Shakespeare and Castles

This weekend it was a trip to see the birth town of Shakespeare – Stratford Upon Avon. Located approximately just over an hours drive away from Bristol. I had always imagined Stratford to be a tiny village with nothing but thatch roof housing and cobbled streets. This was not the case. It is a quaint town (in key areas) but other than that it is a thriving, working tourist hub. The constant ways to milk a tourist can get a bit annoying with high priced goods, food and drink. Also, anything and everything slapped with a picture of Shakespeare on it is game for tourist selling i.e. Shakespeare headed cuff links? What the???? We visited his wifes house (Anne Hathaway) which was very nice however it would look spectacular in summer when the gardens are in full bloom. It was actually reasonably priced at 6 pound each entry.

The winner for the weekend though was Warwick Castle. If coming to England and putting together a must do list, this is it. At a very costly 17.95 each it is worth it. It was bought from the Earl of Warwick by the Tussard Corporation. Inside they have set up the rooms with lifelike figures of past inhabitants of the castle posed as though they have been frozen in time. The displays are spectacular and the other attractions are just as fasinating. Is summer they have jousting and falconary. We watched the archery demonstration and another demo on what pottage was made of – truly disgusting! The area was first used by Ethelfreda (daughter of Alfred the Great) in 914AD when she ordered the building of the “burh” which is a fortified mound to protect the hill top settlement from the invading Danes. Over the centuries this mound has been added to and fortified as was the fashion or need at the time until we have the castle as it is today. During Victorian times up to modern day it has been used as a home to the Earl of Warwicks (of which there have been many spanning the centuries).

The gardens are stunning especially the Peacock Garden although it can be a bit smelly here. 🙂

Anyway, enough talk, here are the pictures. In short though, I would highly recommend a visit to Warwick!

Wookey Hole

This week we bought a car. It is a ’99 Rover 400 which we immediately named Roger. So, with a stunning weekend of weather on the charts we headed for Wookey Hole just outside of Wells. Home to yet more underground caves we wanted to get a feel for this area next. Having yet again stopped off at Wells to stock up on breakfast and coffee we headed to Wookey.

Upon arrival it was quite apparant to us that although it is a lovely village the Wookey Hole attractions were very much geared towards kids with witches, wizards, clowns (which I REALLY don’t like), bad special effects and music, it wasn’t going to be something we were interesting in paying 14 quid each for.

Therefore we went for a wander around the area where we eventually bumped into some other walkers. They recommended to us a walk to Ebbor Gorge so we headed off to find the public footpath. Now when I say footpath they are very rarely paved walkways. Public Rights of Way are common in England and Wales with quite often clearly marked walking signs. We found the entry point we were after and headed off to find the gorge. By the time we found it our boots were covered in mud but we had fun spotting all the local wildlife. Thankfully Steve had thought to bring the binoculars so that made it easier to look at the birdlife close up without disturbing them.

The gorge itself was quite small but a great walk which lead you right up to the top. We found some interesting holes in the ground which we think were badger holes and another one where a rabbit had dug out their little home but had done so in amongst a midden. Old pottery including a ceramic waterbottle and a clear glass medicine bottle had been partially uncovered. We took some photos but left the items there as they are a dime a dozen over here. They might be of interest to the next person who comes along.

Although the day was very sunny with clear blue skies the temperature remained low. Frost was still lying on the ground at 1pm today. What do you do after a long walk and cold weather. You head to the pub. We drove to a little town called Priddy and had lunch in the local pub complete with crackling wood fire.

All in all, a fantastic day.

Movie: Jumper

With a fantastic premise this movie was a “must see” on our list. Besides the fact that Hayden Christensen was starring in it we put this to one side and saw it anyway. Just as I anticipated it would be, his acting was complete rubbish but Jamie Bell and Samuel L Jackson are well worth seeing.

The premise of the movie is about David Rice (Christensen) who is a genetic anomally in which he can teleport himself and other people or items that he is touching. Once having discovered this talent he takes off from home where mum left mysteriously and abruptly when he was 5 and dad is a bit of a bully. Sadly he leaves behind the “girl next door” that he has been in love with since they were 5. He uses his teleporting skills to “jump” into banks to fund his lifestyle, teleporting in and out of countries as he pleases. What he doesn’t know is that there are other jumpers like himself as well as a group of bounty hunters called the Paladin that are organised to capture and kill jumpers. The Paladins are an ancient organisation that have been hunting jumpers for centuries (i.e. witch hunts in the medieval ages etc). Things start to go wrong for David when the Paladins catch up with him at the same time he hooks up with Mille, the girl next door that he left behind. Help and a person to explain what the Paladins are after comes from a fellow jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell) to try and stop key hunter Roland (Samuel L Jackson).

