A website about things to do in England


18 February 2013

Walk in Woodchester Park

Known for its unfinished 19th century Gothic revival mansion - abandoned around 1870 by workmen who never returned - Woodchester Park can be an eerie place, not least because the high wooded sides of the valley prevent winds from penetrating too far and make for a quiet and atmospheric setting. 

The Park itself is maintained by the National Trust, and is open to the public, allowing visitors to wander a network of paths around the lakes, trees and fields and wonder what it might have looked like when the house was occupied during the 18th century.
For more, see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woodchester-park/
^Picture © Stewart Black used under a Creative Commons license^

30 January 2013

Tour the HMS Trincomalee

The centrepiece of Hartlepool's Maritime Experience, a themed recreation of the town in the 18th century, HMS Trincomalee was built in Bombay, India, in 1817 and is the oldest British warship still afloat, and is said to be the second oldest floating ship in the world. 

The boat sits in the town's Jackson Dock where she was brought in 1987 for 10 years of restoration following work as a training ship, and is now part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection.

For more, see http://www.hms-trincomalee.co.uk/
^Picture © Martyn Wright used under a Creative Commons license^

25 January 2013

Stay at Beverley friary

A truly beautiful Youth Hostel set in a 600 year old restored Dominican friary, Beverley friary sits close to the centre of the Yorkshire market town of Beverley and has been a youth hostel since the 1980s. Following a recent £340,000 refurbishment, the friary re-opened in October and the results are impressive. 

Whilst your author didn't meet the ghostly Dominican Friar who is said to live there he was thoroughly impressed with the amazing friary. It isn't often you get to spend a night in a place mentioned in the Canterbury Tales for a tenner, and explore your own medieval and Tudor wall paintings, high beamed ceilings and stone fireplaces. The friendly volunteer warden charged with greeting winter visitors was a particular pleasure, and the place was a fine example of the interesting buildings in which the YHA has hostels.

For more, see http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/beverley-friary

24 January 2013

Visit Grimsby's Fishing Heritage Centre

Grimsby's Fishing Heritage Centre opened at Alexandra Dock in 1991, aiming to tell the story of the town's fishing heritage, with a particular focus on what was like for trawlermen and their families in the 1950s.  

The Museum offers the chance to climb aboard the Ross Tiger, a 1950's trawler acquired by the town in 1992 for £1, and moored beside the museum, with other highlights based around the recreation of '50s Grimsby.

For more, see http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/resident/museums-and-heritage/fishing-heritage-centre/

^Picture © Dave Hitchborne used under a Creative Commons license^

23 January 2013

See the Boston Stump

The parish church in the Lincolnshire town of Boston is one of the largest parish churches in England, known for its huge tower - visible for miles around in a particularly flat area of the Fens - which is affectionately referred to as the Boston Stump and used for navigation by everyone from 16th century farmers to Second World War bomber pilots. 

Construction of the church started in 1309, but the tower was not begun for another century, until 1450, with the church completed by 1510. The church is known for its library, founded in 1634 and regarded as one of the best parish libraries in the country.

For more, see http://www.parish-of-boston.org.uk/

^Picture © The National Churches Trust used under a Creative Commons license^

22 January 2013

Walk on Skegness Pier

Opened in time for the summer season in 1881 and built by Head Wrightson of Stockton, Skegness Pier was designed to allow North Sea boat trips, which we are told ran as far as The Wash and Hunstanton in 1882. 

Despite various bumps and scrapes - from a ship in 1919, floods in 1953, demolition work in 1971 - the pier remained intact until severe gales caused damage in 1978, and further damage caused the pier to be partially dismantled in the 1980s. Whilst only 118 metres of the pier remain, it has since been refurbished and is still a popular spot for visitors.

For more, see http://www.skegnesspier.co.uk

^Picture © foxolio used under a Creative Commons license^

21 January 2013

Spot birds on Frampton Marsh

A large nature reserve on the edge of the Wash in near Boston in Lincolnshire, RSPB is a coastal wetland reserve in one of Britain's most important feeding grounds for birds, particularly in winter. 

