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Chains, Chapters and a Challenge

Chains, Chapters and a Challenge

In the week starting Monday 18th July we were going to have the builders in only on Monday and Friday and as the weather forecast for Tuesday was sunny all day we did the obvious – a day trip out.

We thought that Hereford would be a good place to go because it's only an hours drive away and we had never been there. We duly arrived in Hereford without incident and walked towards the city centre. The temperature was forecast to go up to 88 F, which is rare for this country, but at this time of the morning it wasn't uncomfortable (yet).

You may realise that Hereford has a cathedral and has the River Wye running throught it (through the city not the cathedral). There is a modern bridge across the river which takes most of the traffic but a short way away is the old bridge, just one vehicle wide, which can be seen from the new bridge.

The 12th century Norman cathedral is obvious beyond the bridge and the bridge itself is also 12th century.

By this time it was around mid-day and it was starting to feel hot. This is now the middle of July and it's the first day this year I have felt able to wear a short sleeved shirt. Having seen the cathedral from the bridge we now made our way to see the cathedral close up.

It was much cooler inside which was a great relief. The fact that this is a Norman cathedral becomes obvious when one sees the arches on either side of the nave.

The font is also Norman and does look rather worn but the base is of a later date.

There is also a crypt under the Chancel.

Entry to the cathedral is free but this cathedral does have some unique features for which  entry is chargeable but which we couldn't afford to miss. One of those features is the Chained Library.

This is how the library looked in the 1600s. The books are attached to their bookcase by a chain, which is sufficiently long to allow the books to be taken from their shelves and read, but they cannot be removed from the library itself. This would prevent theft of the library's books The practice was usual for reference libraries from the Middle Ages to approximately the 18th century. However, since the chaining process was also expensive, it was not used on all books. Only the more valuable books in a collection were chained.

One thing you may notice is that the books are the 'wrong' way round i.e. with the spines on the inner end. It was standard for chained libraries to have the chain fitted to the corner or cover of a book. This is because if the chain were to be placed on the spine the book would suffer greater wear from the stress of moving it on and off the shelf. Because of the location of the chain attached to the book (via a ringlet) the books are housed with their spine facing away from the reader with only the pages' fore-edges visible (that is, the 'wrong' way round to people accustomed to contemporary libraries). This is so that each book can be removed and opened without needing to be turned around, hence avoiding tangling its chain. To remove the book from the chain, the librarian would use a key.

The other unique feature at Hereford Cathedral is the Mappa Mundi (Map of the World).


Dating from 1300 it is the largest medieval map known still to exist. It represents the known world with Jerusalem being drawn at the centre of the circle, east is on top, showing the Garden of Eden in a circle at the edge of the world. Curiously, the labels for Africa and Europe are reversed, with Europe scribed in red and gold as 'Africa', and vice versa.

Great Britain is drawn at the north-western border (bottom left) and shown below enlarged. In the enlarged version Scotland is the island on the left with England to its right. Wales is shown as a separate island below England with Ireland shown as two islands below that.

Needless to say America and Australasia are not shown at all.

This is a reproduction showing the detail with more clarity.

We eventually decided we'd have to venture out of the cathedral to see more of the city and that's where the challenge is involved. The temperature must have reached its forecast maximum of 88 F because it was HOT! It was also very humid which didn't help at all and we found that we were walking in the shade at any and every opportunity. It is interesting to note that since 2001, extremes at Hereford have ranged from 92.5 F (33.6 C) during July 2006, to as low as 3.6 F ( -15.8 C ) during December 2010.

We walked away from the cathedral along Church Street going past The Grapes, a 16th century coaching inn, and into High Town.

High Town is the old market square and is now the main main shopping area in the city. It also features the Old House; a Jacobean (early 17th century) timber framed house which I must say is rather impressive. It is open to the public, entry is free, and it is worth a look inside.

That Hereford Bull is looking at me very suspiciously and, taking into account the look on its face, I don't think I shall hang around.

