Back Home

We went on another British road trip last week and I managed to be organised enough to schedule some posts to be published while I was away, just in case I didn’t have access to the internet. It turned out that I didn’t feel much like being online anyway, I was too tired as usual, what with running around during the day.

We visited mainly places which we hadn’t visited before. It’s sad but true that I enjoy visiting places in the UK which I’ve heard about, mainly on the TV or radio – often just on road traffic reports, and I wonder what they’re like if I’ve not visited them.

So now I can envisage Wigan, Haydock, Biddulph Gardens, Buxton, Alcester, Blenheim Palace (Woodstock and Bladon) Geddington, Market Harborough, Geoff Hamilton’s Garden at Barnsdale (Rutland), Uppingham, Oakham, Wetherby, Northallerton, Mount Grace Priory, Sedgefield, Washington Village, Morpeth, Rothbury, Cragside and Wooler. The only places we had visited before were Alcester, Blenheim/Woodstock, Morpeth, Cragside and Wooler.

This time we started off driving down south via Moffat in the Scottish Borders. The bookshop was open and I bought two books –
1. Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
2. Crazy Pavements by Beverley Nichols

It was a bookish beginning to our break, we were heading for Wigan, an unlikely place to visit but as I had just read George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier I was intrigued to find out what it was like now. It has a newish shopping mall but you can tell from the older buildings that Wigan was indeed down at heel in the 1930s. Unlike many places, mainly down south, there was virtually nothing in the way of art deco/1930s buildings. From which I assume that nobody was doing any building at that time, it was a very depressed area. It’s not exactly vibrant at the moment but it’s still an awful lot better than Kirkcaldy, my nearest large town, which seems to have yet another empty shop each time I visit it.

We stopped off at Buxton, mainly because it was a Georgian spa town and has associations with Jane Austen.

Sedgefield was chosen as an overnight visit mainly because it was Tony Blair’s constituency when he was an MP and I wanted to compare it with Kirkcaldy. In the end I didn’t even take any photos there as it was such a wee place with just a few shops, a village really. I feel quite unreasonably aggrieved with the inhabitants of Sedgefield for voting in Tony Blair as their MP and allowing Blair to set off on his egomaniacal merry power binge which has put us in the horrendous position we are in now.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to over the last week or so and I plan to show you some photos of the various places which I hope you might be quite interested to see.

What did I buy when I was away? Not a lot really, apart from some more books, but that’s another blogpost.

Alcester, Warwickshire

Sadly the school holidays are over now in Scotland and Jack is back at work, the six weeks always seem to go so quickly but it seems such a long time since we were down in England at the beginning of the holidays. We had planned to go up north too but just didn’t get around to it.

When we were in Alcester the town was still festooned with Diamond Jubilee bunting and they were obviously looking forward to the Olympic Games as they had that bunting up too. It was definitely the most decorated town that we saw.

old shop in Alcester, Warwickshire

Alcester bunting

Diamond Jubilee and Olympic bunting 2

Alcester is a really small town but I like its atmosphere and they seem to have a good commmunity spirit there.

These cute wee houses are just at the top of the High Street, behind the church, and that seemed to be where the bunting stopped. It looks like a very quiet area but I think the church bells will shatter their peace quite often.

Butter Street, Alcester, Warwickshire

These Tudor buildings are so different from the grey stone and grey/purple slate houses that I’m used to in Scotland, that I can’t quite get over how fragile and pretty they look. Like something out of a fairy tale, it looks like a few huff-puffs would blow them down, but obviously not.

a higgledy-piggledy house in Alcester, Warwickshire

There are quite a few drinking establishments in and around Alcester’s High Street, just imagine coming out of one after you’ve had a drink or two …. and finding these buildings leaning at you as you lurch home!

Church Street

Meeting Lane in Alcester, Warwickshire

I suppose they’ll be taking all the bunting down now that all the celebration fun is over. I wonder what the town is like at Christmas? Oh! I can’t believe I said that word!

You might wonder what took us to Alcester in the first place, it’s a very small town but ancient as you can see but it’s far older than Tudor times, the Romans had a settlement there. We hadn’t even heard of the place until we bought an old clock which has Alcester painted on its face along with the maker’s name – T. Jorns – which I think is a Scandinavian name. I’m sure that there was still an electrical shop with that name above it not too long ago but by the time we got to Alcester there was no trace of the name anywhere and nobody could remember anyone with that unusual name. I thought it would have been great to get a photo of the place where our clock was made. Anyway, it could have been ‘born’ in any of the shops in the town or even in a house, the clock led us to a pleasant part of England anyway and I imagine we’ll be going back in the future as it’s well placed for travelling to different parts of the country. I found this interesting site of the principal inhabitants of the town in 1791, it’s amazing how many different traders there were. Thomas Jorns is mentioned but there’s no clue as to where he lived or traded.

Clock Face T Jorns Alcester

Coughton Court, Alcester, Warwickshire, England

When I opened the curtains on the last day of our recent trip down to England I could hardly believe what I saw – blue sky and sunshine, and the forecast had been for yet more rain, not that I’m complaining that they got it wrong!

Anyway, after journeying across to Wales it was now time to visit the more local places, so Coughton Court, just a mile or so from where we were staying in Alcester was our destination. So we used our National Trust membership cards yet again. It’s a Tudor house/mansion which has been in the hands of the Throckmorton family for centuries. The Throckmortons were a very high status Catholic family who must have had a great survival instinct as they managed to avoid the grim destinies which so many Catholic (and Protestant) families endured due to the politics of the Tudor/Elizabethan times.
This is a view of the front of the house.

Coughton Court, front

And the house from the back.

Coughton Court

This is a bit of the formal gardens.