The winter season - we are told - brings Brent geese from Siberia to feed on the saltmarsh in their thousands, and also offers us the chance to seeflocks of lapwings and golden plovers.

For more, see http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/f/framptonmarsh/index.aspx

^Picture © Graham Horn used under a Creative Commons license^

14 January 2013

Visit Sutton Hoo

Though the treasures of the Sutton Hoo ship burial are now held by the British Museum, the 255 acre site on which they were found, beside the River Deben in Suffolk, is now in the care of the National Trust and is open to the public. 

The estate is home to cemeteries from the 6th and 7th centuries, in the fields of grassy mounds, inside one of which was the undisturbed 7th century ship burial - excavated in 1939 - which gave up the treasures now held in the British Museum. The site also has a visitors centre, which is open at weekends at this time of year.

For more, see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo/

^Picture © p_a_h used under a Creative Commons license^

7 January 2013

Drink at the Ship Inn, Blaxhall

Your author recently spent a agreeable evening at the Ship Inn in Blaxhall, a historic Suffolk pub known for its folk and traditional music and traditional Suffolk step dancing. 

A Grade II listed, 17th century pub in rural Suffolk which claims to include smugglers, shepherds, seafarers, pilots, tourists and locals among its previous customers, the Ship offers bed and breakfast and is also located conveniently close to a hostel run by the YHA, offering a choice of where to lay your head after an evenings step dancing.

For more, see http://www.blaxhallshipinn.co.uk/

^Picture © Chris Holifield used under a Creative Commons license^

6 January 2013

See David Shrigley's HOW ARE YOU FEELING?

Your author popped in to see David Shrigley's HOW ARE YOU FEELING? at the Cornerhouse in Manchester yesterday and as ever thoroughly enjoyed the amusing and thoughtful works of the Glasgow artist. The exhibition - which has its final day today - features a mix of Shrigley's trademark small drawings alongside some larger interactive pieces. 

The strategically-placed napping mattresses for those overcome with fatigue during their visits were particularly appealing, as was the opportunity to sound a huge gong and whilst your author didn't attempt to draw a naked humanoid figure designed by Shrigley in the third floor gallery or act out a play by the artist, both were well-executed and typically thoughtful.

For more, see http://www.cornerhouse.org/david-shrigley/

^Picture © Karen Cropper used under a Creative Commons license^

5 January 2013

Join the Waldron Wassail

The last gasps of the Christmas season are fading away and Wassailing season is upon us, the time of year when apple trees are blessed to ensure a good harvest later in the year. The Waldron Wassail takes place this evening at Waldron in Sussex, with Long Man Morris, Old Star Morris and Winter Solstice Mummers gathering at the Star Inn for a Wassail.

Those visiting are told to expect Morris dancing at the village war memorial and a mummers play, followed by the wassailing in the garden. As the events take place outside, visitors are advised to dress warmly and prepare to join in.

For more, see http://www.starinn-waldron.co.uk/upcoming-events/

^Picture © Paul Farmer, used under a Creative Commons license^

4 January 2013

See the site of a Viking Invasion

In 991 AD, after sacking the town of Ipswich, a huge Viking fleet sailed down the coast and landed at Northey Island in the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, preparing to take Maldon. Here as they waited for the tide to fall, they were trapped on the island by the East Saxon forces of Æthelred the Unready, led by Earl Byrhtnoth and his forces. 

When the Viking forces requested payment to leave, Byrhtnoth refused and challenged them to battle, but as the high tide prevented proper battle, the Vikings were allowed onto the mainland and the Battle of Maldon commenced, ending in defeat for the Anglo-Saxons. Today, the site is remembered as the oldest recorded battlefield in Britain. Today the island, which is in the care of the National Trust, can be visited by prior arrangement.

For more, see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northey-island/

^Picture © terry joyce used under a Creative Commons license^

3 January 2013

Walk to the Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall

One of the oldest intact churches in England, it is believed that there has been a chapel on the site of St Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex since around 653 AD when St Cedd arrived from Lindisfarne at the invitation of Sigeberht the Good, then King of the East Saxons. Though the current chapel probably dates from around 660 AD, it is remarkable that it has survived so well. 