We were melting by this time and decided that if we could actually make it back to the car we would go home. We did and we did.

mTicket to Ride

mTicket to Ride

No, it isn't a typographic error it's meant to be 'mticket'.

I discovered something rather useful recently. It is that we can buy railway tickets on our railway line via a mobile phone and after paying for them they are then downloaded and stored on the mobile 'phone. These tickets can then be shown on the phone's screen to anyone who may need to see them. We then don't need to visit the ticket office or get tickets from a machine. So I decided to try it.

It has been a long time since we have been on any sort of trip which was because either the weather was bad or because domestic commitments got in the way. For example we have just had the outside of our house painted which was quite a long job but we now seem to be clear of domestic tasks so we were just waiting for a sunny day.

The weather forecasts don't help. A few days ago the weather forecast for Saturday was sunny all day. Then it changed to some sun and some sunny spells. Then it changed again to mainly sunny spells plus the chance of some showers in the afternoon. Then on Friday the forecast for Saturday was mostly sun so we took the chance.

We don't like generally travelling on a weekend because that's when everybody else does but this time the weather dictated when we travelled so on Friday I bought two mtickets and on Saturday 22nd August we caught a train to Norwich for the day.

It cost us less to travel to Norwich than it does to London even though Norwich is a bit further. We boarded a train at our one horse local station, where we have never had to show our tickets, and got off two stops later at Colchester where we caught the London to Norwich train. We were doing quite well until we were just south of Diss where the train slowed down and stopped. Signals I thought but then an announcement was made to the effect that there was a fault on the locomotive. It said that the driver was in contact with the service department and they were hoping to fix the fault within 15 minutes.

About 12 minutes later the train began to move – phew – and we eventually arrived in Norwich about 12 minutes late. I was expecting to show our mtickets on the train at some stage but, no, nobody wanted to see them. I did, however have to show them at the station barrier.

We caught a No. 26 bus in the station forecourt which took us to the Roman Catholic Cathedral. I bet you didn't know that Norwich has two cathedrals did you? This cathedral is no where near as old as the Anglican Cathedral, having been built in the late 1800s, but it is still a very impressive cathedral. When we were in Norwich last, 9 years ago, I did take one photograph of the outside but didn't have time to do any more.

This is another outside view that I took this time from the Cathedral Garden.

We went into their visitor centre, called the Narthex, where we encountered our first dragon. From 21st June until 5th September there are 184 dragons scattered around Norwich which they call an 'Art Sculpture trail'.

We were very kindly given a cathedral tour by one of the Deacons who retired a short while ago but who still obviously loves 'his' cathedral. It was a very interesting tour and we learned a lot that we would not have otherwise known about.

This shows the view along the Nave towards the East End.

There are lots of individual stone sculptures at the base of the pillars, at the top of the pillars and above them showing a great variety of forms and shapes. This is one on the base of a pillar.

This next photograph was taken from the East End looking under the crossing and along the Nave and the one after shows the Crossing.

We finished up having a cup of tea/coffee and a sausage roll in the cathedral refectory and, I must say, their sausage rolls are particularly nice; cooked that day I was told. They do have other food here which I suspect is just as good so if you want a light lunch this is the place to go.

We left the cathedral and decided a quick visit to the Plantation Garden was in order. We photographed it thoroughly last time but the weather was decidedly better this trip and I took another couple of photographs.

If you look, in the second picture, just above the steps on the left you will see Amanda sitting behind the bench under the tree playing her part as an 'extra'.

We made our way back onto the streets of Norwich and headed for the river. In doing so we crossed Pottergate.

Norwich really does have some nice streets. We wound our way through numerous narrow back streets to the river bridge which took us north of the river; an area which we hadn't visited before. Our first point of interest was the 16th century Church of St. Michael Coslany at the junction of Oak Street and Colegate.

It was locked so we weren't able to go inside but it was yet another building with some fine flushwork.

We saw a number of churches which I won't picture or describe here but we finished at St. Georges back in Colegate where we found another dragon.

The view of the church from the eastern part of Colgate was rather nice together with that very attractive timber-framed building which was built by Henry Bacon who became sheriff of Norwich in 1548.

