Chez WW in England

Chez WW in England

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Archive for January 2011

Frosty foggy morn, England

20 January 2011

This morning I awoke to a frosty foggy dream-scape. It is one of those mornings when anything is possible, especially here in England. I quickly bundled up, grabbed my camera and was out the door. I had considered driving to Tewkesbury. The Abbey would be an incredible sight this morning. But, once I saw how reduced the visibility was I decided to go for a walk. I am getting better at driving here and so far have managed to not do any damage to the car or the others. I just do not think my driving skills here are ready to tackle driving on the wrong side of the ride, on the wrong side of the car, when I cannot see the car in front of me.
St Nicholas Church is the Parish Church for Ashchurch and given that Ashchurch is so small, it is just a few minutes walk. Leaving the busy road behind and walking up the lane to the church was like walking back in time. Strands of frost were dangling from the over-hanging trees like a forgotten spider’s web. The frosty fog enveloped everything. I would not have been surprised to see a horse and carriage emerging from the lane.
As I walked around I realized that it was a Hoar Frost, not like the Hoar Frost of Petawawa, but a gentler frost. It was a magical sight. Needles of frost appeared to be floating in the air. Walking around the church and into the graveyard, I could see a distant figure through the fog. Was it some spectre come to visit a lost love? This morning I would not have been surprised to see such a sight.

I have explored this church yard a few times and never noticed this before. A strange thing to find in a church yard but it was one of those mornings. Anything and everything was possible. The veil separating the past from the present had been lifted for a short time. I could almost see a person locked up, claiming that they followed the true faith of the Monarch.

Just after I captured the above image, a figure appeared out of the fog walking towards me….

Wishing everyone a morning that is as magical as mine. I hope that you enjoyed coming along on my frosty foggy morning walk.

Tewkesbury, England

18 January 2011

We are currently living in Ashchurch, which is just down the road from Tewkesbury. Tewkesbury is a small market town that sits on the confluence of the rivers Severn and Avon. The town is built along the river Severn and is littered with timbered buildings.

A traditional y-shaped street lay-out for market towns was used when Tewkesbury was built. The buildings are crammed together with shops on the first floor (the ground floor is referred to as the first floor in England ) and living accommodations above.

Tewkesbury still has the feel of that market town. At one time, Tewkesbury had over 90 little alley-ways. Today, around 30 of these are still being used.

The heart of Tewksebury is the Norman abbey, St Mary the Virgin. The Tewkesbury Abbey is a sight to behold.

Twice in it’s history it has been saved from destruction. The townspeople saved their beloved abbey from the Dissolution of the Monasteries being carried out by King Henry VIII by paying him £453. The Tewkesbury Abbey was also spared in recent times. July 2007 brought heavy rains to the region. The rivers Severn and Avon were experiencing high water levels from spring and with the rains the two rivers over-flowed their banks and engulfed the town of Tewkesbury. The one spot of relatively dry land was the grounds of the abbey.

Tewkesbury was the site of the decisive battle of the War of the Roses between the houses of York and LancasterKing Henry VI had been declared mad and was locked in the tower. Edward of York had been placed on the throne. Margaret of Anjou , wife of King Henry VI, wanted their son to be King. May 4th, 1471 was the date of the Battle of Tewksbury. The battle happened not far from the abbey and it is said that Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI, watched the battle from the abbey’s tower. Members of the Lancasterian army sought shelter in the abbey. The Yorkist army broke down the doors and the Abbey became a battle ground. When the battle ended the Yorkists emerged as victors. Edward of York had won the throne of England. Armour from the battle was collected by the townspeople and used to re-enforce the sacristy doors of the abbey. So much blood had been spilt in the abbey during the battle that it took weeks to clean and the abbey had to be re-consecrated.

Driving Miss Millie

05 January 2011

Today I took our wee little car Millie on the road for the very first time. First off, I remembered to get into the right side of the car. It really is the small victories. I did however reach for the seat belt on the wrong side. I drove around the campus, where there were few cars on the road and a low speed limit. It was not too bad. I think driving on the wrong side of the road helps when you are sitting on the wrong side of the car.

After some time driving around the campus, it was time to hit the streets. I had gotten quite used to our extended mini van and it’s mirrors that are the size of my head. Mini Me Millie has mirrors the size of a tiny hand. It is a little scary adjusting to doing everything on the wrong side with tiny mirrors to keep track of all the other traffic. I drove to the hair salon through my very first round-a-bout. I have to say that it was not too bad. I am learning that I could drive around the round-a-bout all day if I wanted or at least until I keep secure to turn out of the round-a-bout.

I was very impressed with my self for my first attempt driving. I did have a great role model. Andrew , ignoring all fears, has been driving since the first day we got the car. He jumped in with both feet. We really had no choice. But, He has done a wonderful job driving and has been an inspiration. I know that in no time I will be driving in more traffic and eventually hitting the M5 motorway.

Don't judge a car by it's size

03 January 2011

Andrew is moving into his room at the dorm today. The time has come for us to leave the Chowle Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast. We will miss Jan and Dave and all of the animals. They are so much more than Bed and Breakfast owners – they were are tourist information centre, shopping guides and just lovely people who took us under their wings and made moving to a foreign country so much easier. Dave is a master of creating maps that were so easy to use with the easiest route possible.

