Following our time in England in the Autumn

Determining which train to take to Chichester was more complicated than I had envisioned. Staff shortages, line repairs, and similar disruptions ruled out the usual route from Victoria Station. Lauren and I eventually settled on a train departing from Waterloo Station, which stopped in Haslemere, only seven miles from the Spread Eagle in Midhurst, where Glenn and the large suitcases stayed while he attended the Goodwood Member’s Meeting. Delighted to be reunited once more, the three of us exchanged news of our various doings over the previous two days and enjoyed a hearty dinner in the Spread Eagle’s pub.

The next morning, we set off early for Chichester, where Glenn and Lauren were dropping me on their way to the Goodwood Aerodrome, where they were taking flights in a Spitfire simulator. They share a passion for flying and World War II history and were very much looking forward to the experience offered by Boultbee, the same people who had organized Glenn’s flight in an actual Spitfire a couple of years ago.

Teddy and Gustus had a post-flight photo op on the plane.

They didn’t take part in the actual flight.

But Penny, Teddy’s companion, was small enough to fit in Glenn’s flight suit, so she went along, much to the chagrin of the two bears.

The simulator in which Glenn and Lauren were to “fly”  is inside an actual Spitfire cockpit. They were very impressed at the sophistication of the technology. After ten years working as a chef, Lauren is training to become a commercial helicopter pilot; Glenn has taken several flying lessons in fixed-wing. Together, they brought enough collective experience for the simulator session to be significant, and they enjoyed it immensely. Teddy and ‘Gustus were thrilled to be allowed a small ride; they’re big Spitfire fans, too.

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Meanwhile, I was snapping away at Chichester Cathedral. Built to replace the cathedral founded in 681 by St Wilfrid for the South Saxons at Selsey, the bishop’s seat was transferred to Chichester in 1075 and consecrated in 1108.

I walked through the adjacent quadrangle to access the Cathedral through the cloisters. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy, damp day.

Architectural critic Ian Nairn describes Chichester as “the most typical English Cathedral”; by that, I assume he refers to the long and varied building history marked by many disasters (it’s hard to be around for 1000 years without some). It’s fairly small as Norman cathedrals go; Gothic architectural features were added as time went on.

The first side chapel I visited is dedicated to those who lost their lives in both World Wars. Your eye is immediately drawn to the elegant stained glass.

Chichester Cathedral takes the shape of a cross, with an aisled nave and choir, crossed by a transept. The square-shaped eastern end of the building is long compared to the nave, from which projects the Lady Chapel, which is airy and light, with botanical painted frescoes on the ceiling.

The choir is separated from the nave by the Arundel screen, constructed with three arched openings, visible to the left in the picture below. George Gilbert Scott caused its removal in the mid-19th century but it was reinstated in 1961.

I admired the beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers in autumn shades.

A very sad little cherub wipes his eyes with the corner of a proclamation inscribed on cloth, all realistically carved in stone.

It’s startling to reflect that there have been only eighty Deans of Chichester in 1022 years. I’m intrigued by the ejection of one George Aglionby in 1642 (likely to do with the English Civil war—1642 to 1646). Bruno Ryves was granted the Deanship in 1646 but wasn’t installed until 1660. You have to wonder what went on there. Did George Aglionby leave with his life? Or is “ejection” a pseudonym for something more sinister, along the lines of Cromwell’s “slighting” of castles?

Curiouser and curiouser. Lots more to come about Chichester Cathedral. 

I still had a bit of time before I could expect the Spitfire enthusiasts to appear, so I took myself off to a cafe for a cup of hot coffee and a scone before venturing out to gather some supplies for our upcoming self-catering stint. Groceries in hand, I took shelter in the Chichester Cross, built in 1501 as a covered marketplace and from which the four main roads radiate. 

I admired the fall plants on offer at a nearby flower shop when Glenn and Lauren drove up.

I hopped into the car, and we set off for Montacute, near Yeovil, where we had rented the South Lodge, one of the former gatehouses to the great estate of Montacute House

Described thusly on their website:

A decorative gate lodge with a spacious interior that retains many original features.

At the entrance to the mighty Montacute House is Montacute South Lodge. This stunning gate lodge dates back to the 16th-century and is constructed from local ham stone.

Sip a glass of wine on the terrace or lounge in South Lodge’s private garden before heading over to explore the beautiful Montacute House. You and your party can enjoy free entry to this late-Elizabethan treasure as part of your stay. 

The village of Montacute has a fantastic selection of country inns, while a little further afield, the mysterious town of Glastonbury is a charming place to spend the afternoon exploring.

Operated by the National Trust, South Lodge is one of their more comfortable offerings;  several excellent local pubs offer delicious food. Our favourite was the Phelips Arms, literally a two-minute walk from the house. We dined there the first night, after settling into South Lodge.  

The following day we set off for Bristol, whose Cathedral was on the list of the not-yet-visited-or-photographed.  The harbour town itself sits at the juncture of the rivers Avon and Frome. 