We continued along Colegate and turned right into Fye Bridge Street and along to the River Wensum. Over the bridge we found two more dragons.

We then turned left along Quay Side and thence onto the riverside walk. From there we went a short distance to the church of St. Martin at Palace Plain where I left Amanda to rest whilst I crossed back over the river and found yet another dragon.

I walked along the north bank of the river on the riverside path to try and get a photograph of Cow Tower across the river. When we were last in Norwich I took some photographs of Cow Tower from the same side of the river as the tower and now I have it surrounded.

I walked back to the churchyard to find Amanda and there she was with a 'friend'. It was a Sparrow Hawk which had killed a pigeon and was eating it on the grass a short distance away. When I arrived it stopped eating and glared at me but didn't move away.

After watching it for a while we both moved slowly away and it remained, apparently, undisturbed. We headed back to Quay Side along to Wensum Street then right into Elm Hill. This is Elm Hill.

A well preserved medieval street. Looking in the opposite direction we can see the Britons Arms, the white building, where we are hoping to get afternoon tea.

Amanda had Darjeeling Tea, I had coffee and we both had Raspberry, Cream and Hazelnut Meringue Roulades which were the size of tea plates. On our last visit to Norwich we had lunch here and we both had their home-made pork pie. You just cannot get better anywhere.

After our late afternoon blowout we caught a bus nearby down to the railway station and caught the train home.

A good day.

P.S. Apparently the temperature around our tea time was in the low eighties – too hot. smilies

We have a Tate à Tate and Barry goes to heaven.

We have a Tate à Tate and Barry goes to heaven.

Wednesday. Train from our local station to Stratford. Change on to the Jubilee Line and thence to Waterloo Station where we once again emerged into daylight. We headed north and found ourselves on the approach to Waterloo Bridge over the Thames and then, off to our left we saw this.

The Royal Festival Hall with the London Eye and Big Ben in the background. However we weren't looking for the Royal Festival Hall but it does act as a guide. What we were looking for was the Queen Elizabeth Hall which is next to it.

Amanda spotted some steps which appeared to be going up into Queen Elizabeth Hall so we hopped up those. Well I was speaking figuratively and we didn't actually hop, you understand, as it would have been difficult going up stairs on one leg and old legs at that. Then I spotted an open door with some greenery beyond. Going through the door we weren't surprised to find a garden because that is what we had come here to see.

The top picture shows the path we came in on to this point and the second picture shows the way on. This is on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and there are even tables and chairs where you can sit awhile and buy a snack and a drink from that grey/green shed at the back if you so choose.

From the far end of the roof we had this view over the river showing one of the piers where you can get on the Thames Clippers and there is also Hungerford Bridge which, although a railway bridge, has pedestrian walkways on each side.

If you happen to be in this area then the roof garden is worth a visit.

Turning to our left gave us this view of the other end of the Royal Festival Hall.

We had heard that people can just pop in to the the foyer area and use the facilities so we put it to the test. We went down, on a bright yellow spiral stairway, to riverside level and walked in. Easy Peasy so far. There seemed to be a good number of people sitting around in comfortable seating chatting or just using their laptops and, what is more, there were toilets.

There were different levels and we didn't feel like interlopers so it does seem to be open to the public. There is also a snack bar.

Time to move on. We walked east along the Thames-side path, past the Oxo Tower which we visited last time, to the Tate Modern. We have been here before but didn't see much more than the old Turbine Hall so we were going to look round the galleries this time.

We looked round a number of the galleries and I list below photographs of everything that has merit.

Oh! Just the Turbine Hall then. Enough said.

We left via the Turbine Hall and walked a short way further east. Time to catch the bus – but not one of those red double deck buses as we are going on a river bus to Tate Britain. The 'buses' have different routes and different designations e.g. the one we wanted was the 'Tate to Tate' and its designation was RB2. There are electronic displays on each pier which give arrival times for the next buses and their designations. If you have a Travel Card or an Oyster Card then showing them when you pay will get you a 33% discount. If you have a London Bus Pass (London Residents only) then that will get you a 50% discount.

