Saturday, 22 August 2015

Stratford & Warwickshire On Hols

We've just got back from a few days in Warwickshire without the children who all declined the offer of a holiday with their parents this year, so M and I had a posh hotel all to ourselves.

We blasted Shakespeare to death and now know all his old haunts/ birthplace/ mother's home/ wife's old cottage/ baptismal/ father's house/ burial place/ friend's house intimately. We also exhausted our National Trust membership which now needs a few weeks off to rest and recuperate. On the plus side, it has paid for itself for the year already.

I was subjected to a great many Shakespeare-Themed Dad Jokes which all came my way courtesy of the children not being present to absorb them for me. I'll give you a selection:  

"Oh my goodness! Look! Vikings Approaching! Quick! William- Shake Spear!" 
And:   
"We're completely lost, does anyone know where we're going? Fear not! Anne Hath A Way."

In the end I imposed a daily limit of four, to preserve my sanity.

Being parents, we are experts at squeezing as much as possible into whatever small time we've managed to carve out for ourselves while the kids are elsewhere, but even so we were impressed at how much we saw/ did/ got through. This probably explains why we were both asleep by 9.30 last night. You'll be relieved to know that I am not going to subject you to thousands of holiday pictures in minute detail, but instead have considerately whittled them down to a representative few for ease of digesting....

First stop, William Shakespeare's birthplace, in the rain, with hundreds of other people...






I know how he feels


Then a short stroll down the road past some fine Elizabethan houses....




...to Hall's Croft, home of Shakespeare's daughter Susan and her husband Dr Hall. I LOVED this house, it had a lovely atmosphere and was full of oak paneling and wobbly floors with heavy beams and low doorways, a house full of nooks and crannies. There was also an ancient Mulberry tree in the garden which was all gnarled and twisty but bore copious quantities of fruit, which we snaffled. I love the taste of mulberries, the sweetness mixed in with the sharp tang. There was also a craft shop attached show-casing work from local artists and I managed to sneak a purchase of a hand-painted mug (I am often told we have too many mugs, so I have developed strategies for the collection of new ones. This time I managed to get the shop lady in on it, which worked marvellously until M noticed what we were up to. I had to promise to relegate some older mugs before I was allowed to bring the new one home. Worth it though- last night's hot water was lovely :o) ).





After that we had a break from Shakespeare and stopped at a cafe in an antiques market for hot chocolate and scones. Yum.

 
Rejuvenated, we braced ourselves for further Shakespeare Shenanigans and drove a couple of miles out of Stratford to Mary Arden's Farm (Shakespeare's mother's home before she married his pa). The house has been much built on and altered, and I didn't get much of a sense of atmosphere there, although the black and white tudor farm house next door with its farm yard and Tamworth Reds and ancient old Oak in the middle was lovely and felt more authentic.


Back to the hotel for a swim (M) and a read of Dr Watson (me) before dinner....which got returned as more than half of M's pork belly was fat :o(

 
The following morning, after stuffing ourselves with a full English breakfast and plenty of hot water to flush it down (I invariably cause consternation and confusion among waiting staff because I don't drink tea or coffee, just boiling water. They always want to stick a tea bag in it, or mix it with cold water, or are desperate to add a lemon at the very least. I wonder sometimes whether one of them will one day have a seizure over it, they get so flustered), we set off for further Shakespeare Delights, this time in the form of Anne Hathqway's Cottage.

I have spent the entire three days saying Stratford Upon Avon and Anne Hathaway's Cottage in an American accent, because ever since I heard Martin Jarvis reading that episode in Just William I have been unable to say it any other way.
 
The Cottage is lovely as long as you get there before the coach loads arrive. There were four other people there when we arrived, and a hundred by the time we left (having got F's GCSE results in the middle- a mixture of A's, A *s and B's. Good Boy)....


Hathways lived at the cottage until the early part of the 20th c and because they were poor, it hasn't changed much. The flagstone floor is the original one Anne's grandfather laid which William would have walked on, it is believed that the bed inside was Anne and William's and a Courting Chair on display is also thought to be one William gave Anne... All Rather Lovely.





We diverged onto other Historical Houses after that, having more or less bled Shakespeare dry, and set off for Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton, both of which I knew I recognised but couldn't think where from, until I realised they both feature on Ragged Robins lovely blog.

Packwood was very striking, stuffed full of oak paneling and period features but to be honest I found it dark and draining inside. It settled a headache on me too so we didn't spend long there.




 
We drove the short distance to Baddesley Clinton, which I can honestly say is one of my most favourite places to be (I'd never been there before, but fell in love with it as soon as I saw it). It was beautiful and interesting and had a wonderful quirky energy which lifted my headache away completely.