Mini Me Millie, our tiny Toyota Yaris, became our moving van today. For a little car you sure can fit a lot of stuff into the old gal. She reminded me of that small handbag I have that holds so much – when you go to empty it you are amazed that so much fit into such a small space. That is Millie.
You may be wondering just how small Mini Me Millie is.

Millie has a sunroof – with a crank to open it. I think it is because the car is too small to have the wiring required for an automatic sunroof.

Andrew also had to pick up his bike, which he managed to fit into the car. The back seats in Millie fold down. We will have to get a bike rack later for both of our bikes; that is if Millie is wide enough to have the bikes on the back. If not it will be a roof rack.

Today Mini Me Millie, the tiny car with the big name, showed us that she can do as much a full-sized car. I guess cars are like people and should not be judged by their size.

Blenheim Palace & Bladon, England

02 January 2011

Sir Winston Churchill may be one of the greatest leaders of our time. He inspired a nation and the world to never give up with his amazing speeches. He inspired the fight for freedom against tyranny. Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of this remarkable man. The palace is a place of grandeur on an enormous scale. The house and grounds were shut but we were able to wander the grounds.

We walked up the hill to the Column of Victory. The Column celebrates the victory of the Duke of Marlborough. It is basically a deed to all of the surrounding lands given to him by the Queen.

We had to enter a garden gate and an enclosed area to reach the column. Everywhere you looked you saw sheep. I know understand why wellies are so popular in England. In the last two days my wellies have been covered in all manner of muck and poop.

Below is one of the garden gates on the estate but the fence has been removed. I found it amusing.

This sign is at the entrance to the Palace. It gave me a chuckle – very upstairs, downstairs.

We had lunch today in Woodstock, the town outside of Blenheim Palace, at the Brothertons Brasserie. This Italian restaurant is in an old building with bowed windows and gas lamps that are still used. The food was delicious.

Our next stop was the village of Bladon where Sir Winston Churchill was laid to rest after a state funeral. This great man chose as his final resting place, not a great cathedral but, a small village Church yard near where he was born. It is a modest and humble site for a man who achieved such feats of greatness.

St Martin’s ChurchBladon is the where a private service was held before Churchill was laid to rest. It is a beautiful stone chuurch. Darkness was falling and we were the only people there. It is easy to imagine Sir Winston Churchill standing in this same church, alone in the night, praying for strength to face the gathering storm. It was a truly humbling experience.

Sir Winston Churchill showed the world that even as darkness falls and surrounds us there is still light and hope.

Uffington Castle, Wayland's Smithy & Avebury, England

01 January 2011

It was decided that our first day of the new year, living in another country had to be celebrated in a big way. And since there is nothing bigger in England than walking, walk we did. The area of England where we are now is filled with ancient sites. It was time to do some exploring. The day was damp and misty which is the norm here. It is such a treat to see so many vibrant colours of green, especially in the winter.

Our first stop was to see the Uffington Castle. The mounds are the remains of an Iron Age fort (with underlying Bronze Age). The drive up to the castle site was an adventure all on its own. It was a narrow, step and very windy road. Mini Me Millie took up the whole road. I was afraid to think what would happen if we had met a car trying to come down. Then we noticed that there were indents spaced along the road for on-coming traffic to pull over and wait.

The view was incredible. I can understand why this location was chosen for a hill-top fort. The clouds were very low today and the air was full of mist. I think it added to the feeling of mystery that can only exist in a place that has seen so much history.

Just below the site of Uffington Castle is White Horse Hill. The horse dates back to the Bronze Age and is the oldest chalk figure in Britain dating back over 3,000 years. It is best seen from the Village of Uffington but with the low cloud cover today that was impossible. Below is a picture of the horse’s eye and mouth.

The views from this site are nothing short of breath-taking. There are sheep grazing freely where ever you look.

Below White Horse Hill is Dragon Hill, the site where Saint George slew the dragon. According to legend, the grass does not grow where the dragon’s blood flowed.

Below Dragon Hill is the Manger, thought to be a formation from the last Ice Age. The Manger is the feeding place for the White Horse.

Our next stop was Wayland’s Smithy. Again there were sheep everywhere and we had to drive with care. Hitting a sheep in Mini Me Millie would probably write off our tiny girl.

After the car was parked, it was a 5 km walk to the Smithy. It was beautiful walking on trails surrounded by the English countryside that were shrouded in mist.

Wayland is the Saxon god of metal working. Legend has it that you can leave your horse who has lost a shoe at the site with a coin and upon your return the horse has a new shoe and the coin is gone. In more recent times (3500BC ), the site became a Neolithic burial chamber. Once again the ever present mist added to the mysterious atmosphere of this incredible place.

Our next stop for the day was AveburyAvebury Henge is a much larger site than Stonehenge but the actual stones are smaller. It was magically to drive through Avebury on this narrow road and be able to reach out and touch one of these huge stones that were moved into place 5,000 years ago. The circle is so enormous that it surrounds the village of Avebury.

Today it seemed as if everyone we met were walking their dogs. Brittany was greatly missed and we cannot wait until she is here with us and can explore all that England has to offer. We ate supper at the Red Lion in Avebury and yes, there was a dog in there too. I love how dog friendly this country is. We had not had lunch – pubs stop serving meals at 2pm, something we are still getting used to- and were starving. The Red Lion did not disappoint. It was not until we got home and I started writing the post did I discover some of the background of The Red Lion.

May your first day of twenty eleven be filled with joy, love, laughter and adventure.