Our fare was £4.50 each with the discount. We didn't have long to wait and we were off. The seats are comfortable and this photograph shows only a quarter of the accommodation as there is just as much off to the right hidden by the structure and as much again behind me.

We had a good view of the Tate Modern on the way upstream.

We passed under the Millenium Bridge then Blackfriars Station/Bridge

We were there in what seemed like no time at all and watched our 'bus' leave for its final stop at Vauxhall.

We left the pier and walked the short distance to Tate Britain.

It is a nice building, and entry is free, but before we started to look round we wanted lunch, it was 1 o'clock, so we found the restaurant.

A pleasant place for a meal and the food was good BUT the portions were very small. I, for example, had Fishcake with Mushy Peas (£8) and that is all that was on my plate – nothing extra such as salad or potatoes. Amanda had Crispy Lamb (£7) with Radicchio Salad and Goats Cheese and Potato Crumble. There was not much of the salad and the crumble was little more than a sprinkling of garnish. Choice of desserts were limited but we had a slice of cake each.

Having finished lunch we ventured forth to look around. It is a nice building and the main rotunda is quite spectacular featuring a rather interesting staircase.

We found another interesting staircase in another part of the building.

We weren't going to be able to look at everything so we chose a particular period which included John Constable.

I've chosen to show that particular Constable because we used to have a print of it hanging in our sitting room which we had inherited from my parents but it wasn't a very good one so we disposed of it. This version is much better. smilies

Time was getting on and we had some more places to visit yet so we left the Tate and walked north-west up to Victoria Street and Westminster Cathedral. Do not confuse this with Westminster Abbey. The foundation stone was laid in 1895 and the fabric of the building was finished in 1903. The design was of the Early Christian Byzantine style by the Victorian architect John Francis Bentley. It still isn't finished although it would appear so with a cursory glance. It is a striking building and certainly worth a visit. Entry is free.

Whilst we were in there I asked if I could go up to heaven and an angel in the guise of a young lady from the gift shop agreed to take me up in the lift. She left me there and returned to earth. I could tell I was in heaven because of the views.

There a number of well known landmarks in that last picture – can you spot them.

Unfortunately the authorities in heaven decided that I couldn't stay because I hadn't been good enough so I was sent back to earth for some more practice. You can't win them all.

As we were getting ready to leave for our next destination we chanced to see a young man with a hawk which was used for scaring the pigeons away from the area which it certainly did. It was a Harris Hawk.

We caught a No. 11 bus in Victoria Street and made the short journey to Westminster Abbey where we were hoping to see a part of the abbey where entry was free after 4:30 PM and we arrived there just after half past four. Walking towards the West Front we turned right under an arch into the Dean's Yard. This is it:

Turning sharp left inside the yard there is an open doorway with an attendant on guard whom you should ask to visit the Cloisters and he should let you pass.

Note the difference in the roof profile on different sides of the quadrangle. If you follow the signs you may also visit the College Gardens. I have also heard that you can get in to the Cloisters free on weekends after 2:30 PM but we haven't tested that yet. You can try it if you like and do let me know if you get in.

We decided that we were getting tired and chose to head home. We walked to St. James's Park Station and on the way saw this.

A number of visitors seem interested in seeing this rotating sign, I don't know why, so I thought I'd include it. I hope that you are suitably interested.

Time to go home.

Time for a Change, some Oxo and a secret!

Time for a Change, some Oxo and a secret!

The change in question is New Change and if you want to be precise – 1 New Change. For those of you that don't know, New Change is a short street on the eastern edge of St. Paul's Churchyard in London and there is a large shopping centre there that takes up the whole street. As it is the only building in the street it's number must be 1 mustn't it?

A sunny day saw us arrive at Liverpool Street Station from where we walked the short distance to Wormwood Street to catch the number 100 bus. That was a surprise because it turned out to be a single deck bus which is unusual in London. We alighted near St. Paul's Underground Station and walked the short distance to 1 New Change.

