23rd September 2018

When Debbie first heard we were going to Coventry, her thoughts turned to the Coventry Carol, which she has performed with school vocal ensembles over the years. For her it was an opportunity to visit the place where this favourite carol was written and first performed annually as part of the Christmas mystery plays featured at the Guild Hall in Coventry.


Coventry Cathedral ruins

We had a later, more relaxed start today, mainly due to the inclement weather, but soon we were off into town to see the very moving Coventry Cathedral ruins and St Mary's Guild Hall. Coventry was extensively bombed by the Germans in World War II, its cathedral was hit and destroyed apart from its spire which miraculously survived intact. In the ruins a priest came across two charred roof members that formed a cross, and was so moved by the symbolism of his find, he kept the timbers, which today are an integral part of the ruins.



Inspired by the charred cross, the people of Coventry decided not to focus on the damage caused but rather to keep the building's shell to symbolise the power of forgiveness, as is fitting for a place of God, responding with not hatred for what had occurred, but forgiveness. German dignitaries were invited and attended the dedication of the memorial, and were moved by the sentiments expresssed there.



Next door to the cathedral ruins is the Guild Hall, which gave us an insightful understanding into England as it used to be. The building is a showcase of mediaeval England - pokey little rooms each with a purpose and story, narrow winding staircases, dark elaborate furnishings, carved seats, ceiling ornamentations, majestic tapestries and portraits of reigning monarchs and high standing dignitaries. Above the main hall was the balcony where minstrels performed and the room where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned.


Peeping Tom checking out Lady Godiva



By 11am, the weather had cleared and the sun was shining as we watched the hourly chiming of the Lady Godiva clock, with peeping Tom peering out over the re-enacted horse ride of the naked Godiva, the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. According to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, Lady Godiva rode naked - covered only in her long hair - through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants. The name "Peeping Tom" for a voyeur originates from this legend in which a man named Thomas watched her ride and was struck blind.



Steve visited the Coventry Transport Museum and, being a cyclist, was particulary interested the history of the modern day bicycle, which was developed in Coventry. It also houses a collection of British-made road transport memorabilia, as the city of Coventry was previously the centre of the British car industry. It was once responsible for producing 40 per cent of the world's cars.



In the afternoon, Steve drove us to Kenilworth Castle, which gave another fascinating look at part of Britain's colourful history. From mediaeval fortress to Elizabethan palace, Kenilworth Castle has been at the centre of England's affairs for much of its 900 year history. We scaled the heights of the tower built to woo Queen Elizabeth I, explored its mighty Norman keep, walked through the 400 year old garden created for Queen Elizabeth I by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and imagined the majesty of the Great Hall playing host to early Tudor kings as we passed through its ruins.



Upon returning to Coventry, the temperature was 11 degrees and dropping quickly so we returned to our favourite pizza/salad bar for dinner and another look at the cathedral ruins by night. It was too cold to wait for the 8pm chimes of the Lady Godiva clock so we hurried back to our accommodation.

24th September 2018

We left Coventry and began our journey to Cardiff, Wales, after a relaxing evening. Our first stop was Stratford-Upon-Avon, the home of famous playwright William Shakespeare and his good wife Ann Hathaway (no, not the actress!). We stopped for morning tea and a walk down by the River Avon, where there were hundred of ducks, drakes and other feathered creatures swimming around, entertaining the crowds walking along the banks.


Stratford-Upon-Avon

We had time to photograph some of the statues of characters found in Shakespeare's plays before having to hurry back to our car as our parking money was about to run out. We refused to pay for more parking, this time at Ann Hathaway's cottage, nevertheless the number of cars crammed into the car park indicated there were plenty of others willing to top up Ann's estate, though one suspects she won't be spending it any time soon.


Ann Hathaway's cottage

We continued on to the Cotswolds, a very pretty region of England where we were presented with villages full of tiny buildings and very narrow roads lined with trees, hedges and stone walls that seem bent on scatching the sides of cars at every opportunity, especially hire cars. Generally presenting us with picturesque scenery the whole way.


Chedworth

The Cotswolds contains the Cotswold Hills, a range of rolling hills which rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment, known as the Cotswold Edge, above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale. It contains unique features derived from the use of the golden coloured Cotswold stone; the predominantly rural landscape contains stone-built villages, historical towns and stately homes and gardens.


Broadway Tower is a folly on Broadway Hill, near the large village of Broadway, at the second-highest point of the Cotswolds. Debbie and Stephen decided to illustrate the different clothing worn here - Debbie is dressed as an overseas visitor and Stephen as a local. The Saxon tower was built in the form of a castle for Lady Coventry in 1798-99. The tower was built on a beacon hill, where beacons were lit on special occasions. Lady Coventry wondered whether a beacon on this hill could be seen from her house in Worcester - about 35 km away - and sponsored the construction of the folly to find out. Apparently it could be seen. In the late 1950s, Broadway Tower monitored nuclear fallout in England; an underground Royal Observer Corps bunker was built 50 yards from the Tower.


Naunton

We travelled through tiny villages with gorgeous little stone cottages, each with a beautiful garden. It was so quiet and peaceful; very little traffic and only one or two people around. We passed babbling brooks, with weeping willows reaching down into them. It was a beautiful sunny day and everything was the picture of tranquility. What a delightful place.


Bourton-on-the-Water

Regularly voted one of the prettiest villages in England, Bourton-on-the-Water has a unique appeal to visitors and residents alike, There is plenty to see and do, with shops, restaurants and tea rooms, and the opportunity for a stroll by the River Windrush with its beautiful bridges throughout. It is one of the more well-known of the region's villages, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of the cars and people we saw in the Cotswolds were there, and seemed to be competing with us for a parking spot when we stopped by for lunch.


Bridge across the River Severn joining England with Wales
As the afternoon began to roll into evening, Rona navigated us safely across the border into Wales and eventually Cardiff after we waded through heavy traffic, to what is an oasis in an otherwise very ordinary industrial area. When we walked into our AirBNB unit, it was an incredible OMG moment!



Our apartment is on the 11th floor and the view across Cardiff featuring the Taff River, bordered by a row of apartments on the left hand side, and lots of trees sprinkled with rows of houses on the right hand side was breathtaking. Further in the distance was the city itself, and Cardiff Bay, a spectacular view in every direction. Later we went for a walk to find a supermarket to buy supplies for our 4-night stay. The store had the feeling of downtown Beirut, but that was more than offset by the many Arabic delicacies, including baklava and halva, that filled our shopping basket.

Home for a nice meal, an enormous load of washing and then off to bed.


England has a way of making sure every visitor to their towns can be booked for overstaying the parking limit. You are only allowed 30 minutes to park, but can't come back to pick up your car for an hour.

Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall

Design by W3layouts