S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen


In honor of C.'s birthday week, we went off to Wiltshire for a few days, to explore, eat a good meal or two, and bask in the glorious weather. The basking was effective, such that, sunblock forgotten on the first day, we were rather pinked, although not burned to the point of any pain, happily. At least we both remembered our hats.

It's sobering to think I haven't really been to Stonehenge in going on a quarter-century. This makes me feel old. C. had never been in the first place. It reminded me of a Niagara Falls in a way: a landmark mobbed by crowds, but which is so grand and extraordinary that it transcends the mobs. The stones are enormous, astonishingly tall, even from the distance at which the ropes kept us. No guards were visble during the day, but passing by around 10 pm, two of them were lurid in day-glo yellow.

Salisbury is a pleasant city, although its copious parking lots felt so industrial, I doubted at first. We were there for errand-running, but with ten minutes spare, in the end, to see the cathedral. Outside only: it wasn't worth £5.50 admittance for at most five minutes in the interior. Right now, I would love it if the Anglican church offered yearly tourism passes. I could pay a bunch of money and have access, even if only for five minutes, to all these charged-for churches.

Old Wardour Castle is sorely lacking in signage to get there and wasn't on our GPS unit. We showed up with a great deal of navigational doubt, but no wrong turns. It's a distinctively hexagonal fourteenth-century castle which was blown up by means of its lavish sewer system in the English Civil War. Post-destruction, it was preserved as a decorative element in the expansive grounds of New Wardour Castle, complete with dammed-up lake, the finest artifiical grotto I've met, and a nook made up of stones from a stone circle pillaged from elsewhere in the county. Modern restoration means it's possible to walk up to parts of the fifth floor.

The little parish church uphill from Rollestone Manor at Shrewton is supposedly where Jane Seymour was baptised. Certainly she lived her early years just downhill in the manor. It is a pleasant little place, a healthy amalgam of periods in structure and in churchyard burials attesting to the ongoing living parish, however rarely used the church now is.

Caen Hill, outside of Devizes, has a flight of sixteen locks down its gentle slope, a wonderful feat of recently-restored engineering. Swans complacently floated in many of the marshy pools alongside each gap between lock and lock. A few houses sit by the ponds, their fields stretched out behind them, each an amalgam of different buildings, some more successful than others. We walk all the way down the hill along the partially-shaded tow path, and then back up again. Lunch is ice cream since we are still too full from a Full English.

The hyper-restored village of Lacock is a pretty little coherent manor village, as pristine as Niagara-on-the-lake. It had an abbey of Augustinian cannonesses, much of which survives thanks to having been integrated into a Great House after the dissolution. It is, in fact, about as intact a nunnery or monastery as survives in England post-dissolution. It was a relief to be in the shade of a gothic cloister after all the sunshine of the day. The dormitory has been subdivided into multiple rooms and ceiling lowered. The inventor of the photographic negative lived here, and made his own modifications to the structure, including the addition of the oriel window which was the first bit of architecture to be photographed. I was gratified to see that Henry Fox Talbot suggests the reproduction of medieval manuscripts as one possible use for photographs.

A conversation, after driving into Lacock and purchasing tickets to go around the abbey:

National Trust Employee: How long are you here for?
Us: Just the day.
NT Employee: Oh, then I won't bother telling you about National Trust memberships.

Clearly, we were thinking of 'here' with different orders of magniture.

I documented day 1 extensively with photographs. On day 2, I realized that my other memory card was already full, from months ago, and so took a very few photographs, after selective deletion of blatantly bad ones, blurry or incoherent photos of deep snow in midwinter. I need to clear off hard drive space (as usual) before I can share any of them.

Today, a houseguest arrives, fresh from an emergency root canal followed by a trans-Atlantic flight. Tonight, dinner with friends, possibly sans-houseguest, given his likely state.
Tags: england, travelogue

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