Monday 19 February 2024

Coventry Cathedral

Coventry Cathedral is the last Cathedral in what has turned out to be a grand tour of some of the greatest Cathedrals in England.

Coventry is different though as it was destroyed in a massive German air raid in November 1940.

All that is left are the stone bones of the exterior of the building.

The tower was not damaged in the fire, but it was almost knocked down while rubble was cleared from the area. It was only saved at the last second when local people explained that it was not leaning at an angle due to bomb damage but had looked like that for at least 100 years.

After the war it was decided to preserve the remains and build a completely new building next door.

We were very lucky with our timing as the sun was shining on the building so the stained glass inside was beautifully lit 

The new Cathedral is very spacious and modern and has an enormous organ whose pipes stretch up over five stories high towards the roof.

It's all very different to the 1,000 year old Cathedrals that we visited earlier on this trip, but just as impressive.

Sunday 18 February 2024

Lincoln to Birmingham

Yesterday was Saturday so we were up early, and set out to walk to Yarborough parkrun. We have now officially become parkrun geeks, and are trying to do a parkrun at every letter of the alphabet apart from X, as there aren't any in the whole world beginning with it.

We are collecting a Y today, and there are only two in England, so here we are at Yarborough on the outskirts of Lincoln.

It looks deserted, but actually 220 people did the run, and lots of them were tourists like ourselves. We are only now missing a Z.

After a pleasant run and reasonably good times, we then caught a train to Nottingham to see family.

Today is Sunday and we are going with Elaine and Mark to Birmingham to see the British Indoor Athletics Championships 2024.

To make life easier for us we popped our bikes in the boot of their car and we whizzed there in about an hour.

We don't usually follow athletics very closely, but it was an excellent day out and packed full of action.

The most disappointing and surprising thing that we found out though, is that the race walkers walk really, really quickly and they are actually much faster walkers than we are runners.

Hopefully we don't like as silly as them though.

Friday 16 February 2024

Lincoln Cathedral

Following our very poor efforts at the cathedrals of Salisbury and Winchester, we decided that we would try harder at Lincoln.

After many decades being shrouded in scaffolding, I was very pleased to find that it was all taken down about eight months ago leaving the entrance looking immaculate.

We booked on the morning guided tour and heard all about the history of the place. Work started almost 1,000 years ago, although it was much smaller than it is today. It was originally just a small fortified square building that was made mostly of wood that soon burned down.

Work started again and that was mostly destroyed by an earthquake, and then work started again. But then most of the money that had been collected to pay for the building was stolen in an uprising.

They carried on building but had to scale back their plans, although it does look magnificent now. In fact, it also used to have a huge wooden spire, and in 1,311 it became the tallest building in the world until it fell down in a storm 237 years later.

In the 1,300's a civil war and battle caused most of the stained glass windows to be destroyed. The small pieces of glass were carefully saved and about 100 years later an architect got the job of putting it back together. People assumed that he was going to put the pictures back together, but that was too difficult so instead he made a lovely random pattern.

At the moment a huge globe is hanging from the ceiling, and a few months ago we saw it in Bath Abbey when we went there for a concert.

We also saw the Lincoln Imp which is a legendary naughty creature that turned up and caused a lot of trouble, until an angel got fed up with it and turned it to stone - allegedly.

In the afternoon we decided to do a cathedral double header and signed up for the roof walk.

We climbed up lots of spiral staircases inside hidden parts of the building and saw all of the massive oak beams that hold up the roof.

We also walked along a hidden floor near the ceiling and got some brilliant views of the interior.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Woking to Lincoln

What a lovely day for a bike ride. We took a risk by cycling across country lanes and fields first thing this morning. We also cycled along Muddy Lane near Wisley, and surprisingly it didn't live up to its name.

Then we cycled along a gorgeous canal on our route towards London.

A little further along we came across Brooklands Museum, and although we didn't go in, we got a great view of Concorde from the cycle path.

We were under time pressure today as we had to be at Kings Cross Station for the 1.06pm train to Lincoln.

We set off at 8.30 to allow time for stops along the way and we had a coffee just before the halfway point near to Hampton Court Palace.