Coughton Court, view in garden
The house and gardens are lovely and it was such a plus that it was a lovely warm sunny day, perfect for wandering around the gardens. Inside the house there are all sorts of interesting things to see like a chemise which supposedly belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots, apparently the one which she was wearing when she got the chop. It’s suspiciously clean, no bloodstains, so I have my doubts about that but I suppose it is possible. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s garter is on display too, they were obviously keen on obtaining things belonging to prominent Catholics.

The house was used as a meeting place by the Gunpowder Plotters who had rented it, the owner had the sense not to be there when they were so he couldn’t be implicated.

There are lovely tapestries but no photography was allowed as they’re 450 years old and would be damaged by the light from flashes. There’s a priest’s hole which you can peek down into and a wonderful view from the top of the tower. Despite the fact that the place is so ancient the rooms do have quite a homely atmosphere. There’s a Mrs Throckmorton still residing in the house and although the house has beeen handed over to the National Trust the family has been given permission to live there for the next three hundred years.

This is a view from the top of the tower, I have no idea what the house in the distance is but they have a very good view of Coughton Court.
Coughton Court, Alcester
It isn’t all absolutely ancient stuff and some of the rooms are as they were in more recent times with a wind-up gramophone featuring in a sitting-room. If you want to see and read more about Coughton Court have a look here. Follow the instructions and you can go on a virtual tour.

Road Trip to Warwickshire

You might have noticed that it has been a wee bit quiet here recently. I’ve been away in England again, just for a few days and quite spur of the momentish as we had been planning to go later, then we remembered that everywhere gets very busy once the school kids are on holiday down in England, which won’t be happening for another week or two. So we dashed down, just for three nights this time, which was long enough as we were beginning to miss our own bed by then.

As usual I added my Netbook into the luggage, intending to blog whilst I was away – and as ever, I didn’t get around to turning it on.

We stayed at Alcester, Warwickshire again, it is a nice wee quaint place, and we also visited Temple Grafton, Great Malvern, Worcester, Haye-on-Wye and Ross-on-Wye.

We had intended visiting Blenheim, but the weather wasn’t great so we decided to leave that for another time so that the gardens would look their best. Coughton Court is actually just a hop and a skip from Alcester and is a National Trust property so we went there. Then on the way back home we dropped in at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. So I’ll be putting some photos on ‘pining’ very soon.

Alcester, Warwickshire, England

We travelled on from Morecambe to Alcester in Warwickshire which is a small town with around 9,000 inhabitants. Of course you’ll know that when an English place name has chester, caster or cester in it it means that their was a Roman camp there. Castris is Latin for camp. So it’s no surprise that there’s an interesting wee museum in Alcester (which the locals pronounce Ulster, exactly like the place in Ireland) and it has quite a lot of things in it which have been found locally. Apparently Roman Alcester is only a few centimetres below the soil. As someone who was brought up in Scotland and north of the Antonine Wall, the Roman Empire stopped just a few miles south of Dumbarton, I find it really exciting to think that you could be digging in your garden and discover Roman artefacts. If I lived in Alcester I think I’d be forever poking around in the soil.

Anyway the town is only 8 miles from Stratford-on-Avon which we also visited but Alcester turned out to be a really lovely wee town although like many places it’s feeling the pain of the downturn in the economy. There are lots of charity shops, which I’m not really complaining about because as you can imagine – I did rather well out of them bookwise!

This is the main street, I think it’s really lovely, it’s pretty enough to be on a jigsaw puzzle or chocolate box. I’m used to grey stone buildings which can be quite depressing at times so whitewashed buildings make a nice change.

The Main Street in Alcester
This is one of the pubs, I have to say that Alcester is well served with boozers!
The Three Tuns

This road is just off the main street in Alcester and I just had to take a photo of it as the buildings are leaning every way you can imagine but still managing to stay up somehow.

Tudor/Elizabethan houses.

This small road or alley way close to the main street feels like Shakespeare could have been a frequent visitor, I’m sure the place has hardly changed since those days.

Tudor alley

This is the buildings on the opposite side of the street. Our own house is over 100 years but it always amazes me that there are actually people living in these types of houses which must be about 500 years old, or maybe even older.

Tudor alley

These brick houses are at the bottom of the same street.

Tudor alley

Yet more cute, chocolate boxy English buildings.

Tudor /Elizabethan street

Obviously Jack took this one as that’s me in my raincoat on the left hand side, not realising that he was taking a photo. As you can see it wasn’t actually raining at this point, things did get much worse!

Tudor /Elizabethan street

So that’s Alcester, a small town that I would definitely visit again, I’m sure there’s much more to explore in the area. We hadn’t even heard of the place until we bought a grandfather clock for a spot in our hall which was just crying out to be filled with one. I had wanted a Scottish clock but I had been looking for years but in Scotland they tend to go for silly prices so I gave up and bought an English one as you can see.

It has the name T. Jorns ( a very unusual name) and Alcester painted on the clock face and when we looked it up we discovered that it was in Warwickshire, which accounts for the apples painted in the corners of its face as it’s apple growing country. I’m sure that when I started to do some research that I discovered that there was still a shop in Alcester which was owned by a Jorns, an electrical shop. Sadly there’s no trace of one now, which isn’t really surprising as there are hardly any independent electrical places around now. Thomas Jorns did actually make the clock, sometimes the name and place on a clock just tells you where it was bought rather than made. It’s just a 30 hour one which means that you pull a chain to wind it up instead of using a key but it keeps good time and has a lovely sound to the bell when it strikes the hours, and as it’s nearly 200 years old I think that’s not at all bad. If I forget to wind it up and it stops – I notice immediately because it sounds as if our house’s heart has stopped.

Clock Face T Jorns Alcester