 
I'm a sucker for a moat. I would love to live in a house with a moat one day. I have told M. I have said I would go swimming in it every single day. He said, what, even if there were eels? To which I replied stoutly, yes, of course. He snorted and said he thought that unlikely, given that I squeal at the feel of seaweed around my ankles on the (very) rare occasions I go swimming in the sea. I, (choosing to ignore the part about the squealing), explained that Fear Of Seaweed Round The Ankles is a Perfectly Sensible Thing, given that everyone knows sharks, octopi and crocodown-dillies hide in seaweed and that a moat would not have sharks, octopi or crocodown-dillies, so I wouldn't need to worry about any ankle-brushing and could therefore swim safely in it for hours, Quite Happily Thank You. He just laughed.



There were little doors within doors there as well. I am a sucker for doors within doors....


And, despite the happy atmosphere, more strange goings on than you could shake a stick at- exactly what you want in an ancient moated manor. There were priest holes and murders a-plenty (imagine being chocked under a chimney. Oh My.....)....


In more recent times, this quirky energy manifested itself in four people living here who shut themselves away from the outside world in order to paint. The gentlemen of the house dressed as Cavaliers the entire time, despite it being the 1800s. Love it :o)



And then there was an even more recent family, whose son, coming back from the Navy on leave in the 1940s and unable to wake his parents, set off two waterproof thunder flashes he just happened to have in his bag. His father's response was to come to the window bearing a loaded shot gun...


The same Navy Man was almost crushed to death when the head of his ancient bed fell down on him. He managed to wriggle out, shouting about how Philip of Spain had very nearly achieved what Hitler couldn't. His father's response to that was to dash upstairs to make sure the bed was alright. Now, that's my kind of family :o)


There was a lovely ramshackle collection of old books and maps in the stables. I particularly liked this sign....

 
A good bit of recycling. And we thought this book has to be one of the best ever printed...


After that we headed over to Coughton Court, home of the rebellious Throckmortons (previously known as Frogmorton. No wonder they changed the name) and centre of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in the 17th C. The family still live in a wing of the house but the rest is National Trust managed....



After fighting off a particularly zealous guide (who threatened to have me thrown off the top of the tower in a toothless-grinny sort of a way that left me wondering whether he was entirely joking), we made it to the roof....


I've got a thing for foxes at the moment....


Only to be pounced on as we came back down the spiral staircase and dragged off into the Blue Room where (in quite some detail) we were told all about the long, long, long, long, long wait the conspirators had to get news of the Gunpowder Plot (which failed). We were then showed the double priest hole cut away into the bowels of the building (which I briefly considered jumping in to) but then luckily for me he swapped his attention to the rather lovely Dole Gate that had been brought back from the Convent of Denny after the Reformation. A Throckmorton was Abbess (or Mother Superior I suppose) there.


People knocked on one of the little doors and food was doled out through the other. Rather Lovely and worth the ear-bending to learn about it (he was a poppet really) :o)

After that we went back to Stratford for a late lunch at a gorgeous tea shop I'd spotted the day before. The Fourteas is a 1940s themed tea room on Sheep Street. Brilliant idea! Food was delicious too.



Sand bags outside the tea room door

This is the menu

On the way back to Stratford we zipped over to a fourteenth-century dovecot M spotted on the map. It stands all by itself in the middle of a field now, the moated manor of which it was once part long since gone. Luckily, whiskery and nuzzly help was on hand to help locate it....




And look Mel! it has a Blue Door!!!! (imagine me hundreds of miles away standing in a field thinking of you and grinning when I saw it :o) )


Our final destination before supper at the Giggling Squid (utterly fab Thai food), was Shakepeare's grave. Sounds macabre but it did complete the Shakespeare Circle rather nicely and I do like a nice church for Good Measure (or Measure For Measure? Sorry (slinks away with tail between legs, but grinning....))....


Our final morning (after another full English and hot water and (because you have to do these things when you're on hols don't you?) a very daring apricot Danish (gasp) was spent looking at Kenilworth Castle. 

This pad was given to Robert of Leicester (also known as Robert Dudley) by Queen Elizabeth I, because she adored him but was unable to marry him due to (among other things) the rather too timely demise of his wife Amy who (ahem) accidentally fell down some stairs and broke her neck at about the time Bob and Liz were looking to the rest of the world very much like lovers. 
(Talking of which, there was a very noisy woman on the floor below us on our last night- not literally the floor below us, because that would have been too weird, I mean the next floor down of course- and I have to tell you That Sort Of Thing is very off putting indeed when one is trying to watch Endeavour while sipping one's bed time hot water. At such times one requires all one's mental faculties to be in one undistracted place if one is to have any hope at all of beating Endeavour to working out who did the murder and why).