We have been here once before (A Later Date), late in the day, when the weather wasn't so good and the sun was in the wrong place. This time the weather was good and the sun was in the right place.

A lot of people don't realise that 1 New Change has a roof terrace which is freely available to the public. There is a restaurant up there too but you aren't obliged to use it. There are lifts up to the terrace and they are outside the building and the walls are made of glass. Why would the lift walls be made of glass? Because you get a nice view of St. Paul's Cathedral on the way up and down together with some interesting reflections.

The roof terrace is quite large and you get a good view of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral and the London Eye is just visible on the left-hand edge.

You can even see visitors on the Golden Gallery at the top of the dome.

Looking in the opposite direction the Shard is rather obvious.

It was now time to move on so we went down in the lift and back to the bus stop where we caught the 100 bus once again to continue our journey across Blackfriars Bridge to the south side of the River Thames. This is where we were going.

The Oxo Tower is another shopping centre on the edge of the Thames and it has a publicly accessible viewing gallery looking out over the river on the sixth floor. This is the view east towards St. Paul's.

This is the view west up river showing the restaurant terrace on the left over looking the river.

This interesting view shows the river apparently choc-a-bloc with boats and the bridge choc-a-bloc with buses. I've never seen so many London buses in one place before.

We left the viewing platform and went back down to earth. Just behind the Oxo Tower is a nice little park.

Back on the 100 bus and we're off to Barbican for lunch. Reasonably good food for a very reasonable price – a main course for £9.50. After lunch we walked to Finsbury Square to catch the number 271 bus north. At Archway we changed onto the 210 bus for the last leg of our journey to visit somewhere secret.

As it's secret I'm not going to tell you anything about it except to say that it's on Hampstead Heath near Inverforth Close and it's known as London's Hidden Garden. It is actually called Hill Garden or the Hampstead Pergola but it's called the Hidden Garden because so few people seem to know about it even though it's free. There were only relatively few visitors there when we were there.

There is a lovely ornamental pond.

Then there is the Pergola.

We thought 'goodness that's a long pergola' as we could just see the cupola at the very end. We wandered along slowly until we reached the little building.

Amanda reached it just before I did and that is her silouette in the doorway. I can remember, as I was climbing the steps, that I thought that the pergola was very long indeed until I reached that doorway. Then I realised that there was more – lots more.

The house beyond the pergola is Inverforth House once a single private residence it is now converted to apartments. The original house was built in 1807 but was rebuilt in 1905 which  greatly altered the original structure.

The pergola went on ahead to a junction where it branched both left and right. We looked back to the cupola.

The branch to our left was a cul-de-sac but the branch to our right went on, and on.

What an extraordinary place this is. We left, finally, back past the ornamental pond. This garden is one that you really should not miss especially as there is no entry charge.

Oh, I forgot. It's a secret and I haven't told you anything about it so you won't be able to go after all. What a pity! You don't know what you're missing.

We headed off across Hampstead Heath with a printed copy of a nice map available on the Hampstead Heath web site showing the various paths which criss-cross over the heath. Unfortunately the paths on the ground don't always match the paths on the map and you will get lost especially in the wooded parts which are extensive and plentiful. Now that's an order. We got lost so I don't see why you shouldn't.

We did, eventually, find our way to the Highgate Ponds of which this is Highgate Men's Pond.

Now that we actually knew where we were we were able to successfully navigate to the top of Parliament Hill for the view. We could see the top of the Gherkin, the dome of St. Paul's and the Shard.

It was getting late and we had yet to find our way back to Liverpool Street Station and thence to home so we called it a day. One thing we've learned is that there is a lot more to see here so we plan to return some day.


Off the Wall and Mind the Gap

Off the Wall and Mind the Gap

'Off the wall' is an expression used in the UK and, I believe, in the USA which means unusual or bizarre. In this particular case 'Off the wall' is on the wall! But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here so lets go back to the beginning shall we?

