South-west England

Salisbury. I just had to visit Salisbury Cathedral as I have always loved John Constable’s paintings of it. When I was at uni I had several posters of Constable’s cathedral stuck to my walls.

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Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds, John Constable. Housed in New York Metropolitan Art Museum.

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Salisbury Cathedral at night

When we visited in 1984 we were able to take a tour right up inside the roof to the base of the spire – England’s tallest –  and out onto the roof-top where the most fabulous views were to be had.  This was the most amazing experience, being able to creep around amongst the rafters and, not only seeing the outside view from up high, but a view of the cathedral interior from above. According to their website, http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk, this tour is still available:

“For many, Salisbury Cathedral’s Tower Tour is the most memorable and spectacular experience of their visit.

The cathedral’s iconic spire is instantly recognisable and taking a tower tour is the best way to get to see it close up!

Tower Tours last approximately 90+ minutes. Hear the cathedral’s history whilst exploring the ancient roof spaces in a real ‘behind the scenes’ experience, climbing 332 steps in easy stages by narrow winding spiral staircases to reach the foot of the spire 225 feet above ground level.   See up inside the Cathedral spire with its medieval wooden scaffold then walk outside onto the four balconies from where you can enjoy spectacular views over the medieval city of Salisbury, Old Sarum and the surrounding countryside from where John Constable painted his famous ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Water Meadows’.”

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Emerging onto the roof of Salisbury Cathedral

On Salisbury Plains is Stonehenge, which is, of course, on everyone’s “to do” list when in England. I have just checked the website and, although I shouldn’t be, am astonished to find that you have to book to see the site and that there is a new visitor centre, including a shop and a cafe. In 1984 we just turned up and wandered around, we may have even been the only ones there! http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/

Buckland- in- the- Moor is a small village is Dartmoor, Devon. It is the most picturesque village imaginable, with gorgeous examples of thatched cottages. Just for curiosity, it also has a church clock where the face, instead of displaying numerals, spells out the words “my dear mother”. Click on the picture to get a clearer view.

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Buckland-in-the-Moor thatched cottages.

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Clock-face reads “my dear mother”, Buckland-in-the-Moor

Cornwall is renowned for its quaint and picturesque villages and it doesn’t disappoint. Be careful driving around Cornwall as the roads are frequently very narrow with only occasional passing bays and the roadside hedges are very high making visibility, especially around corners, difficult.

The Minack Theatre is, to me, the hidden gem of Cornwall. The theatre, reminiscent of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, is built on the edge of a formidable cliff. “Minack” in Cornish means a rocky place. Attending a play at the Minack is a unique theatrical experience. Exits through the rear archways create the somewhat alarming appearance that the actor has fallen off the cliff!

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Minack Theatre, Cornwall. Before the show.

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Minack Theatre, Cornwall. Actors on stage.

Clovelly is a small village in Devon, noted for its extremely steep, car-less streets, donkeys and great views. We visited Clovelly in 1984, but since then the inevitable has happened and it has been discovered by mass tourism, and now caters for coach tours, has a visitors’ centre and guided tours. Sigh.

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Clovelly hotel and harbour-side.

Clovelly was mentioned in the Domesday Book when it was owned by the King. It was acquired by a Norman family in the mid 13th century and has been associated with just three families since then.

The quaint street consists largely of wattle and daub cottages on the sides of a rocky cleft; its steep main street descends 400 feet (120 m) to the pier. It is too steep to allow wheeled traffic and goods are delivered by sled and donkeys.

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Clovelly main street.

There is nothing else really like Clovelly so, despite the tour buses, it is worth a visit.

Becuase of its name, we had to stay in a town called Westward Ho! I believe Westward Ho! is one of only two towns in the world to have an exclamation mark in its name.  The town was named after a novel of the same name by Charles Kingsley (1855), which was set in nearby Bideford. I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like a ‘ripping yarn’ of adventure on the high seas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westward_Ho!_%28novel%29

English beaches are a constant source of amusement and Westward Ho! beach was no exception. In high summer there was no-one in the water, rather the few that were there were either playing cricket on the vast expanse of flat sand or  were hunkered down to avoid the wind, in large dug-outs scattered liberally throughout the large rock barrow that lined the beach. I’m not sure why you would opt for a day out buried in a pile of rocks! Though judging from the photograph, they were warmer than I was.

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July (summer) on Westward Ho! beach – note the people in their rocky wind shelters.

 

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