The story of Liz's visits and the work Robert put into the castle to house and entertain her was brilliantly told in the Leicester's Tower exhibit. He eventually gave up all hope of marrying the Queen whom he had known since she was 8 and later spent time with in the Tower, and married Lettice Knoylls (whose mother was rumoured to be Henry VIIIs illegitimate daughter and whose Aunt was Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I's mother- they didn't do things by halves, those Tudours, eh?) which got him into hot water with Liz. They remained close though and in his last letter to the Queen he wrote of kissing her feet. She in her turn inscribed 'his last letter' on the parchment. 

I came away feeling rather sad for both of them....



Robert Dudley- handsome chap, no?

Queen Bess

Elizabethan Garden built for the Queen by Robert. Now painstakingly restored and Somewhat Famous as a result :o)

A Nice Window

Our final visit of the trip was to the site of Edgehill, the first battle in the Civil War, but it's on MOD land so the closest we got was this memorial stone...

 
So that's it- our time in Stratford in a succinct nutshell. It was lovely and I feel all rested and content (all the more so as I came home to find a very rare Large Black Longhorn beetle buzzing about the wildflower patch :o) ).

As a quick follow up to my previous post, I thought you'd like to know that Challenger 2 came in safely and in a reasonable position, I have since learnt that the Key Objective of the race was to at least beat the crew of Girl Guides that were on one of the other Challenger Ships, and that was done. But I have to say Go Girls! to the Guides. Brilliant effort and achievement. Well done to everyone involved :o)


Hope all are well?

CT :o)

40 comments:

  1. Gosh, this was a blast from the past for this Warwickshire girl (I use the term girl loosely...but I WAS a girl when I lived there). No canal barge ride when you were there? No boating on the Avon?
    Kenilworth castle reminds me of my Dad,as a young boy he climbed the walls of the castle,fell off and broke both arms...there wasn't a plaque was there?
    Jane x

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    1. Boating?! Good Heavens woman! When would we have fitted boating in?!

      There wasn't a plaque, no, but I think there should have been :o) xx

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    2. You could have fitted boating in had you not fallen asleep at 9:30!
      Jane x

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    3. It was 9.30 last night....after getting home :o) xx

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    4. Completely forgiven then.
      Jane x

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  2. It all looks amazing,I still find it odd going away and out by ourselves, our son is 18 and doesn't do that much with us any more, but he never turns down a meal out.

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    1. It did feel strange, quite grown up! Yes, same here- meals out are snatched up fast as :o)

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  3. Great post CT with some wonderful photos - lovely to see some of my favourite haunts through your eyes/camera :) and thank you for the mention.

    Glad you liked Hall's Croft too - it was my favourite of the Shakespeare "houses" although haven't been to Mary Arden's farm for years. Never been to the Dovecote - really must find out where it is.

    Glad you liked Baddesley - love the gardens at Packwood but always find the house interior a bit claustrophobic.

    Enjoyed seeing your photos of Kenilworth - I haven't been since they restored the Elizabethan gardens.



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    1. You would have laughed had you heard me saying to M: I know those place names. Where do I know them from??? (Aging brain obviously, as it was a proper light bulb moment when I remembered!).
      I so loved Warwickshire and shall look forward to returning. It's just occurred to me that we swapped counties for our summer hols this year! x

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  4. What a great trip. I am now desperate to go to Baddesley Clinton and to find a moat to swim in - eels notwithstanding! xxxLily

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    1. You would love Baddesley Clinton, such a special place and well worth a visit. Lots of ducks in the moat though, which put me off diving in! xx

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  5. Lovely Shakespeare country, I've visited a long time ago, but not done any of the beautiful properties or gardens. Would love to go again. I'm a hot water drinker too sometimes, I know what you mean about people wanting to put a teabag or something in there. Mulberries are exquisite aren't they. I tasted some at Berkeley Castle (near here) a while back, they're in a league of their own. I have a teeny tiny mulberry tree now. Glad you had such a good trip. Well done on that apricot danish, yum. And very well done indeed to F, they sound like brilliant results. And of course a good job done by Challenger 2 in beating the Girl Guides. Heads can be held up high. CJ xx

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    1. Mulberry vodka is fab :o) The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust manage all the houses- well worth a trip round if you get the opportunity xx

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  6. Gosh you packed a lot in! Susanna's house was the only one we visited when we spent the afternoon in Stratford this January (despite having tickets for the lot) as I also really wanted to walk along the river Avon and see Shakespeare's grave and the only way to do that as the church was closed due to two funerals was to attend evening prayers. I especially enjoyed the garden behind its high walls as we had it all to ourselves. I love moated manor houses too and I think my favourite of the many we have visited is Lower Brockhampton in Herefordshire. Poor Robert Dudley. What a story of unrequited love for his Queen. The gardener at Kenilworth spoke very movingly about R's love on a recent Gardener's Question Time. It is good to be home though isn't it. I remember last summer when we had our first ever holiday without the children and I think the coming home and everyone being in one place (after inter railing and trekking in the Pyrenees) was the best bit.

