“I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you on a word of a prince, they shall be duly paid.”
That was perhaps the most famous words uttered by the first Queen Elisabeth, in front of her troops while expecting the Spanish armada in 1588, wearing a plumed helmet and a steel cuirass over a white velvet gown. What a scene that would have been to see!
We went to Tilbury by train on a very nice and sunny day. We have never been out that way before; Tilbury was the fort that defended the mouth of the river Thames, and London. It was built in the 14th and 15th Centuries, and the Tudors shaped it the most. It wasn´t demobilized until 1950, and now it is a museum in the care of English Heritage. It´s quite a way out from London, and I was surprised to see so many visitors there, particularly young girls and young families. It´s a real gem, though. Lots of space to run around and nothing terribly precious.
I tried to relax with the pen in hand, defying the impulse to try and see it all. I´d like to learn to just sit down and work the scene onto paper without thinking about time or anything else. Looking at my drawings now – from the entire vacation, really – I find much fault, and either I was still in too much of a hurry, or I have become a better sketcher since. Possibly it´s a little bit of each. I think most, if not all these photos were taken by the husband.
A lot of people have told us that there is one stone circle in England that is much more interesting to visit than Stonehenge, and that is Avebury. Of course, as we were in Wiltshire and in Stone Age mode, we had to go. Ironically, going by public transport from Salisbury to Avebury was not possible, if we wanted any time at all at the stones – 3½ hours one way! Instead, I discovered that with the London train (which is fast) and a bus from Swindon, going from Bristol was much quicker, so that´s what we did.
So, why is Avebury so special? Direct access to the stones is not restricted like at Stonehenge (which is open to the public only at the solstices), one is free to walk around in the circle, and considering the stones enclose the village of Avebury, or parts of it, anything else would be silly. There is a museum there (which we both missed to snap), lots of activities for school children, and a great pub at which we had a lovely dinner after a long walk around the Avebury landscape.
I will not say this was better than Stonehenge, or not as good. It was different and I wouldn´t want to have missed out on any of those sites. What a great day!
I collected some odd photos from our stay in Bristol. It was a bit of a contrast coming there from Salisbury, which is such a quaint little town. Bristol has its charms, is considered one of the best British cities to live in, but it takes some exploration to find that charm.
Our last day in Salisbury we walked across the water meadows to the Harnham Mill pub. What a lovely day that was! As I was taking photos of the cathedral, an elderly couple stopped behind me to tell me that this is from where Constable made his famous painting – or one of them. I have seen one or two in museums, but I´m not sure which ones. I did have the idea of going more in depth with Constable before this trip, but I guess in the end I had other things on my mind. Anyway, we had a nice chat about art and travel (the couple had seen the Constable in New York!) and they called me “young lady”, which of course cheered me up immensely!
If Bristol had Shaun the Sheep, Salisbury had its barons. Same idea: artists paint the barons, they are displayed during the summer around the city, and are auctioned off in the fall to benefit charity, this time the Trussels Trust, which feeds the poor, both in Britain and elsewhere. The town of Lincoln had them too, and you can find out more here.
Everywhere we saw one, we also saw children (and adults) admiring them. It´s a charming idea and one I would love to see in Luleå.
The day after we visited Stonehenge was a sunny, warm day. We had realized that Old Sarum was just up the road, about 1,7 miles, which is a fairly leisurely walk. We had also realized that breakfast at the pub where we were staying was not worth the money, so we picked up some sandwiches and things at Tesco and walked up the hill. Old Sarum was built on top of a series of old hill forts (from as early as 3000 bC) by William the Conquerer and what a sight it must have been to see! This is a photo of a model I saw at the Salisbury museum.
Unfortunately, Old Sarum was located in an unsuitable spot. There was not enough water up there, and the soldiers in the castle were constantly in conflict with the clergy at the cathedral. In the 13th Century the whole town moved to the plain where Salisbury now is, and Henry VIII finally sold the land. Its owners still had representation in parliament and it was what was called a rotten borough, through which some could buy themselves parliamentary influence. The Pitt family bought much of its influence by “pocketing” Old Sarum.
Old Sarum is next to a small airfield and crafts came in for landing over our heads the whole day, to the husband´s delight (he loves airplanes).
I am terribly slow in posting our travelphotos from this summer, but I guess I have all winter to do it. This is, in a way, the climax of this trip, since Stonehenge is one of those must-have-seen places in England that we have somehow never managed to get to. Actually, we checked several must-see boxes this summer, like Bath, Avebury, Old Sarum.
Yes, there were fellow tourists there, plenty of them. One had to book a time slot in advance to go to the Stones, to avoid unmanagable crowds. The museum is new, I believe it was opened in 2013, and it is not located at the Stones, but rather functions as an entrance to the entire Stonehenge landscape, which is a vast holy land, full of henges, barrows and mysterious ditches (or earthworks, as Stewart Ainsworth would say). Much of it I didn´t understand, and perhaps no one will fully understand the meaning of it all, but it seems that the current interpretation is that Stonehenge was a kind of healing centre. The so called Amesbury Archer, a skeleton on display with its gravegoods at the Salisbury museum, has, after being subjected to DNA analysis, been found to be a migrant from northern Italy. It could be that he came to Stonehenge in the hope of healing some old wounds he had.
I saw a documentary some time ago that said there are springs in the area that has a very interesting microorganism living in the water. It attaches itself to rocks and turns into a magenta colour when it dries; this may have been part of the attraction. Or perhaps the eeriness, as Eddie Izzard has amusingly pointed out.
I had long been wanting to visit Salisbury. This was a very good year to do so, with the 800 year celebrations of the Magna Charta; Salisbury Cathedral is in possession of one of the four original documents, which was a treat to see! The cathedral build was begun in 1220, and I guess a cathedral is never really finished; much work has been made on the tower as late as the 1990´s. We had to go up there, naturally, where one could see far and wide. They have an amazing website, in case you are interested.
I confess, there is much, much more to this place that I just can´t show without becoming very, very tedious: a fabulous café inside the cathedral as well as one outside in the close, a fascinating old clock (that does not show the time, oddly enough), cloisters, artworks, and so many things we didn´t even have time to see. If you ever go to England, forget London, spend a few days in Salisbury instead…
Did you know Wallace & Gromit has a children´s foundation? Yes, and this summer they raised money by letting artists paint their own versions of Shaun the Sheep, exhibiting them in London and Bristol, and in October they will be auctioned off, hopefully for millions of pounds. There were maps of the Shaun trail in Bristol, but we had our own plans and couldn´t spare the time to go find them all. However, we did come across quite a few.