Yesterday, Wednesday, we hopped on a train once again and ended up at Liverpool Street Station in London emerging onto Bishopsgate at about 10:15 AM in sunny weather. The temperature was around 46 F which was a little cool but is pretty good for February. We could have been up to our knees in snow.

We were intending to spend the morning wandering the streets so a bit of sun is nice and not having to dress up like a couple of Arctic explorers was also nice. You can join us if you like.

Turn left along Bishopsgate, right into Middlesex Street ( used to be Petticoat Lane until the Victorians renamed it) then left into Wentworth Street where the Petticoat Lane Market is now held.

Down Wentworth Street to Brick Lane and turn left along Brick Lane.

It does feel, when wandering along Brick Lane, that this is part of Bangladesh and we did see a sign referring to the area as Banglatown. We also saw signs in what I belive may be Bengali.

Wanna buy a Saree? This is not really about the shop but the decoration on the boarding filling the window. Yes it's street art again.

If you take the trouble to look there's a lot of it about.

Some of it is fairly conventional.

But some of it is definitely 'off the wall'.

We couldn't leave without showing you this little chap. Well, maybe not so little.

I am given to understand that it is supposed to be a hedgehog. The general shape is about right but the poor thing's spines seem to be a bit sparse. The artist is known as 'Roa' and is from Belgium.

I took far more photographs than I could show here and we decided to stop at this point.

Right! Keep up! Don't lag behind or you'll miss the bus. We have a number 26 to catch. We didn't have to wait long and we were off to our next destination. On the way we saw this old shack, from the top deck of the bus, which you may recognise.

Then we made our way up Fleet Street.

Past the Temple Inns of Court and the Royal Courts of Justice.

Finally arriving at Aldwych where we get off the bus. Still with us? Good.

A short walk up Wellington Street, turn left along Tavistock Street, turn right into Tavistock Court and we're here – Covent Garden Market. Why are we here? Well that will have to wait for an hour or so because it's time for lunch and our intrepid travellers are famished.

Some time ago we visited Docklands and had lunch at a cafe called Henry's which we quite liked although they blotted their copybook by taking 30 minutes to bring our dessert. Remember? There is another branch of Henry's here in Covent Garden and we thought we'd see if they could do any better.

We arrived at about 1:10 PM so we expected it to be busy but they found us a table and left us to study the menu. We were on the same level as the street but there was a lower floor in a large well which gave us the impression that we were on a balcony. This was our view.

We gave our order for our main courses about 10 minutes after we arrived but it took about 20 minutes for them to arrive. I ordered a Chicken and King Prawn Jambalaya and Amanda ordered Blackened Chicken Breast & Avocado Salsa which were both very nice and quite filling. We both decided to have a dessert and I had a Sticky Toffee Glory which is described thus:

Fresh bananas, vanilla ice cream and broken meringue,smothered in toffee sauce.

I had that when we ate in their cafe at Docklands and I remarked at the time that although it was very tasty I could not detect any meringue so I decided to try again here and I have to say I could not detect any meringue in this one either. Perhaps the meringue is broken into such small pieces that it's undetectable but that would seem rather pointless.

We both did enjoy our lunch however and we would go there again but not if we were in a hurry as they are rather slow. If you have plenty of time we would recommend it especially as, for London, the prices are very reasonable. It cost us £44 for two including a tip.

Time to move on to our next destination and we had to walk only about 100 yards to here:

This building, so I understand, used to be the old Covent Garden Flower Market and is spread over three floors. On entering the people at the desk suggest starting on the top floor (there are lifts and stairs) and working downwards. I can see the logic in that as it means starting with the earliest transport and moving towards the present day.

The first area one encounters is this:

It certainly looks striking. The light grey ramp on the right is the way on to the main displays. This next picture gives an idea of the main space with galleries on each side. It certainly is big enough for a bus or two and some trains.

We started at the top where there are some examples of horse drawn buses and trams.

I suspect that those vehicles wouldn't provide as much comfort as we expect today.

The horse drawn trams don't look particulary luxurious and look rather similar to the horse drawn buses except that the trams run on rails and appear to be able to carry many more passengers.

