Tea in Tetbury

So we recently stopped over in Tetbury to catch up with the lovely in-laws and ended up going out to see one of the National Trust homes nearby – Dyrham Park. The house is absolutely gorgeous on the exterior, surrounded by countryside, but the garden is what they put the most work into. Even in the bare beginnings of spring, you could see that the garden would be astounding. Historically, a goodly bit of time and effort have been put into the garden, so the National Trust have continued the works.

The interior of the home has many pieces of original furniture for the period, as well as some well done reproductions, but they have chosen to focus more on the educational aspects of the artifacts over the visual appeal. The National Trust have also only allowed access to the ground floor, which was a total bummer as they had some amazing staircases that just beckon to be explored. Perhaps at a later time.

In terms of historical merit, the park has been in existence since 1511, but some form of manor has existed there since at least the time of the Domesday Book. Because of the charter given in 1511, it meant that a wall could be erected and deer kept inside, which the owner would have exclusive hunting rights over. The name Dyrham actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon word dirham, which was an enclosure for deer.

The Blathwayt family owned the house from 1689 until 1956 when the National Trust acquired it, but during WWII it was used for child evacuees. Multiple additions have been done over the years, including a greenhouse addition in 1701 and a 15-bay stable block that has been altered into the tea-rooms for visitors today. A section of the stables remain standing to get a feel for the space. The greenhouse is still in use today, and you can even sample some hot chocolate made with on-site grown fruits and spices!

There is a church adjacent to the property, St Peter’s, which is not actually a part of the National Trust. It has been in the area since the mid-13th century though and has many tombs and memorials for past owners of the house.

Fun fact for my Whovians – this house was used for scenes from the reboot sixth series episode “Night Terrors,” with the gigantic doll monsters. With the fog rolling in on the day we were there, I could easy see something eerie happening!

Also kinda cool was the historic recipe at the tea-room. Beyond the usual soup and sandwiches that you’ll find at any National Trust site, they were also selling a batch of ‘biskets’ that they had made off of a 17th century recipe. Normally I’m not a fan of anise in any form, but this was so faint that it made it really surprisingly lovely. It was like a mix of a shortbread biscuit and a biscotti. Would totally eat one again.

After our adventures concluded, we ended up going out to pick up some last minute shopping whilst the rugby was on and then all heading out for a super filling Italian dinner in town. We also ended up with a full sized rubbish bag full of M’s childhood stuffed toys to take home. The largest, a full sized Alsatian puppy, even ended up buckled into the back seat of the Little Red Mini. Sadly, such good news could not be said of the rugby match.

Unfortunately, the daily grind called us and we had to head back to the East of England Sunday afternoon. It was great to have a low-key catch up with the familials though. Now to plan when we can all meet up again next!

 

— Kate

 

Touring Cambridge (Spring 2016)

In what is perhaps a running theme, M had a conference to go to and I’d not seen Cambridge, so I went along. The train out from Norwich was not overly remarkable, and the train station into Cambridge lets you out into a fairly modern bit of town. So far, I was not seeing the magic that everyone says is Cambridge. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and split up, and it was from there that I began to get a better idea of what people meant. My goal for the day was the Fitzwilliam Museum that I had heard so much about. On the way, I ran into a house that Darwin used to live in that seemed to merit a blue badge?

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For an entire year!

After a short bout of confusion and getting lost – a standard feature of leaving me alone in a city – I did find the museum. The Fitzwilliam is a stunning piece of architecture in the centre of Cambridge founded by the 7th Viscount FitzWilliam in 1816 and built in 1848. For such a magnificent looking building, they only receive about 470,000 visitors a year. I suppose you really go to London to see most artwork and history, but still. There is a lovely collection of Greco-Roman and Egyptian artefacts, so I was all on it. The museum also hit the news back in 2006 when 3 priceless porcelain vases in a window were accidentally destroyed by a tourist when he tripped and fell into them. The public at large thought that repairing them would be impossible, but after a year of painstaking work from the conservators at the museum, they were able to repair and restore the vases. Unsurprisingly, they are no longer housed in an open windowsill.

