Sherborne is a beautiful town with lots of interesting history and we could have done with longer there. Suffice to say it whetted my appetite and I'm sure we'll go back for more. There is a really delightful little museum tucked into the city wall which is well worth a visit, and the town centre has some lovely buildings lining the way. Plus there are some great pubs to eat at locally, fantastic walking nearby and plenty of other interesting places to visit within an hour's drive. What more could you possibly want from a weekend away?
The museum is on the left by the old gateway
This seems a bit harsh....
Were bicycles particularly offensive to monks I wonder??
After exploring the town we headed up to Cadbury Hill, another place I had long wanted to visit. When I was younger I was very drawn to the legends of King Arthur; I read everything I could find about him, was fascinated by druids and all the myths and fables that had sprung up about him. I found the whole thing fascinating and mesmerising in equal measure, and places connected to him still have quite a pull for me today.
The weather was perfect for being up on the hill- chilly and clear with a magnificent sunset. You can see for miles up there on a good day. The atmosphere was stirring, all too easy to imagine ancient painted warriors patrolling the ramparts ....
My ancient warrior on guard duty....
The next day we went to Tolpuddle. I remember studying the Martyrs at school but it never really connected with me. I found it much more affecting as an adult and was struck by the simplicity of the tree in the village under which they met contrasted with the terrible harshness of the sentences meted out to them. The museum in the village is small but it does explain the context of what happened- worth a visit if you find yourself in that neck of the woods.
The story of the Martyrs is both simple and frigtening: 6 men were transported to Australia as an example to others for swearing an illegal oath of loyalty to a "Friendly society of Agricultural labourers" set up to protect farm workers wages, which were falling in the 1830's. The formation of the Union was legal, but the oath of fealty to it was not (by a law of 1797 which had never been repealed) and the men were transported to Australia as a warning to others.
They quickly became a focus for the unrest in the country, and were soon popular heroes. A freedom movement grew up around them which numbered amongst its members some very influential figures such as Lord John Russel, who argued the case of the Martyrs in Parliament, telling the PM that : "if being members of a secret society and administering secret oaths was a crime, the reactionary Duke of Cumberland as head of the Orange Lodges was equally deserving of transportation". Eventually the sentences were remitted and the men allowed home.
Here's a link if you want to know more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolpuddle_Martyrs
I didn't know about the "50 Great British Trees" recognised for their place in the national heritage as part of the Queen's Jubilee. Here's a list of the other 49 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Great_British_Trees
James Hammett was the only Martyr to return to Tolpuddle after being released (the others emigrated to Canada). The story goes that he was not present at the fateful initiation but may have been arrested in place of his brother in law who's wife was expecting. He was certainly an outsider, unlike the others he had a criminal record (for theft), wasn't a Methodist and he never wrote about his experiences. He lived his days out in the village working as a farm labourer and died in Dorchester Workhouse (apparently not wishing to be a burden on his family). This is his grave at St john's Church at Tolpuddle.
The tree under which the infamous meeting was called, where an "illegal oath" was sworn, resulting in six men being transported to Australia.
It looks so insignificant, growing quietly on the side of the road, yet because of what happened under it's branches Tolpuddle village is famous. The Labour party has sent its big guns here over the years- both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have visited - and Tolpuddle is often quoted as an important place in the history of the Trades Union movement.
All in all a fantastic weekend and I would definitely go back to see more, as well as recommend the area if you're looking for somewhere interesting and beautiful to visit.