The nearest substantial town to Stamford is Peterborough, which is actually in Cambridgeshire. I had never heard of Peterborough but, since visiting, it has popped up in historical references on many occasions. It is really lovely to do the trip right at the front of the top of a double-decker bus as it winds through some truly picturesque villages.
Although you may have had your fill of cathedrals, Peterborough’s is worthy of a visit. It houses an excellent display explaining cathedral construction methods and the daily life of the monks who lived there. The monks of Peterborough made very important contributions to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
Peterborough cathedral also houses the tomb of Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife) and was the original burial site of Mary, Queen of Scots before her son had her reinterred at Westminster Abbey. There was something about this cathedral, with these tombs of such historical significance, which made me acutely aware that I was treading the same path as so many others throughout a long and eventful history.
My daughter became fascinated by Katherine of Aragon after reading The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory, http://www.philippagregory.com/books/the-constant-princess. The descriptions of Katherine’s childhood in Spain, surrounded by sunlight and warmth, orange trees and gardens with fresh produce, contrasted starkly to her experiences in a grey, cold and damp England where they hadn’t even heard of lettuce! Katherine’s obvious strength of character during the “Anne Boleyn years” elicited great admiration and empathy. We were moved to later visit the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain, which was where Katherine spent her youth before being married off to Britain. I also read an intriguing biography by Giles Tremlett which is better reviewed by The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/30/catherine-aragon-giles-tremlett-review This book provides a detailed insight into the seemingly well-known events surrounding Katherine’s divorce from KIng Henry VIII. The length of time this whole process actually took and the political and diplomatic machinations involved were astonishing.
Changing the subject now:
If you are interested in fossils take a slow stroll through the Queen St. Mall. The floor of the shopping centre is constructed from rock teeming with fossils of ancient ammonites and trilobites. I am sure the locals thought I was a mad woman as I stopped and started my walk exclaiming in excitement at yet another ammonite!
Somewhere I wish we had been to, and will definitely be on the itinerary for a future trip, is Flag Fen, near Peterborough.
“Bronze Age Centre & Archaeology Park
Flag Fen Bronze Age Centre and Archaeology Park is one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe, home to a unique ancient wooden monument. A kilometre-long wooden causeway and platform have been preserved for 3500 years in the wetland.
Bronze Age people drove more than 60 000 posts into the ground in five parallel lines and laid many hundreds of thousands of horizontal planks. The site is believed to have been built and used by the fen people as a place of worship and ritual for more than 1000 years.
In 1982 part of the monument was discovered during drainage works and a decade of major excavations began. They revealed the enormity of the structure, along with considerable numbers of fascinating artefacts from the Bronze Age and later.
The site was opened to the public and now comprises over 20 acres of park. Visitors can view a preserved section of the ritual causeway and a museum housing a selection of the artefacts discovered during excavations. Alongside weapons, tools and jewellery, there is the oldest example of a wooden wheel found in England and even a pair of perfectly preserved bronze shears, complete with their wooden box.
The outdoor areas recreate a prehistoric landscape, complete with reconstructed roundhouses from the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
There are frequent events throughout the season, including Roman and Celtic re-enactments, craft demonstrations, storytelling and exhibitions.”
Nottingham is an easy day trip from the Stamford area. Nottingham is home to Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest. There is a castle which has lots of activities associated with these stories, including medieval banquets and lessons in the English super weapon – the long bow. Sherwood Forest is little more than a joke these days, being mainly planted pine, however amongst the trees lurks a great activity, particularly if you are a young adult or travelling with teenagers. Go Ape is a company which operates high ropes courses in a variety of locations around Britain, including Sherwood. Even I, in my mid-forties, and my husband, a fit 50-something, managed the course. Not good if you are afraid of heights, but you are securely strapped into a harness and it is great fun!
I was very surprised at what an attractive town centre Nottingham has. Despite having been there before, I have no recollection of the town. My only two memories of Nottingham were a large bronze statue of Robin Hood and the Laundromat! You may wonder what was so special about the Laundromat that I still remember it 30 years later. In 1984 the IRA were the focus terrorist group and everywhere we went in the UK we were bombarded with messages and announcements about reporting any unattended packages or items. Just inside the door of the Laundromat there was an unattended suitcase. We pondered it for ages wondering whether we should report it, when finally, someone came in and rescued it. It probably only had dirty clothes in it but it alarmed us considerably! So; forget about the Laundromat and take a stroll through the town centre.
For something a little more esoteric, Nottingham is also the location for Warhammer World, the global headquarters for Warhammer! If any amongst you have a passion for Warhammer, Lord of the Rings or war games in general, this is a fascinating place to visit. We have nothing on this scale in Australia.