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    1. One of the nicest things about a holiday is coming home again after a lovely time away (although it has made me realise how filthy the kitchen is and how horrible the tiles!) :o)

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  7. LOL hilarious tales of holidaying which sounds rather like the ones we take! Though I've never had to turn the sound up on Endeavor to drown out err lady noises from the floor below!
    I too have similar rain soaked Shakespeare's house photos! We never went boating either but we did Warwick castle instead! I love a good trebuchet and they have a good one!!

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    1. I shall be popping over to read about your hols in a moment or two...
      We did Warwick castle with the kids a few years ago and saw the Trebuchet in action! Marvellous stuff xx

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  8. Brilliant holiday by the looks of it!
    Fab photos and a great snap shot of Warwickshire! Thank you... Plan to go on my next visit home!
    Your children's jokes - priceless! I love brilliant banter!
    What burger did Willem S enjoy the most?
    A Mac Beth!
    Oh stop it already!
    Lovely blog ... Great holiday! Hoorah! X

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    1. Love your Shakespeare joke! Rather annoyingly, M guessed it when I told him :o) xx

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    2. Doesn't surprise me! A rather easy joke to get if you are 'zoned' in to that kind of silliness! Clearly your family are that way inclined! ;)
      Like mine! We thrive on that sort of humour! Xx

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  9. Beautiful series of photographs - good guided tour. I lived for almost twenty years within easy reach of Stratford and we used to take visitors there providing it wasnt in August - it is never free of tourists but August is the worst.
    Smiled at your being in posh hotel - that is exactly my kind of holiday. Any suggestion of B and B, camping or roughing it and i would rather stay at home.

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    1. I think I could happily live near Stratford. Loved the countryside all around and the town itself too. Agree about camping, unless it's proper wild camping :o)

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  10. Gorgeous buildings and quirky anecdotes - great read! Happy you got away sans enfants and got to do what you wanted to do. xx

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    1. It was rather a treat to have a few days away just the two of us with no bored teenagers in tow! xx

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  11. *gasp* the blue door!! and in EXACTLY the same shade!! i feel utterly vindicated by this. :) not that it'll make a bit of difference to my unimaginative family members. ;)

    what a wonderful trip -- so much history soaked in. imagine being murdered for a chinne-chockinge? their tempers were a bit hair-trigger back then, weren't they? and a priest, no less!

    and i'm rather amazed to learn that some Girl Guides were in that boat race....good heavens, they're a game lot. is there a badge for boat-racing now then? they've come a long way.....;)

    xo

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    1. It did make me smile when I saw it- hundreds of miles away and exactly the same colour :o)
      I also grinned at the idea of a Girl Guide badge for boating too! xx

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  12. Ooh a great trip and without children...bliss. I'm so glad you had a good time and packed so much in.

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    1. A really lovely break which I expect we will be repeating :o)

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  13. A great account of Shakespeare country with lovely photos. I loved reading your post.

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    1. Thanks Cosmic Dust- glad you enjoyed it. A great part of the world.

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  14. Cor Missis, that was a gorgeous gallop through Merrie Stratford! How I wish for a moat of my very own, sigh...

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  15. Hilariously well-done post!! I'm with you on the unsettling nature of weeds about the ankles in untamed waters. We too did Stratford 23 years ago. I bought a lovely salmon-colored Laura Ashley dress as a souvenir, and our rental car got a nice bash in the driver's side door panel in the car park. Altogether a memorable day - your's was ever so much more cheeky/entertaining ;0 Hugs, Ann

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets the heebi jeebies about seaweed round the ankles, Ann! Giggled at your Stratford adventures. It sounds like it was a memorable trip :o) x

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  16. Hey CT,
    We've caned the NT card this weekend too. Many congratulation on your boy's gcse results. You must be very proud. I really enjoyed your mini break. Especially the Danish. I'm afraid I have over indulged hugely the past few days. Marc and I are still a few years away from child free holidays, but we have joked that we will work our way through the NT hand book when we are.
    Leanne xx

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    1. V relieved for F as he's now full steam ahead on the A Levels he wanted to do. Hols are for over-indulging aren't they? Things are a little tighter round the waist here than they used to be so I shall have to up my running before it becomes a permanent arrangement :o) xx

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  17. Looks and sounds as though you had a great time!! Well done to F on the exam results, although I had to read that twice as I thought that the results were F's on the first reading! Silly me! We did the Shakespeare thing a few years ago and went to many of the same places as you did on this trip too, it was so great! Hope you enjoyed it all and relaxed too! xx

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    1. I really loved doing all the Shakespeare properties and we'll definitely go back again. Probably lucky it was wet (ish) - kept a lot of folks away I think xx

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  18. Wow you did manage to pack some much into your hols! Congratulations to F on his excellent results. Sarah x

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x