After that it was straight back on the road and on to a track next to the River Thames. This time the track was much more uneven and full of puddles which slowed us down a lot. Then we reached a succession of royal parks including Hampton Court, Richmond and Hyde Park.

Then we had to navigate the streets of London, and at one point it seemed as if we would never get there, but we arrived at Kings Cross at 12.30. 

Plenty of time to get lunch and catch the train up north.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Wisley dinosaur display

Today we walked from our hotel to the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley. I was expecting it to be quiet as it is a dark and damp Wednesday in February, but actually it's school half term and they have a special dinosaur display.

The main action takes place in the glasshouse, which is heated and very steamy.

There was lots of fantastic corten dinosaurs, and this one is feeding from the top of a cactus. 

They would look amazing in my garden and I am strongly encouraging Darren to take up metalworking to make some for me.

They also had dinosaurs made from plants that took a bit of finding.

This pterodactyl is just about to sit on it's nest. 

We went round the whole display and then wandered around the grounds where everywhere is totally immaculate, and springing into life.

Snowdrops and tiny irises were everywhere and I have lots of ideas for my garden, including this.

I am going to try it with a prickly wild rose bush.

Afterwards, we went back to the dinosaurs again as it was much quieter, so we followed all the clues set up for the children and got my guidebook stamped for being a clever girl.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Marwell to Woking

The rain was just starting as we left our hotel, but it was only light and didn't really spoil our 15 kilometre cycle ride to Winchester. Once there we left the cycle path, took one turn and straight away came across the famous statue.

King Alfred the Great, looking triumphant in middle of his roundabout. 

'Scholar, soldier, statesman, King Alfred restored Winchester after the Dark Ages and made the city his capital', said my guidebook. He died in 899, which seems a startling long time ago.

We were getting cold and wet by now, so we abandoned plans to do a city walking tour, and went straight to see the cathedral.

I was pleased to see that this cathedral, like Salisbury, has no scaffolding around it, but it also doesn't have a spire. Why not? Well apparently it did originally, but it fell down in 1107.

Getting colder by the second we decided to head to the train station and catch the fast train directly to Woking. (This wasn't a cop out, it wasn't always part of the plan as the distance is too great to cycle in a day.)

After a lot of drama and delays we arrived at Woking station which wasn't too far from our hotel, so off we went again.

In the distance we saw Newark Priory. It was built on an island of the River Wey between 1189 and 1199.  The ruins of it are now on private land, so impossible to get close to.

The Priory was dissolved by Henry 8th in 1537, and was destroyed by a cannon from a nearby hill.

It is said to be haunted by monks who wander around the flat watery fields, but fortunately they didn't trouble us as we cycled slowly on our way.

Monday 12 February 2024

Marwell Hotel and Zoo

We are staying at what is supposed to be a boutique spa hotel, but is actually nothing of the kind. Think more of a slightly run down Travelodge located in the middle of nowhere.

However, our room is large and warm, although the shower is challenging and the breakfast exceptionally poor.

Anyway, it is next to a safari park and the sun is shining, so we paid a visit.

Everywhere was very green, and they had lots of zebras, deer, and horsey style animals that live in fields.

Also four very nice giraffes, and a handy full size photo on the wall so that you can measure yourself against them.

In the aviary there was lots of colourful birds, and they really liked my shoe laces, probably thinking that they were tasty pink worms.

They didn't have full size hippos, but had three pygmy ones. They were inside today and it was nice and warm in their house, but we found a life sized model for a photo.

Finally, they had three rhinos, and right next to their field was a crashed safari truck that looked like something straight out of Jurassic Park.

Fortunately we escaped unscathed.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Salisbury to Marwell (near Winchester)

Quick update from yesterday that I have just read in The Times. Apparently the cathedral in Salisbury has had scaffolding up for the last 38 years, and they took it down at the end of last week just so that we could get a good photo.

But on to today, and feeling refreshed we were all packed up and ready to set off, just waiting for the drizzle to stop and for Darren to mend another puncture. 

Once the weather picked up and the tyre was full of air, we rolled out of town and after a few miles we reached East Grimstead - not grim at all, and quite picturesque.

