Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Wells, Somerset

Wells is the one of the smallest Cathedral cities in England and is near to the village of Cheddar (previous post). It is ideal for timing to combine both places and visit them on the same day.

The name Wells originates from three wells in the historic centre dedicated to the memory of St Andrew. The example above is the one found in the market place. Although of minor importance in Roman times,  Wells became prominent in Saxon times when the King of Wessex organised the building of a church around 700 AD.

In the Middle Ages, it became a cloth making centre which decreased in importance although the market tradition carried on to this day.

Market place lamp, Wells

Doorway to market ( Penniless Porch)

It is unfortunate that in the city of the "three wells" that I only have a photographic record of one of them, so as an alternative.... I bring you the city of three doorways !!

Doorway to house

Doorway to Cathedral

Looking over the wall

Although there is evidence to suggest that parts of the cathedral date back to the 10th century, it is accepted that most of it is built in the 12th century with surrounding walls, buildings and entrances (Bishop's Eye and Penniless Porch) completing the enclosed area during the mid 15th century.

Vicar's close, Wells

Vicar's close, adjacent to the Cathedral, claims to be the oldest (late 14th century) residential street in Europe. Canon Walter de Hulle gave land for the building of homes for 13 priests. Architecturally, it is pure genius as the street is built in a tapered fashion with the width being 3 metres narrower at the top providing the optical illusion of a longer street.

On the opposite side of the Cathedral stands The Bishop's Palace which has been their home since the early 13th century.

The Gatehouse and moat built to protect it were built a little later during the 14th century...

 ... while the entrance from the market place into the Palace was built during the 15th century.

With the temptations of the market and the price of some of the more salubrious shops today, I felt that I could follow this ("shop till you drop") woman and take my seat in the ancient begging place called ....Penniless Porch !! ....

Penniless  Porch, Wells

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip hills of Somerset is made of Limestone Rock. The walls of rock can be accessed and viewed from the road that dissects it. It is probably better known for the origin of Cheddar cheese, the underground cave system and the subsequent village it has created.

The cone fairy and yellow line rules !
Cheddar Gorge is a small distance from the village of Cheddar but this place has developed as a commercial centre and is a village in its own right thanks to the tourist industry. I remember visiting the place as a child, so it was with some interest that I returned.

A few general overview pictures first before I finish off with the main attractions on offer...

Street with cave entrance in the background ...1960's !!

Old Rowlands overlooking the river, Cheddar Gorge

Derrick's Tea rooms, Cheddar. Picturesque house converted into tourist shops.

Although I don't want to sound too cynical and negative, it is possible to take your eye elsewhere by cropping your panoramic view and seeing some of the unspoilt natural beauty around that still exists.

House on the hill, Cheddar Gorge

The Gorge, Cheddar Gorge
Although I never visited the village in high summer in recent years, the first thing that struck me is the difficulty with traffic and car parking. The first time car visitor normally drives up the street looking for a car park nearer the attractions and ends up unsuccessfully in the walls of the Gorge viewing spectacular scenery while trying to remember that a car or a tourist bus is travelling behind them. It is virtually impossible to park anywhere except the main car park and as it is not on a vast scale, the local authorities seem to encourage short term parking.

The Old Cheddar Barn, Cheddar Gorge
The products of Somerset and The West country are readily on sale here and even though it is difficult to  verify authenticity, it doesn't deter the visitors, there are other business's who try to counter the problem with their own commercialism ...

Loads of the stuff ...
Cheese has been produced here since the 12th century as the adjacent caves provide the ideal environment for its maturing. Evidence suggests that ancient kings visited to purchase the cheese from Henry II to Charles I.

... and a bit more !
In the 1860's, Cheddar cheese production was standardised with modern equipment by Joseph Harding who was a local dairyman. Even though the real Cheddar cheese is meant to be made within 30 miles of the village, Harding introduced the cheese and process to Scotland and USA while later his son took it to Australia.