We moved down to the floor below and forward in time to when underground trains started to run although these were hauled by steam locomotives.

You may notice that there is no cab on this locomitive so the driver and fireman had no shelter. They may not have needed it underground but there would be times when the train was running out in the open and in all weathers.

The old style carriages had separate compartments along the length of each coach with each compartment arranged across the coach with bench seats along each side. You can see, in the photograph below, that although we were prepared to 'mind the gap' there wasn't any gap!

If Amanda is waiting for the train to start she may be in for a long wait unlike this old buffer (notice the manic look in his eyes) who decided to try one of these individual shelters used during the second world war for people who would be working in the open, such as a railway yard, and not near a normal shelter when there was an air raid.

Then we get to the time when electric locomotives were introduced which didn't fill the tunnels with smoke.

The London Underground has been running for 150 years this year.

There were taxis, buses and trams in fact far too many vehicles to go through here and many more photographs will appear on the main web site in due course.

When we had finished looking around, and there is an astonishing amount to look at, we retired to the cafe for some refreshment. I had coffee but Amanda decided to have hot chocolate and this is what she had:

The cafe is situated above the shop and the shop is stocked with a wide range of London Transport items.

This is a really interesting museum and certainly worth a visit. It is run as a registered charity which is partly funded by donations from Transport for London but the rest must come from the general public. Your visit will help to support them and it will keep you happily amused for some time.

We finally decided that we'd had enough for one day and caught the No. 26 bus back to Liverpool Street Station and thence to home.


From plain glass to stained glass.

From plain glass to stained glass.

Nearly two weeks ago now we had a bit of a storm and the glass in half the roof of one of Amanda's greenhouses was blown out. It didn't do it a lot of good. That damage is covered by our house insurance but to keep the annual premium down we elected to have an excess imposed of £50. That means we have to pay £50 pounds towards each claim and as that would be about the cost of replacing the glass it wasn't worth claiming.

Meanwhile Amanda did a search on ebay and found someone within travelling distance of us who was selling some secondhand greenhouse glass the right size for £20 for 20 sheets. We need only 8 so that's a bargain. Amanda bought 20 sheets.

So this morning, Thursday, we set off for Gazeley in Suffolk near Newmarket and collected the glass. The thing about Gazeley is that it's not very far from Ely so guess where we went next.

We were last in Ely 12 years ago and I can't remember why but I didn't take any photographs of the interior of the cathedral, apart from one single picture of the nave, so we decided to rectify that omission. Ely doesn't seem to be on the normal tourist routes and they don't know what they're missing.

Ely Cathedral is different. It is unique in that it doesn't have a central tower like other cathedrals but instead it has a structure called the Octagon. In 1322 the Norman central tower collapsed caused, it is thought, by the digging of foundations for the new Lady Chapel. The tower was replaced by an innovative design called the Octagon which was surmounted by a smaller structure called the Lantern Tower.

Part of the ceiling of each transept is visible in the first picture, at the bottom of the left and right edges, and the transepts are the oldest parts of the cathedral dating from 1090.

As well as being an unusual cathedral it has many items of interest inside. The nave ceiling, as you can see below, is quite something even though it is 'only' Victorian in age.

The Quire and Presbytery.

The Quire looking into the nave.

The South Aisle.

We stopped for lunch part way through our photographic proceedings and retired to the cathedral's Refectory Cafe which is small but perfectly formed. smilies

The food was a little on the expensive side but nice. Whatever you do don't go near the cakes. Just looking at them will make you put on weight. But, and I talk from experience here, the Coffee and Walnut cake is delicious.

If you are at all interested in cathedrals then this is a 'must'. Don't miss it!

There are exterior pictures of the cathedral on the web site from our previous visit in 2002 and these interiors, and more, will be added in due course.

A high speed trip.

A high speed trip.

The high speed railway route from St. Pancras Station in London runs down through Ashford in Kent, under the English Channel, and thence to foreign climes. On its way it also passes through Stratford International Station in Greater London and, as I have mentioned before, the rail route from our local station goes through Stratford on its way into London.