It was one of England’s most prosperous cities, after London, from the 13th to the 18th centuries, after which the Industrial Revolution propelled Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool into greater prominence. This unicorn statue sits atop the massive Town Hall in the city’s centre. 

Queen Victoria is easily recognizable. 

Bristol Cathedral was founded as St Augustine’s Abbey in 1140. But in 1542, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it became the seat of the newly created Bishop of Bristol and the cathedral of the new Diocese of Bristol.


It was built in fits and starts, in keeping with the tumultuous political climate and burgeoning prosperity of the region over the ensuing centuries. The church’s eastern end was begun in the 12th century when the Chapter House was built.  

The Elder Lady Chapel was added in the early 13th century.

During what author Barbara Tuchman describes in her book A Distant Mirror; The Calamitous 14th Century  ” … two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering age of crusades, cathedrals, and chivalry; on the other, a world plunged into chaos and spiritual agony” … much of Bristol Cathedral was rebuilt in the English Decorated Gothic style. The transept and central tower were added during the 15th century, but the nave was still not finished at the onset of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was demolished. Yup…the guilty party.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that Victorian moral conviction regarding the sanctity of family life ushered in the Gothic Revival. A new nave was built, partially on the original plans. I was very struck by how the nave doesn’t line up with the chancel; it veers decidedly off the axis.

One doesn’t notice this as much when standing in the nave and gazing upwards to the soaring vaulted ceiling.

The most recent stained glass is by a Bristolian, Arnold Wathen Robinson, and was installed following damage sustained during WWII. The windows feature depictions of local Civil Defence during the war, including St. John Ambulance, the British Red Cross, the fire services, air raid wardens, police officers, the Home Guard and the Women’s Voluntary Service. Most unusual subject matter in a cathedral.

There is much more on Bristol Cathedral and the history of Bristol, but this post is meant to be a travel taste test, and I will confine myself to sharing these few shots. 

Glenn and Lauren, meanwhile, had taken themselves off to a pub, where I met them for a quick pint (cider in my case, beer in theirs) before returning to South Lodge.

The next day, we set out for the Dorset coast, visiting Corfe Castle along the way. It’s a bit of a fixer-upper. Built by William the Conqueror, it dates to the 11th century and was one of the earliest castles in England to be built at least partly using stone, at a time when most were built with earth and timber.

Lauren received some courtly attention from a medieval knight.

An avid watcher of Battle Castle, she was intrigued by the trebuchet.

It’s easy to see the defensive desirability of the location. Look at the view!

We could see the heritage train operated by Swanage Railway chugging along the five and a half mile line from Norden to Corfe Castle and down to the Victorian seaside town of Swanage.

We had hoped to visit Tyneham; a ghost village requisitioned just before Christmas 1943 by the then War Office for use as firing ranges for training troops, displacing 225 people in one fell swoop. The last person to go left a notice on the church door, saying  Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.

They never returned.

Somewhat ironically, for a ghost village, it was closed. As it’s still part of the Army Ranges, access is permitted on certain days only, and this wasn’t one of those days. For another trip, then!  

Instead, we drove down to the Jurassic coast and viewed the gorgeous chalk coastline. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring a scenic part of England we had not visited before.

We set out for Salisbury the next day, where my Cathedral Quest suffered a severe setback, courtesy of the BBC. They were invading …er filming… inside the Cathedral. The further in I got, the worse the mess. Cables, wooden crates, and all manner of clobber littered the aisles, none of it photogenic. Astonishingly, the people at the ticket counter were oblivious and hadn’t realized that the BBC was even there. 

“Don’t you think they should have this kind of intrusive visit posted on their website?” (which I had not consulted, in any case), I fumed to Lauren and Glenn, who were much more sanguine about it. They attempted to impart their philosophical outlook on my grumpy attitude. Finally, one of them said the magic words: “Never mind, let’s go have lunch”. So off we went to explore the beautiful town of Salisbury and enjoyed an excellent meal. My crabbiness dissipated rapidly, and I was very amused to discover “Fudgehenge” in one of the sweet shops.

The following morning we set off on the final leg of our journey, but not before I hastened over to Montacute House to get some pictures of the exterior. We had toured the inside on a previous visit, but the lighting was so beautiful that I wanted to get a few more shots of the grounds.

The “cloud” hedges are aptly named.

The house itself is a beautiful example of late Elizabethan Architecture, probably my favourite next to Georgian.

Before getting on our way to our next stop in Grantham, we drove to the top of Ham Hill, which overlooks Montacute.

The church you can see to the left in the photo below…

was located just behind South Lodge. I captured this image on the way back to the Lodge from the Main House that same morning.

What a view! Such typical English countryside, indeed a “green and pleasant land”.

Stay tuned for Part III, in which we visit Bletchley Park, Stamford, and Lincoln (we had quite an adventure, there!)  before returning to London for our final few days.

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