entrance and snap a photo and then before we are swept up by the bus I catch a glimpse of the Town hall standing solemnly and alone on an island in the High St.
The tour has ended and we will return home (the Novotel at Long Eaton) by our car and hopefully find something more interesting.
We have visited Stratford previously and took in the Shakespearean sites so this time we strolled looking at the architecture of the quaint old buildings. As you would expect they make a living out of having these old buildings for us to gawk at. However we started with a monument to theatre and then the birthplace of the bard – bloody tourists buggered up my photo. Onto the library and the Shakespeare Bookshop, a cafe and kebab shop. A jewellery workshop, the Shakespeare Charity Shop, and the Old Thatch Tavern. Whilst we were checking out the tavern the driver of a Ford Ka hesitated about running a yellow light. Not so the bus driver following who was unable to avoid the now stationary Ka and pushed it through the pedestrian crossing. Time we moved on.
Just across the road another monument. It looked like someone had chopped the top off city hall. Down the road we found Garrick Inn and beside that Harvard House. We then made our way to the Avon and the canal basin, then back past the Tudor Museum, and past the Bard’s House – no tourist queues. Enough site seeing – two pasties and the world’s thickest milkshake (4 scoops of ice cream and two teaspoons of instant coffee blended – one milkshake).
We returned to the bus but by 1.00pm our departure time two dopey old sheilas had not returned. Fifteen minutes later they wandered up – oh we thought it was 2.00pm they said. The bus driver makes a habit of not giving too much information which I find frustrating but this is why – dopey oldies who don’t pay attention or had the attention span of a gnat. We travel to Evesham. Never heard of it – neither had we. But it was founded in 700AD with a monastery which was destroyed in part during the reformation (Henry VIII’s answer to Rome about divorcing his first wife). So the town has old buildings like the Round house (its square actually), a remaining gate from the Norman period of 1130 AD two churches once part of the monastery, All Saints and St. Lawrences. The Abbey has gone but the land remains as parkland. After that we strolled through the town until joining our river cruise on a canal boat. Very relaxing. The following photos trace our path to the canal boat and up the river.
Back to the hotel to rest up for another hectic day tomorrow. We will visit three sleepy villages. If you suspect I am being sarcastic you are correct. The only good thing is that doing this tour is cheaper than staying in a hotel and buying meals but the boredom is mind numbing.
Tuesday we visited the small village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Unfortunately it was raining steadily making it uncomfortable as for the first time we packed light – no umbrellas. It is nothing more than a pretty village and we have just about had our fill of pretty villages. Once again we were dumped there with free time. Now we cannot really complain. The tour has cost us £200 quid each and that is for the hotel and half board and the tours. So here are the photos of Bourton-on-the-Water.
For the afternoon we were dumped in Cheltenham – a mid-sized town with no special features. So we had lunch and kicked around killing time until the highlight of the day – our train trip. Our photos include a strange couple – a bull (note the appendage) and a rabbit seated romantically in the mall. The Municipal Offices suggest a grand town but not anymore.
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is a thirteen mile long piece of historic steam railway starting at the Cheltenham Race Course and finishing at Toddington. All run by volunteers and starting from a discussion between two blokes in a pub at Broadway (they are renovating the old station at Broadway presently to extend the range of the train). After a boring day this little bit of excitement saw me running between windows with my camera like a cattle dog in the back of a ute. Here are the pictures.
After arriving at Toddington we were met by the bus and made our way back to the hotel for a good nights sleep ready for our visit to Stratford-on-Avon and Evesham.
We have just returned from Germany and have one day to finishing packing clean the flat say our farewells to our neighbours and move out to the Novotel Long Eaton for the night. Then we have to ready ourselves for Monday when we travel to Nottingham and catch a bus tour to the Cotswolds. We managed to accomplish all our preparation and spent the afternoon in front of the TV.
The next morning, Monday, was raining and grey. Not good. Then our cab did not arrive and to make matters worse when we contacted the base they told us he was just around the corner delayed by an accident. It was bullshit. We ended up driving to the hotel where the bus tour was to base itself for the week and meet the tour bus. In the end the cabbie may have done us a favour giving us more options than the bus tour.
We arrived at the Britannia Royal Court Hotel which is based on the former family home of William Hillman of Hillman cars fame. In 1894 Sir William built Keresley Hall and the family resided in it (8 daughters) until William and his wife died when the hall was sold. Between 1929 and 1968 it became a convalescent hospital after which it became the Royal Court Hotel.
We learned that the tour was visiting Leamington Spa that afternoon so we drove over to see what they were doing. Nothing. Precisely nothing. The bus had dropped them off with free time in the town and then dropped them at the hotel. This was to become a theme in this tour. One advantage we had was that we visited the old town hall and we were given a guided tour of the building just because we asked. Otherwise not much to report about Leamington.