The chapel was built using bricks from the Roman fortress which once stood on the same site and is built against the wall of the ruins of the abandoned Roman fort of Othona, and takes its name from this. Today, it stands at the end of a long distance path from Chipping Ongar called the St Peter's Way, which makes a lovely if tiring walk over a few days.

For more, see http://www.bradwellchapel.org/

2 January 2013

Walk in Hadleigh Country Park, Essex

Whilst many might dismiss the area around Southend on Sea, your author finds the tidal creeks between Benfleet and Leigh-on-Sea particularly beautiful, and the stretch beneath Hadleigh Castle - itself am impressive 13th century construction refortified during the Hundred Years War and open for free by English Heritage - is this part of the world at its best. 

Between the castle and the creekside, Hadleigh Country Park offers more than 350 acres of parkland, with a mix of woodland, grassland and marsh, with a nearby bridge - just outside the park - enabling walkers to cross to the Essex Wildlife Trust's nature reserve at Two Tree Island.

For more, see http://www.hadleighcountrypark.co.uk/

^Picture © Edward Clack used under a Creative Commons license^

30 December 2012

Visit the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham

First opened in 1962 in a former methodist chapel in the village of Cookham, Berkshire, the Stanley Spencer Gallery collects together some works of art by celebrated English painter and Cookham resident Sir Stanley Spencer. 

There can be no more fitting place to view the work of an artist so closely associated with both the village of Cookham than the chapel in which he once worshiped as a member of the congregation and many of the works on show feature Cookham, which was very much a theme of the artist's work, and where - particularly in later life - he could often be seen wandering the lanes of Cookham pushing a pram in which he carried his materials for painting. The pram is on show in the gallery.

For more, see http://stanleyspencer.org.uk/

29 December 2012

See the Uffington White Horse

Though a number of white horses and other white figures exist on the chalk downland of Southern England, the Uffington Horse is particularly special as it is believed to date from the the Iron Age or the late Bronze Age, making it significantly older than many of its contemporaries. 

The horse is found close to the ancient trackway known as the Ridgeway and sits just below Uffington Castle, an ancient hill fort with which it is often assumed to be connected.

For more, see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/white-horse-hill/

23 December 2012

Celebrate Tom Bawcock's Eve

To the tiny village of Mousehole in Cornwall, where today locals and visitors will be celebrating Tom Bawcock's Eve, as they do every 23rd December, remembering 16th century fisherman Tom Bawcock, who set out onto a stormy sea when no other boats were able to fish and the residents faced starvation, and returned with fish for everyone in time for Christmas. 

The festival combines with the annual Christmas lights in the village to make it a festive hotspot, and still sees the making of Stargazy pie, a pie of baked pilchards, egg and potatoes, with the heads of the pilchards poking out to prove that there are fish inside.

For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Bawcock's_Eve

^Picture © Rod Allday used under a Creative Commons license^

16 December 2012

Rather English - Drink from St Ann's Well, Buxton

Thanks to ubiquitous plastic bottles of the stuff, Buxton is now known around the country for its mineral water, and the Peak District town still takes great pride in its waters. For those seeking a more authentic experience than getting it off the shelves at their local corner shop, it still comes straight out of the ground at St Ann's Well on the Crescent in the centre of town. 

The current well casing was installed around 1940 as a tribute to Councillor Emelie Dorothy Bounds, on a site where wells have stood since Roman times. The well sees water gush from the mouth of a bronze lion's head, and features a statue of St Ann and child.

For more, see http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-463339-st-anns-well-derbyshire

13 December 2012

Eat at the Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley

Your author passed a very pleasant evening by the fire yesterday at the Pheasant Inn at Higher Burwardsley, a great little pub at the end of a network of Cheshire lanes which traces its history back to at least the seventeenth century. 

We are told that Burwardsley once meant 'clearing in the woods', and today the pub is a haven for walkers, sitting as it does on the Sandstone Trail, as recently featured on this website. For those looking to stay a little longer, the pub has comfortable rooms and even serves a good Christmas Dinner, as your author experienced a couple of years. ago.

