Yesterday was another very fun and interesting day. Since Clare was not feeling well, it was just Tom and I. We roamed to the south and east of Redditch, getting almost to Oxford. Rather than describe it chronologically like usual I’m going to bounce around a bit, saving what I think is the best for last.
We went by two places which I would have liked to have seen, but did not wish to pay for entry. What little of each we could see was interesting and beautiful, but I tend to shy away from $30 entrance fees. The first place with that sort of fee was Blenheim Palace. This is right off of Woodstock Town Centre, and you go through a cool arched gate to get into the grounds. It’s supposed to be very beautiful, and it is the birthplace of Winston Churchill, which explains much of my interest, but I couldn’t justify the expense. The other interesting place is Warwick Castle, which has been turned into a sort of a medieval theme park. Again, very interesting, but even more expensive than Blenheim. Tom and I contented ourselves with driving around the two places, and I snapped a few pictures, but that’s about it.
It was in Warwick, though, that Tom and I had a proper English carvery for late lunch. Basically, they serve you a place of roast beef, or turkey, or pork, or chicken, or whatever, or all of the above, with Yorkshire pudding and veggies and lots of potatoes. The Irish may be famed for their reliance on the potato, but it’s an English staple as well.
Speaking of the mundane, Tom and I began the day by going to the big Car Boot Sale in Redditch. Basically this is a huge garage sale festival type thing. They have it every week and it’s really neat. It’s so big, we roamed for an hour and a half and probably saw a quarter of it, and Tom said yesterday’s was a small one. Had it been in Columbia, I would have been in trouble, but I didn’t think I’d be able to fit the lovely couch and chair set that would have been perfect in my library into my suitcase. Sigh.
One of the most intriguing places I’ve been was the stone circle at Rollright. There’s a circle which is pretty well preserved of approximately 70 stones here. Why approximately? Apparently no one can ever count them consistently. If you can count the same number of stones three times in a row, you’ve earned a wish. There’s also a set of three stones call the Whispering Knights and another called the King’s stone. The Knights and the King’s Stone are Stone Age gravestones. They also know where the Stone Age village was. It was very eerie to stand on the heath and know that humans have been in that place for 4000 years. Very moving.
The most impressive place we went to was Kenilworth Castle. This was originally a Norman castle built using the local sandstone, so it is a huge red structure. It was added on to by John of Gaunt and then later during Elizabethan times, so it has several different architectural aspects, but because of the sandstone, the anachronisms fade somewhat into an overall redness. Unfortunately, the castle is in ruins because it was destroyed in the Civil War, but a huge chunk remains, including a lot of little rooms.
Finally, the most powerful place to me was the one that is advertised with the least fanfare. In fact, it’s not really advertised at all, you just have to know that it’s there and have to know how to navigate the town of Bladon. Bladon is immediately to the south of Blenheim Palace, and Winston Churchill, his father, son, wife, and several relatives are buried there. I got some pictures of his tomb, one of them with my fyrd medallion. You know, if there was any person living in the twentieth century who was a fyrdman, I’d have to say good old Winston was probably it.
So today I head off probably to Newcastle or Edinburgh. Kinda depends on the next train from Birmingham. I leave you, however, with a fyrdman-like quote from Churchill:
“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”