Part of that high speed route can also be used to get to other places in Kent so on Saturday we went, by high speed train, to meet two friends of ours, Ian and Carole, in Kent who live very near Rochester and that is where we all met.

We caught our usual train from our usual station and travelled to Stratford then walked for 10 minutes to Stratford International Station and caught the train to Rochester. The run to Ebbsfleet, the next station, is on the high speed line but it is mostly underground having to pass under the River Thames. We were obviously travelling fast but I've no idea what our actual speed was although these trains have a maximun speed of 140 MPH. It took us 30 minutes to get to Rochester where Ian and Carole were waiting for us at the station.

Walking out of the station we crossed a road or two and very soon found  ourselves in High Street.

You can see that the town was expecting us because of the bunting hung across the street. A short distance along and we came across this building – notice the legend just above the doorway in the second picture.

The building is late 16th century and was once a town house but has been converted to three shops. This building was used by Dickens as the model for Pumblechook's home.

The Kent countryside near Gad's Hill Place, Dickens's last home, is the setting for Pip's childhood in Great Expectations, and Rochester is the model for the 'nearest town'.

Mr. Pumblechook was charged with escorting Pip to Miss Havisham's house for the first time. Because of this, Mr. Pumblechook believes forevermore that he had a big hand in helping Pip to his fortune.

A little further on we saw Eastgate House dating from around 1590.

The second picture is the rear view showing the Swiss Chalet, where Dickens wrote some of his greatest works, which was given to him by the French actor Charles Fechter and it arrived on Christmas Eve 1864. It was originally located opposite Dickens' house on Gads Hill.

There are two rather dubious looking Dickensian characters sitting on the wall and some even more dubious characters over to the left. Amanda on the right, Carole in the centre and Ian on the left. This is the middle of June and you'll notice that we are all wearing jackets. We are still waiting for a proper summer.

Leaving Eastgate House we hopped up Crow Lane to the Vines. The Vines used to be the vinyard of the local monks but now it's a small park and a very nice one.

Just opposite the Vines in Crow Lane is Restoration House where Charles II stayed on his return to England in 1660 to be crowned (the restoration of the monarchy). The building is the amalgamation of two medieval houses.

We left the Vines at the far end and emerged into Minor Canon Row. These Canons are not the BOOM BOOM sort but the eclesiastical sort, you understand, and they needed somewhere to live so this row of 7 Georgian townhouses were built for them between 1722 and 1735.

Walking round the corner at the far end and we get our first view of the cathedral.

It didn't take us long to get to the west end and the main entrance where we went in. Entrance is free.

There are more photographs of the interior but you'll have to wait for those to appear on the main web site.

Back in the High Street we stopped for lunch in a nice little restaurant called the Atrium with plenty of wooden beams. Service turned out to be a bit slow but the food was very nice. Well, of course I had the Chocolate Truffle Torte for dessert – I mean, do I look silly?

Whilst we were having lunch we could see, out of the window, this building across the street.

It was the Poor Travellers' House dating from the late 16th century. It was endowed under the terms of Richard Watts' will of 1579 providing a night's board and lodging for six poor travellers. More pictures will appear on the web site later.

A little further along High Street next to Two Post Alley is this rather interesting Tudor building and it really is that wonky.

You may notice a small bit of the castle beyond the end of the alley.

The weather was deteriorating by this time with a very strong wind so we went for a quick look at the castle and I managed this photograph in a quick flash of sunlight.

It looked very impressive but we didn't want to hang around in this weather so we'll have to make a return visit.

Ian and Carole took us back, in their car, to their house for some tea. We had strawberries and cream with some coffee and walnut sponge to follow which was very nice indeed. I'm desparately trying to make you envious here; I hope it's working.

When it was time for us to leave Ian and Carole drove us back to Rochester Station where we caught our train to Stratford and thence another train home.

Rochester was a very pleasant town packed with interest and just 40 minutes from London making a nice day trip destination.