For more, see http://www.thepheasantinn.co.uk
^Picture © Peter Styles used under a Creative Commons license^

12 December 2012

Wander the Rows of Chester

A distinctive aspect of the city centre in Chester is the Chester Rows, with half-timbered galleries, accessed via steps, forming a second row of shops above those at street level. A feature of the streets radiating from Chester Cross, they are found in Watergate, Eastgate and Northgate Streets and in Upper Bridge Street.

Though their origins of the Rows are subject to debate, it is thought that they date from at least the 13th century. A number of suggestions about how they came to be exist, with some believing that as Chester's Roman buildings slowly crumbled, medieval traders built their shops along the top of this debris accessed by a path or steps from the roadside, with subsequent alterations seeing stalls spring up along the road to display goods. Another suggestion is that the constructions were designed to help prevent a repeat of a fire that all but destroyed the city in 1278. Whatever their origins they are an interesting feature of Chester.

For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Rows
^Picture © orangeacid used under a Creative Commons license^

Wander the Rows of Chester

A distinctive aspect of the city centre in Chester is the Chester Rows, with half-timbered galleries, accessed via steps, forming a second row of shops above those at street level. A feature of the streets radiating from Chester Cross, they are found in Watergate, Eastgate and Northgate Streets and in Upper Bridge Street.

Though their origins of the Rows are subject to debate, it is thought that they date from at least the 13th century. A number of suggestions about how they came to be exist, with some believing that as Chester's Roman buildings slowly crumbled, medieval traders built their shops along the top of this debris accessed by a path or steps from the roadside, with subsequent alterations seeing stalls spring up along the road to display goods. Another suggestion is that the constructions were designed to help prevent a repeat of a fire that all but destroyed the city in 1278. Whatever their origins they are an interesting feature of Chester.

For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Rows
^Picture © orangeacid used under a Creative Commons license^

11 December 2012

Rather Welsh - Stay at Gladstone's Library

Your author has left England to travel three miles into the Welsh county of Flintshire for a stay at Gladstone's Library, Britain's only residential library, and also our only Prime Ministerial Library, established in the 19th-century in the village of Hawarden by William Ewart Gladstone, who is said to have transferred some 32,000 books half a mile down the road from his home at Hawarden Castle by wheelbarrow when already in his 80s.

As well as a fine collection of 250,000 books, journals and pamphlets on history, theology and a wide range of other subjects, the Library also has twenty-six well-furnished study bedrooms where visitors can stay for a period of time to study, think or rest, a relaxing lounge providing for enlightening conversation by a roaring fire and a fine restaurant providing decent meals daily.

For more, see http://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/

10 December 2012

Visit the Imperial War Museum North

Situated on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford, the Imperial War Museum North opened in 2002 to complement the Museum's other operations in Duxford and London.

The Museum's distinctive building is clad in aluminium and designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, and entry is free, attracting more than 2.5 million visitors over the decade since its opening. Your author found the experience every bit as informative as a visit to its 92 year old southern sister, with the added benefit of being situated in a purpose-built space which is used very well.

For more, see http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-north
^Picture © Gavin Llewellyn used under a Creative Commons license^

9 December 2012

Ride the 'world's first passenger railway'

A regular exhibit at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry allows visitors to take a ride on the site where the first passenger steam trains once travelled, on what was the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

The Musum occupies the buildings of Liverpool Road station, the oldest surviving passenger railway station in the world and on some days visitors even get to ride behind Planet, a replica 1830 Robert Stephenson and Company steam locomotive. For TV fans the short journey also runs alongside Granada Studios, offering the chance to peer in and see where TV classics such as Coronation Street and Sooty were filmed.

For more, see http://www.mosi.org.uk/whats-on/train-rides.aspx

8 December 2012

Visit the People's History Museum

Tracing its origins from the Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative History Society, Manchester's People's History Museum is just as you might imagine it, started in the 1960s as a small collection which was exhibited in a museum in Limehouse Town Hall in London between 1975 and 1986, it's difficult to say whether it says more about the political polarisation of our country or about the fine work in encouraging regional museums.