After my wander around the museum, my favourite human and I met back up and then headed out for dinner at the famous Eagle pub in town. It is one of the larger pubs in Cambridge and has been on site since 1667. In the back of the pub there is a bar with graffiti from WWII airmen covering the ceilings and walls, earning it the nickname of the RAF bar. Whilst this is pretty cool on its own, the most recent claim to fame goes back to the 28 February 1953. It was in The Eagle at lunchtime that day that Francis Crick and James Watson announced that they had discovered the structure of DNA. The pub serves a special ale in honour of this occasion, called Eagle’s DNA. When we went, they were in full dinner swing and we were absolutely stuffed into a corner table to manage a seat for food. It was really good fun though, and I’d definitely recommend popping by if you’re in the area sometime.

The next day we decided to have a wander around central Cambridge together and see all the famous colleges. Honestly, they truly are stunning. However, you cannot stop very long to take a photo before you are quickly swarmed by salespeople trying to sell you tours of the city or punting journeys on the river. It really does ruin the moment a bit, but unless you’re in the mood to constantly be barking “no” at someone, there’s not much you can do but snap a quick picture and scurry along.

All in all, I can see why people come to visit Cambridge, but I’m glad we only stayed 2 days. Unless you have business there, you’ll find you can see all the touristy bits pretty quickly. I’d definitely go back though, as there were a few more museums I didn’t get time to see. Maybe this year!

 

— Kate

 

Into the Medieval District, Part One

It has been raining continuously today since I woke up at 7. I didn’t have any particular desire to go anywhere today, and this rain has really just confirmed that. However, I’ve become a slave to my FitBit since it arrived on my birthday, and it’s showing an embarrassing 738 out of 10,000 steps today. Reading and writing may be good for the mind, but they are poor on the body. It’s far too grim to take photos of the outside of old buildings today, so I may pop back up to the Cathedral and take some photographs inside. They’re still doing construction on the outer gate, so the Ethelbert and Erpingham Gate photos will have to wait.

In the meanwhile, I still have a stockpile of other places in the city that I’ve visited. Norwich is a city that offers so much, but is also infinitely walkable in the same go. Though the city was targeted by the Germans during WWII for its cultural importance, a healthy amount of the medieval district still stands. Today we shall focus on three of the older structures in town – Cow Tower, Adam & Eve, and Elm Hill.

Cow Tower

I suppose I probably shouldn’t have done Cow Tower without explaining the Great Hospital, but there we are. Regardless, Cow Tower was built in 1278 by the monks of the Great Hospital. It was meant to be a tollhouse and later was used as a prison. By 1378 it was given to the city and was repurposed yet again as a freestanding artillery tower. The name is believed to come from the water meadow on which it sits, which was known as Cowholme. Sadly, no cows have ever lived inside the tower as far as anyone can tell. Unlike the castle, this tower has not been kept up during the years or restored to what it might have looked like whilst it was in use. This means that only the stone shell is standing and that they’ve put a barred gate at the entrance to keep any would-be climbers out. As you can tell from my photos you can still get a great view, but it’s now been reduced to a nice brief stopping point along the Riverside Walk through the city.

Adam & Eve Pub

The Adam & Eve is supposedly the oldest pub in Norwich. It has been mentioned in documents as far back as 1249, and was originally meant to be a brewhouse for the builders of Norwich Cathedral, only a few minutes away. Archaeology suggests that the spot has been used for much longer, and evidence of a Saxon well has been found underneath the pub. My American friends will be disappointed that the interior doesn’t look particularly ancient, but I promise they serve a great selection of beer, ale, and cider. They even do lunch and dinners, though we’ve never gotten around to trying them. It’s worth popping by for a drink after you’ve visited the Cathedral.

Elm Hill

Okay, so technically Elm Hill is an entire street and not just one building. However, Elm Hill is the city’s most famous medieval street. Among its fine collection of preserved Tudor buildings is the Briton Arms – the sole survivor of a city fire in 1507 and one of only five thatched buildings remaining in the city centre. Also, the Strangers Club at 22-24 Elm Hill was once the residence of a wealthy Norfolk family, the Pastons, who are famous for their letters describing everyday life in the 1400s. Do not wear heels on this street if you value your ankles, as they are still steep and covered in cobblestones.

With that, it sounds like it’s time for me to fortify myself and get my rainboots on for the walk to the cathedral. Wish me luck!

— Kate