The Cheese was matured at cold consistent temperatures and humidity in Cheddar Caves. Larger caves were discovered by cave explorers Cox and Gough in 1837 and 1903. These intricate underground chambers are another reason to attract the tourist although it seems like more of a parallel Harry Potter theme park at times ....

Sunday, 13 February 2011


Worcester is situated on the River Severn just south west of the Midlands and east of the Welsh border.

( This day was originally meant to be a day out to Warwick Castle from Bristol but my car driver decided that because of the heavy and slow traffic on the M5 motorway, Worcester was a better option as the destination seemed to be getting no nearer.)

"Short back and sides please, leave the top long"
We arrived at the riverside car park to find a sculpture demonstration ... or a horse having a haircut !!

Boat trips can be popular on the River Severn with 'The Earl' providing suitable transportation...

The Swan and The Earl !!
This historic boat built in 1926 takes the visitor to see various city sights from an alternative angle.

The Cathedral is probably the main attraction and has a variety of successive cathedral architectural styles from Norman onwards due to the building work commencing in 1084 and being completed in 1504. Most of the building work however is from the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Guildhall, built in 1721, is an ornate and interesting structure decorated with various statues including Queen Anne above the doorway and Charles I and II inside demonstrating the cities loyalty to the throne. The building was designed by Thomas White who was taught by the great man Sir Christopher Wren (St Paul's Cathedral). The interior has a mixture of panelling, paintings and an outstanding period function room upstairs. Lord Nelson and Sir Winston Churchill are also commemorated as Freeman of the city.

Coat of arms
Three black pears were added to the coat of arms to signify the time when A Pear tree was planted in honour of the visit of Queen Elizabeth I. However, another story suggests that Archers gathered under a pear tree prior to the Battle of Agincourt.

Just across the street from the Guildhall, two percussion buskers plied their trade with buckets and paint tins ( leftovers from the Guildhall gate perhaps ??!! )

Not quite so royal !

The main shopping street was enhanced by a central row of trees, various other historic buildings and a craft market. At the top of the street, the visitor is greeted by the most famous son of Worcester ...

Eddie's place !

Sir Edward Elgar (1821 -1906) was originally a Piano tuner who owned a musical instrument shop in Worcester. It is said that he learned his first music in the Cathedral (opposite the statue) and although he studied German in the hope that he could one day go to a German Music Academy, his father did not have enough money. After a short career as a clerk in a solicitors office, Elgar began his musical journey by giving music lessons and eventually becoming a solo and group performer with various instruments. He developed his compositional skills by arranging music for his own smaller band from the influential composers of his generation. The works of Elgar are world famous with the Enigma Variations, Pomp and Circumstance Marches heard regularly at the BBC Last night of the Proms.

Although Worcestershire sauce has it's roots in the 17th century, it was not until the 1840's that it became popular. It was originally an accident as the Chemists of the time sought to design a curry flavour from the Indian sub continent during the early British imperialistic rule of India. The product was so strong that it was left and forgotten about in Lea & Perrins cellar. Storage space became a problem in the factory later and the cellar was emptied. The sauce was sampled again at this point and was found to have mellowed with age and the first bottle was sold in 1838.

Historic label

"You can't seriously expect me to try that thing again after the last time"

The Greyfriars is a National Trust property built in 1480 with extra building work added in the 17th and 18th century. The building was restored and saved from demolition after World War II...

"anyone for high tea ?! "
I am reminded in a visual manner that it is time to leave the seriousness of the city behind on one hand and think about lunch on the other. Having been to Worcester once before, there was only one destination....

Elgar's, makers of the finest Lemon Cake in the world !!! .... well almost.....

After lunch it was time to do a little shopping & check out the shops who were using the historic buildings..

17th century fashion

I must remember to store the gold in the middle of the shop!

Lastly, as the day was coming to an end, this hairdresser reminded me that it was time to check out the progress of my horse head manicure !!

"Lovely, smooth and happy !
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