We are told that the museum came to Manchester due to funding offers from the local authorities, and opened in 1990 on Princess Street in the city. After a refurbishment between 2007 and 2010, it reopened on the left bank of the River Irwell where it is still open for free daily. The result is a fine collection of artefacts and exhibits on social history around the country, with an occasional particular focus on Manchester.

For more, see http://www.phm.org.uk/
^Picture © David Dixon used under a Creative Commons license^

7 December 2012

Walk Cheshire's Sandstone Trail

A 34 mile distance walking path connecting Whitchurch in north Shropshire with Frodsham on the banks of the Mersey estuary, the Sandstone Trail follows a ridge of wooded sandstone hills which stretches all the way across an area of countryside known as the Cheshire Plain

Along the route, the trail takes in Bronze Age and Iron Age hill forts, Roman roads, Medieval churches and castles, and some spectacular views, and also inevitably passes some lovely pubs including the 17th century Pheasant Inn at Higher Burwardsley in the Peckforton Hills - itself built in red sandstone - at which your author once spent a fantastically snowy Christmas.

For more, see http://www.sandstonetrail.com
^Picture © Jeff Buck used under a Creative Commons license^

6 December 2012

Visit Blists Hill Victorian Town

Some think it's a bit naff, but your author has always quite liked the recreated Victorian town at Blists Hill in Shropshire, above Ironbridge Gorge. Largely created since the 1970s amongst the remains of blast furnaces, brick & tile works and other industrial workings, as well as a stretch of Canal, the town today offers a window on what life might have been like in the area in Victorian times. 

The town has been put together through a mixture of new buildings and those brought from elsewhere, and even has its own pub in the shape of The New Inn, which was taken down and transported brick by brick from the its previous position on the corner of Green Lane and Hospital Street in Walsall in the early 1980s. Whilst the buildings and shop interiors are interesting readers should be warned that they may encounter people dressed up as Victorians attempting to interact with them.

For more, see http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/our_attractions/blists_hill_victorian_town/

^Picture © Martin Burns used under a Creative Commons license^

From November 2012 until January 2013, Tired of London, Tired of Life will briefly be posting as RatherEnglish.com and featuring interesting things to do in England

5 December 2012

Drink at the Crooked House

Found at the end of a long leafy lane in Gornalwood on the outskirts of Dudley, though technically just inside rural Staffordshire, the Crooked House was first built in 1765 as a farmhouse, and later became a public house known as the Siden House, owing its name - we are told - to the Black Country dialect, in which Siden means crooked. 

The reason for the crookedness of the house was mining in the area during the 19th century, which caused subsidence and threatened the very existence of the pub when it was condemned in the 1940s, only to be saved by Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries who embraced the interesting nature of the place and arranged for it to be reinforced with supporting buttresses and girders. Inside, your author found a warm welcome out of the driving rain outside, and discovered that the building is just as crooked inside as out, with heavy doors installed at a slight angle to add to the effect.

For more, see http://www.thecrooked-house.co.uk/ 

4 December 2012

Admire the Leaning Tower of Bridgnorth

The Shropshire town of Bridgnorth is an attractive place, with a high town set on a sandstone cliff above the River Severn, connected to the area known as the Low Town on the riverbank by an electric funicular railway. It isn't hard to see why - in 1101 - Robert de Belleme chose the top of the cliff as the spot for his castle, from which the surrounding area could be monitored. 

Today, all that remains of the castle is a formal gardens frequented by yappy dogs and the huge remains of one of the castle's towers, leaning at a rather alarming rate which locals claim is even greater than that of the bell tower at Pisa. Though the tower still stands, the rest of the castle was destroyed following a three week siege during the English Civil War. Following his victory, Cromwell ordered that the castle be demolished.

For more, see http://www.visitbridgnorth.co.uk/attractiondetails.php?estid=440>

3 December 2012

Visit the Morgan Museum

The Morgan Motor Company has been making cars in the Worcestershire spa town of Malvern for over 100 years, and unlike many other British car manufacturers they are still doing so.

The company also has a visitors centre and museum at their factory in the town's Pickersleigh Road, with guided tours of the factory available and interesting exhibitions five days a week, as well as a fine display of Morgan cars.

