Tag Archives: Stratford upon Avon

If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Which is precisely what I managed to do last month for a few days. With Dave on the mend following his op, my friend Avis and I slipped away by coach, visiting the beautiful county of Warwickshire, England for a “Bluebell Walk”. The bluebells were out early this year, and are stunning. Knowing this and when combined with a touch of literary culture, Avis and I we were in for a treat.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

First to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (William Shakespeare’s wife). I visited here back in the 60s, as an 11-year-old on a school trip, and well remembered the thatched building and gardens, although 50 years on one now enters through a different building to reach the cottage, and the gardens have expanded. Following a brief history of the house we were allowed to wander at leisure with staff on hand to explain and inform. I’m certainly glad I didn’t live there – no mains electricity, no water on tap and no central heating; one could well imagine how difficult life was back in the 1500s. Outside, I was disappointed to see that the bluebells amongst all the colourful tulips in the beautiful front garden were the Spanish non-native type. They certainly wouldn’t have been found here in Shakespeare’s time. I hope the gardeners dig them all out soon.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Then on  to Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, it’s some 50 years since  first exploring this town. The main street on which William Shakespeare’s house  is located is now pedestrianised, thankfully, but a large visitor centre now sits incongruously alongside it. We decided against doing the house tour; instead we took a pleasant walk through Stratford and enjoyed a spot of lunch.

Walton Hall Hotel

A few miles outside of Stratford we arrived at our hotel, set in 65 acres of park and farmland. What a fabulous place! Although the main part of the hotel is modern, it’s built in the grounds of a large 16th century mansion (history & info link) recently owned by the late Danny La Rue.  The rooms were lovely, the beds so enormous they could easily sleep 4 persons! And joy of joys, I had a balcony too so as the dawn chorus started, I opened the French doors and enjoyed my early morning coffee outside as I listened. Bliss! The food was excellent, the staff faultless. In fact, it’s one the few hotels I’ve stayed in where I wish I could have stopped for longer, only the bluebell woods called and thus, after a delicious breakfast we were on the road again, heading for Coughton Court (pronounced Coat-un). I’d never heard of this National Trust Tudor treasure until this trip. Can’t understand why.

Once there, we headed straight for the woods and the bluebells, after all this was the main reason for our trip. There were swathes of them. And the scent glorious. If you’ve never smelt an English bluebell wood you are missing a treat. However, there is only so much one can say about bluebells, but I did take lots of photos, mainly for painting reference.

Of course, Thugs Bunny and Mr Tumble had to get in on the act!

We spent several hours wandering around enjoying the spectacle before heading back to explore the house itself. Coughton Court is still occupied by the sixth generation of the Throckmorton family, infamously involved in the plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I in 1583 and put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Inside, we could wander freely, allowed to touch things, sit on the furniture, even try on some of the Tudor clothes on display. Helpful guides were on hand to explain items and various histories of the house and family. Coughton also boasts magnificent gardens, better than Hampton Court apparently, but I have to admit we were too exhausted to venture further so settled on coffee and cake instead. This is definitely a place to go back to. To read more about the house and the Throckmortons I’ve included this link .

Coughton Court

Time eventually caught up with us to make our way back to the coach and home. A lovely, relaxing two days and a much needed break. Now patiently waiting for the next one.

PS: Meanwhile, I feel a painting coming on…

 

Soaking up Shakespeare

Earlier this year we were invited to attend a formal dinner in Stratford upon Avon and decided to make a long weekend of it. Of course, being Shakespeare’s birthplace, almost everything is geared to a celebration of the Bard of Avon.

We started by taking a leisurely walk around the lovely Warwickshire market town. Beautiful old buildings-many of which would have been familiar to Shakespeare himself since the town dates back more than eight hundred years-exist alongside modern structures which, on the whole, blend in well. As you can see, many of these old buildings have been utilised for present-day needs.Police station

Of course, the most  photographed building in Stratford has to be where Shakespeare was born in 1564.  Some people say the house itself was built in the fifteenth century, while others say it was built around the time of Shakespeare’s actual birth. Regardless of when it was built, it is still a pretty impressive structure. Shakespeare's BirthplaceApparently, the Bard lived here until he was a young man, and even spent the first years of his marriage to Anne Hathaway in this house.

A short walk along the high street is a rather fun bronze statue of The Jester. It was created by Anthony Bird and features a character from As You Like it. Around the stone plinth on which it stands are quotations from other Shakespeare plays, such as ‘Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun. It shines everywhere‘ from Twelfth Night.The Jester

After all that culture, we were ready for afternoon tea. Being in Stratford, we just had to choose a really special tea shoppe. Where else than Hathaways Tea Rooms? Housed in a building dating from around 1610, the property has a chequered past. It has been an eighteenth-century Inn, a booksellers, an apothecary, a boot and shoe store, until in 1931 it became Hathaways Tea Rooms.Hathaways Tea Rooms

Alas, we didn’t have time for a trip to the theatre to see a Shakespearean play, but that was sort of remedied for me when I got home and a friend managed to get tickets for a much sought-after live screening of Benedict Cumberbatch playing Hamlet at London’s Barbican theatre. So, October was Shakespeare month for me, and now I feel so bathed in culture, I’m sure it will keep me going for a good few months to come.