Friday, April 19 – Time to leave Bath, many fond memories of a lovely, historic city. We all piled back into the van and got an early start on pestering Charlie about our next coffee break 🙂 He was a great sport, lots of fun, and gave as good as he got on the teasing. I think he said his fondest memory of Bath was the “Malmesbury Gardeners” outside the pub.
On the road again, heading to Stonehenge! None of us visitors had been there before, so we didn’t know what to expect. Charlie summed it up, “Well, it’s a lot of big rocks leaning together in the middle of a grassy plain. They’ve got fences up so you can’t get very close, so the best you can hope for is something in the way of a telephoto shot.” And, he was right. I got a couple of shots of Stonehenge, but maybe the biggest attraction was the restroom facilities in the parking lot. I know, I know, I sound like a Philistine, but Charlie was right – it was something of a letdown when you couldn’t even walk up to the stones to appreciate their size.
Charlie said, “Wait, I have something else in mind for us. Nearby we’ll find Woodhenge. It’s not as grand in scale, but you can walk all through it and get a better feel for it.” He explained that Woodhenge was a relatively recent find – they found it by analyzing satellite photos. The ancient wooden posts of the shrine were long gone, but their marks were there, so modern scientists went in and inserted concrete posts in their place. And, in the center of it all, the grave of a child. Woodhenge was more modest in size, but, as he said, we could get much closer and get a good appreciation of it. So much for ancient monolithic structures.
Roger and Lyn had early on expressed an interest in some memorials in England that honored the fallen Anzac soldiers from ‘down under’. A number of Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers from the time of World War I had been in a convalescent hospital near to our line of travel, at Fovant, so Charlie was taking us there. Since I loved all things to do with history, and since I was a service veteran myself, I also was interested. At Fovant we saw the somewhat famous “Fovant Badges”, which were large symbols carved into the sod of a hillside near the convalescent hospital there. Some of the soldiers who were up to it had climbed the slopes above the hospital and scraped away the sod to expose the white chalk below, and had created large-scale symbols of their various army groups. I know my pictures don’t do them justice, but I was quite impressed with their efforts.
It is the nature of warfare that not everyone gets to go home, and as a part of the Fovant experience Charlie took us to a nearby church and burial yard where a number of the Aussie and Kiwi soldiers had been laid to rest. It was a beautiful, quiet setting at the end of a nondescript lane, but it was memorable, nonetheless. The church was ancient, with many old headstones of indeterminate age, and mixed in were the military white headstones placed there by a grateful government.
After leaving Fovant, we made our way to Salisbury Cathedral, the most, MOST impressive cathedral of any we’d seen. I don’t know how it compares to Westminster Abbey in raw size, but my goodness this place was HUGE! I could have spent at least two days there, but of course we didn’t have the time, so I just snapped photos of what I could and tried to soak up the rest into my faulty memory.
We spent some ‘touristy’ time there in the shop, and had a bite to eat, also. As you’ll see in the photo gallery, the top of the dining area was glass, and as you enjoyed your meal you could look right up at the cathedral towering overhead.
I included lots of photographs of details of the figures on the outside of the cathedral, as well as a number of memorial plaques that lined the inner walls. I hope you like what I included, you can always comment below if you would like to suggest something else. Favorable comments are welcome, also 🙂
Start planning your visit to England, and don’t omit Salisbury, I’m telling you!
When we left Salisbury, we took a side trip to visit the site of the Roman town of Silchester. There is nothing of the town remaining, it’s all just open fields now, but there is much of the wall that was constructed by the Romans which encircled the town at one time. Nearby we saw the ruins of an amphitheater, which had an impressive seating capacity, but of course I can’t seem to recall that impressive number just at the moment. Check out the photos, you’ll find the wall and the amphitheater.
Our very last stop with our tour group was at Windsor Castle, the home of the Royals, and we got there *just* in the nick of time, because they were closing the gates to visitors about 10 minutes after we ran in there. One of the guards there assured me that indeed the Queen was at the castle that day, because *her* flag was flying at the top of the mast (see picture). I didn’t see her waving at us from a window, but I took his word for it. I did take lots of pictures, and you’ll find them in the gallery. At one point we were being shown through the chapel there, and I looked down and saw that the stone I was walking over was immediately over the grave of Henry VIII. WOW!
After Windsor Castle, Charlie drove us back to London and we had the ‘parting of the ways’. Roger and Lyn were off to Europe to finish up their grand trip, and Natalie and I had to unravel the London Tube system to make connections to Saffron Walden, to continue our itinerary. That was the end of our guided tour with Roger, Lyn, and good old Charlie! We had a marvelous time, took away many fabulous memories, hope they enjoyed themselves as well.
Natalie and I found the nearest Tube station and went down and down the long escalator (someone said the escalators here are the longest in the world). We found a ticketing/assistance window and purchased tickets to the station at Audley End, in Saffron Walden. It was something of an involved series of train changes, so the fellow printed it out and gave it to Nat for a guide.
We got on our first train without incident, then just people-watched, as we whizzed past station after station. It was very pleasant, but we seemed to be taking too long to reach our switch station. It was at this point (TOO LATE), that Natalie pulled the printout from her pocket and observed, “Hmmm, we should have gotten off the train for our other connection about 4 stops ago.” Oops! We got off at the next station and found another helpful attendant who got us straightened out. Things went better after that – we arrived in Saffron Walden later than planned, but it wasn’t a real big problem. We stood outside the train station until a taxi showed up, then shared the fare with a nice fellow named Nick who was going our way. He was quite helpful! We got checked in at the Saffron Hotel without incident and fell into bed.
Next: Exploring the village of my birth! 🙂