With amazing locations and such an intriguing storyline it was a pity that it ended so abruptly and unsatisfactorily. Jamie Bell’s character fell away when things were getting good and the whole ending to the movie felt rushed like they ran out of time or just couldn’t be bothered anymore. I haven’t read the novel so maybe this might hold some insight into where the movie has left off but I am assuming that a second movie is a possibility.

Memorable quotes:

“You think you can go on like this forever? Living like this with no consequences? There are always consequences”

2.5 out of 5.

Movie: National Treasure Book of Secrets

Nicholas Cage and his side kicks yet again are searching for clues to clear the name of his great great grandfather, William Gates.

I was really looking forward to another instalment of these treasure hunting movies but it just seemed to fall short of the first. The storyline was interesting but the clues were uninteresting and uninspiring and the lack of humour from the sidekicks this time around was quite evident. I still enjoyed my 2 hours of escapism but was disappointed at the lack of sophistication that the first movie brought to this series.

2.5 out of 5.

Cheddar Cave and Gorge

After having been sick yet again for the last two weeks we were looking forward to travelling again. This time we headed for Cheddar, about 40 minutes car drive or 1.5 hours bus ride from Bristol. As we are carless it was the bus for us. So we rocked up to the Bristol Bus Station for our 9.20am number 376 bus to Wells where we would then change to the 126 to Cheddar (Weston Super Mare is the end destination that you are after).

When we finally arrived at Wells the weekend market was on so we stopped for a coffee and sausage in a bun for breakfast. I also bought some extremely stinky cheese from the French Cheesemaker. This cheese looks fantastic but even wrapped in a plastic bag the stench is incredible! Note to self: not a great idea when travelling on buses and in confined spaces like the caves.

It was then on to Cheddar, the home of Cheddar cheese making and the gorge carved out by glacial ice flows in the last ice age.

When you get off the bus in Cheddar, get off on the second stop at Tweentown. This is the closet point to the gorge and the tourist area. We decided to take the Tour Bus option for 14 quid per head. This is a great option as the open top bus gives you stunning views as you head up the gorge. It also includes entry to the key main attractions, two caves, the prehistoric museum, Jacob’s ladder and of course the bus ride. If you find you don’t have time to visit all the attractions then your ticket is valid for 10 years so you can come back and continue at a later time. This is a great choice if you are staying in the area for a while.

The open top bus tour was very crisp up top but the views were fantastic and well worth the money. There were a large number of rock climbers out in the gorge and Steve is rather keen to return to do some climbs. The first cave we visited was Gough’s cave, the main one in the region and for my money, the best one. My favourite aspect was St Pauls Cathedral (as it is named) which has a “waterfall” of frozen calcite. With a small pond underneath as well it provided an incredible reflection of the staligtites and staligmites. Cheddar Man was found here in 1903. A fully intact skeleton of a past paleolithic inhabitant of the cave.

Next it was on to the prehistoric museum which was quite interesting and then Cox’s cave with the Crystal Quest. To be honest, this is incredibly lame and quite tacky with almost a disco feel to it. However, they do have the entrance to Jacob’s ladder which consists of two hundred and something odd steps up to a spectacular viewing area of the gorge and surrounding area. You can continue along the edge of the gorge on a 3 mile (5 kilometre walk) but we just didn’t have the time. We did climb the tower though for the best views of the area.

As we were starting to get a bit hungry by this time we headed back down into the main street and wandered through the numerous tourist shops. These were great fun with the cider shops, sweet makers and of course the Cheddar Cheese company. We bought some Cheddar Cave matured cheese which was stored in Gough’s cave to mature (as they have been doing since the late 1800’s). Of course we had to have some nice hot mulled cider to accompany the cheese. Let me tell you now, Cheddar cheese that we have grown up on in NZ holds nothing to the real thing. It is so much more rich and creamier, making your mouth almost tingle from the taste. Delicious!

We had a huge day and our legs were actually quite sore from all the walking given that we have been sick for 2 weeks. The weather was perfect and we greatly enjoyed Cheddar. This is another spot on our list of places to return to for either rock climbing or at the very least a picnic and walk along the top of the gorge.