For more, see http://www.morgan-motor.co.uk/mmc/factoryvisits.html

^Picture © Bob Embleton used under a Creative Commons license^

2 December 2012

Drink at the Woolpack

One of your author's favourite pubs in the world, the Woolpack is a beautiful little freehouse in the heart of the sleepy Slad Valley made famous by the author Laurie Lee in his autobiographical book, Cider With Rosie, in which the pub itself played a starring role, as the young Lee gazes in through its steamed windows.

Lee remained a regular sight at the pub until his death in 1997 often sitting outside on long summer afternoons and - legend has it - taking American tourists who arrived looking for Laurie Lee's grave on wild goosechases around the churchyard.

The pub traces its history back to the 1640’s, when the wool industry was the main source of wealth in the area, and woolpacks such as the ones that appear on the pub sign were a common sight in the Slad Valley. Today, its compact interior is popular with locals and visitors most evenings, serving great food and fine ales from the local Uley and Stroud Breweries to thirsty punters.

For more, see http://www.thewoolpackinn-slad.com/

^Picture © BazzaDaRambler used under a Creative Commons license^

1 December 2012

Attend Stroud Farmers Market

Often cited as Britain's best farmers market, Stroud Farmers Market has a place close to your author's heart. Just over an hour and a half by train from London at the heart of five valleys, the market at Stroud takes place every Saturday until 2pm and boasts around 60 stalls a week, with a significant amount of organic produce.

The town of Stroud has a tradition of nonconformity and was at the forefront of the organic food movement, and the Woodruffs Cafe - just a short walk from the main market - claims to be Britain's first wholly organic cafe, so it is probably not a surprise that the market has bloomed and won various awards over the years, having been featured in various guides and - we are told - in the Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, The Independent, The Guardian Weekend, The Times and the Country Living Guide to Farmers' Markets. Those who particularly enjoy the local nature of the produce sourced from within 30 miles of the market, could also consider visiting the Made In Stroud shop nearby which sells only products from local artists and manufacturers.

For more, see http://www.fresh-n-local.co.uk/markets/stroud.php

^Picture © BazzaDaRambler used under a Creative Commons license^

30 November 2012

See the Hereford Mappa Mundi

The Mappa Mundi is held by Hereford Cathedral and is a fascinating map dating from around 1285, which shows the world as it was seen in medieval times. Apparently drawn on calf skin by Richard of Haldingham and Lafford, the map places Jerusalem at the centre, with the British Isles on the outer edges of the known world.

The map displays only what was known by Richard and his contemporaries, reaching no further than the River Ganges in India, the Nile in Africa and Norway and the Caspian Sea to the North, and for your author one of the most interesting aspects was the strange beasts, creatures and quasi-human animals which lurk around the edges of the map, presumably representing an acute fear of the unknown.

For more, see http://www.herefordcathedral.org/visit-us/mappa-mundi-1

^Picture from the Wikimedia Commons^

29 November 2012

Cross Sellack Swing Bridge

Your author has fond memories of catching minnows in the shallows of the River Wye below Sellack Bridge in Herefordshire as a child, and the swing bridge which crosses the river between the villages of Sellack and Kings Caple near Ross-on-Wye. The bridge was opened in 1898 to link the two parishes by public petition, apparently because the vicar was having trouble getting ferryboat men to take him across the river.

The bridge was commissioned by Hereford architect Mr Ernest G. Davies, and designed and built by Louis Harper of Aberdeen,, and opened in 1898. It has always struck your author as unusual as it stands in open countryside and does not carry a road, making it a pleasant inclusion to a walk in the beautiful surrounding countryside.

For more, see http://www.harperbridges.com/index.asp?id=29

^Picture © Trevor Rickard used under a Creative Commons license^

28 November 2012

Visit Kilpeck Church

Despite being irreligious, your author particularly appreciates a good church, and the tiny sandstone Church of St Mary and St David at Kilpeck, Herefordshire, is a particularly interesting one, noted for its Norman carvings which include serpents, angels, a green man, a Sheela na Gig and a menagerie of beasts including a hound, hare and ram.