We had a nice coffee stop outside a little general store, 

and in fact, we had quite a relaxed day.

No dramas occured as we didn't have to pedal through floods, the hills were much lower and smoother and we didn't get lost or have to turn back.

Just lovely views and lots of sunshine.

Our hotel for tonight is right next door to a safari park although I haven't heard any lions roaring yet, and for some reason has a nice Easter Island themed flower bed.

Saturday 10 February 2024

Devizes to Salisbury

Busy, busy day today, starting with the Quaker's Walk parkrun.

My sister says that this would make a good Instagram photo, but really I was just trying to show off my new teeshirt and wristband on my 251st run.

After a quick breakfast and checking out of our hotel, we set off to try and find a fairly dry route to get to Salisbury.

We wasted quite a bit of time riding down a lovely long track that appeared to end at a farmhouse, and I found the farmer who had just climbed down from his tractor.

'Are we trespassing?' I asked him and he boomed 'get off my land' and then burst out laughing and said that he had always wanted to say that. He then kindly explained that we were on the right route, but it now set off across his fields, and that although the first field looked not too wet, the next one would be like porridge to wade through.

Disappointed we retraced our steps and followed the road through a host of picturesque villages, non of which had any coffee shops.

Part of our problem was that we had to cycle around the huge Salisbury Plains military area, although we found lots of interesting street signs.

We didn't encounter any tanks, but did hear lots of gunshots in the distance.

By the afternoon we were really tired and had to decide wether to cycle on a 4 kilometre detour to see Stonehenge. In the end we thought it too historic to miss, so cycled and pushed the bikes up a big hill and along the side of a very busy and fast A road.

Stonehenge is in the far distance and we enjoyed it from afar before turning around and speeding back down the hill and on to Salisbury.

Next stop was a look at the cathedral, and we got fairly close to this ancient building.

By now I was cold and quite exhausted so we dragged ourselves to the Premier Inn not far out of town.

We just had time to drop off our kit, as we had booked to see a starlight string quartet in St Thomas's church back in the centre of Salisbury that started at 6pm. After a very fast dinner at the Golden Arches we speed walked back into town, and then Darren checked and found that the concert actually started at 6.30.

This was actually quite welcome news as we were first in so bagged a front row pew and a glass of wine from the in church bar. The concert was excellent and was mainly the music from the TV series Bridgerton and The Crown.

It only lasted just over an hour, we were back at the hotel not long after 8pm and I am now going to bed.

Friday 9 February 2024

Bath to Devizes on the Bromptons

Due to the extremely wet weather forecast we have been deliberating all week wether to go ahead with our plans for a cycle tour. However, today we decided to go for it, and timed our departure with a gap in the showers.

It all started well and then we arrived at the first of the two disused railway tunnels on the Sustrans route. We knew that it was closed due to flooding and we hoped that there would be a marked diversion.

No such luck and we had to find our own way around a mini mountain and then back on to the trainline. It took a lot of time and pedal power, but eventually we got back and then it was easy going through the much longer second tunnel.

Then it was on to a canal towpath with lots of deep puddles, which although fun at first, were very slow going, and Darren soon got a puncture.

After a speedy change we bounced along for a few miles to Bradford on Avon for coffee and giant chunks of flapjack. We also decided on a route change to get off the towpath and onto the roads for the rest of the journey.

After a few miles we passed a sign saying 'road closed', but like most of the cars around us, we ignored it and carried on.

The reason for the closure soon appeared in the distance.

The road was flooded for about 100 metres, but some cars were driving through it. Another cyclist appeared as we were wondering what to do, and he decided to cycle through it. He got safely to the other side, although his racing bike meant that his feet were much higher off the ground than ours would be.

To turn back would involve a very long detour so we set off, following the white line in the middle of the road. The big surprise was that it wasn't a massive puddle, but quite a fast flowing river.

The water came over the top of my new wellies and it was difficult to keep the handlebars facing forward, but we made it through.

I did my best to empty the water out of my boots and I guarantee that we won't do anything like this ever again!

After that it was a doddle to get to Devizes and relax.