The church is entered through a spectacular Norman arch and is thought to contain remnants of its earlier Saxon foundations, and the St David referenced in its name is thought to be a local Celtic St David rather than the famous 6th century Welsh Bishop, and the name of the village itself is thought to derive from Pedic, a local early Christian hermit, Kil Peddeg thought to imply the "cell of Pedic".

For more, see http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/kilpeck-church.htm

26 November 2012

Walk on Clevedon Pier, North Somerset

Originally built in the 1860s, Clevedon Pier in the small North Somerset town of Clevedon, was designed to allow paddle steamers to dock for services to South Wales and other places. Since 2001 it has been a Grade I listed structure making it - since the sad fire at Brighton's West Pier - the only Grade I listed pier open to the public, as well as being among the earliest Victorian piers still in existence.

Even after the building of the Severn Railway Tunnel to South Wales, the pier continued as a docking station for pleasure boats which took passengers around the Severn Estuary and recent years have seen a reprise, with boats such as the MV Balmoral and Paddle Steamer Waverley taking passengers from Clevedon to destinations such as the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm, as well as Penarth and Ilfracombe. Despite a collapse of two elements of the pier in 1970, an commendable campaign by the Clevedon Pier Preservation Trust saved the pier from demolition and after many years it was finally completely reopened in 1998.

For more, see http://www.clevedonpier.com/

^Picture © Matt Neale used under a Creative Commons license^

25 November 2012

Climb the Cabot Tower, Bristol

The city of Bristol has always been quite proud of its adopted son John Cabot, an Italian sailor who set sail from the port to become the first European to set foot on the mainland of North America, and at the end of the 19th century a tower was erected on top of Brandon Hill in the city to celebrate him.

The tower is still open to the public for free and whilst the staircase to access it is quite tight, the views from the top are exceptional, as Brandon Hill provides an excellent vantage point to survey the city.

For more, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabot_Tower,_Bristol

24 November 2012

Visit a prison built for French and American prisoners of war

Viewing the world with a 20th and 21st century mindset, it's hard to imagine a situation when there Britain would capture French and American prisoners of war but there was a time when it happened, and a place was needed to put them the French prisoners - taken during the Napoleonic Wars - were first imprisoned in derelict ships but between 1806 and 1809 Dartmoor prison was built to house them, and after 1812 they were joined by Americans taken in the war of 1812.

It isn't hard to see why the location - at the centre of one southern England's last great wildernesses - was chosen, but this is not just a historical anomaly and the prison still operates today and is home to more than 600 inmates. Indeed, but for a short break when it was used for conscientious objectors during the Great War, it has been in use as a prison ever since and a small museum operated by the Prison charts its history and even sells benches and garden ornaments made by inmates.

For more, see http://www.dartmoor-prison.co.uk/

23 November 2012

See the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives

Though the great 20th century sculptor Barbara Hepworth was born in Wakefield and spent time in Hampstead and Italy, moved to St Ives in Cornwall with her husband Ben Nicholson in 1939, and acquired a traditional stone building called Trewyn studios in 1949, working there until she was killed in a fire in the building in 1975.

The building which had become Hepworth's home was opened to the public - according to her wishes - in 1976 and remains open to the public all year round, allowing visitors the opportunity to see the place where Hepworth lived and worked and also to explore the beautiful garden she created with her friend, the South African-born composer Priaulx Rainier, who helped plant it with exotic plants.

For more, see http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum

22 November 2012

Visit the Tate's southwestern outpost

It's easy for Londoners to think that the Tate empire extends no further than Bankside and Pimlico, but most will be aware that there are other galleries under the Tate banner and last week your author visited the Tate St Ives for the first time. Designed by architects Evans and Shalev on the site of a former gas works the gallery is on Porthmeor Beach and opened in a town long famous for its art in 1993.

Though the block of flats being rather noisily built next door was rather off-putting, a warm welcome awaited and the current show The Far and The Near: St Ives and International Art was a good introduction to art in St Ives and how it fits with the wider world, even if the film which accompanied it was rather full of puffed-up artspeak. From there, your author continued to the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden, of which more in a couple of days.

For more, see http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives