Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Taste of England

York Minster
This is a pictorial whistle-stop taster tour of some of the places in England that I've visited and liked very much. It's oh so easy to focus on places further afield, because they are new, exciting and different, but much closer to home there are some pretty impressive places to see and enjoy in England. For example, the city of York in the county of Yorkshire, famous for its Yorkshire pudding and plain-speaking down-to-earth people. York is one of the top tourist attractions in the whole of the UK. It has Roman origins, Viking connections, a spectacular cathedral (see view of the Minster, above), an attractive old city centre with picturesque alleyways and buildings, and it is situated on the River Ouse where there are plenty of opportunities for boat trips. It's a great place to visit at any time of year.

The famous Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope
Moving on to Cheshire, in the north west of the UK, the world famous Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope can be spotted from many different parts of the county as it stands out large and white against the landscape. Jodrell Bank is part of the University of Manchester, but it has a visitor centre open to the public, complete with hands-on activites and a planetarium which has regular showings. The dish of the telescope is huge and takes some time to move from one position to another. When it's locked in the upright position, as it was when I took this photo, it's usually because it's windy, and the telescope has to be anchored. It is a most impressive sight to wander close to it and look up at the intricate structure. Many years ago it was featured in an episode of "Dr. Who".

Low tide at Berwick upon Tweed
Berwick-upon-Tweed is a border town in the north east of England - and the south east of Scotland. It's been in both countries at some point in it's history, and it's currently part of England.....just! It has 3 bridges which span the River Tweed, and the town itself is full of history, with a fortified boundary wall to walk around. It was a place much loved by the Salford artist L.S.Lowry (he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs...). 
Lowry used to stay at a holiday home there and painted views across the river estuary to the town. This view of the remains of a long-wrecked ship emerging from the silt and mud caught my eye.

Moving on further south along the coast of north east England, into Northumberland, the magical island of Lindisfarne is found off-shore. It's not quite an island because it can be reached by a causeway at low tide, but it isn't it part of the mainland either. The castle is perched on top of this mount, visible from the mainland and also from other parts of the island, but it's usually the ruined abbey that visitors head for. This is famous for St. Cuthbert, its founder, and for the beautifully illustrated Lindisfarne Chronicles.

Promenade at Lyme Regis with fossil-shaped street lamps
Time to head south, to Dorset on the south coast of England, and to the coastal area known as the Jurassic Coast. It is so-called because of the large number of fossils which are embedded in the cliffs along this stretch of coast. One of the best-known resorts in this area is Lyme Regis. This town is lively and bustling, with an attractive harbour and has many shops selling fossils and gemstones. Even the street lamps along the prom are decorated with ammonites - one of the types of fossil found here. Fossil hunters like to search along the beaches in this area, and the best time to find fossils is when it's wet. The cliffs often crumble and fall then, but it's also dangerous to be fossil hunting at such times because there can be large cliff collapses. 
Old thatched cottage in Devon

Thurlestone with its arched rock
On further south now to the south coast of Devon to a place called Hope Cove. This is a small picturesque village near the sea, quiet in winter but thronged with visitors in the summer. The thatched cottage is just one of several found in the village. The windows are tiny and the walls thick, to keep in warmth in cold weather, and to provide cool shade in the heat. Nearby Thurlestone, further along the coast, has an arched rock set in the bay. In summer, when visitors come, it's possible to take a canoe out into the bay and paddle through the arch. The red Devon cliffs can be seen in the background. Devon soil is orangey-red and colours the headlands and fields. Sometimes the sheep in these fields have a pinkish appearance because of the colour of the earth.

Secluded and overgrown corner of country churchyard, Bedfordshire
Moving inland and north of London into Bedfordshire, which adjoins Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, here is a quiet, neglected and overgown corner of a country town churchyard. It was a pleasant, peaceful place to walk in, and to me seemed to hold secrets and the promise of unexplored areas - but maybe that view has something to do with me currently reading the classic story of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Finally, we go east to the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, in East Anglia. The coast is open and mostly unspoiled, the skies seem very large and there are historic and picturesque towns inland. Along the coast of both counties there are several nature reserves, with good birding if you're into that sort of thing. I am. And I saw a rare cuckoo at one of the reserves. Southwold is an unspoiled, old-fashioned British seaside resort and a popular choice of residence - if you can afford the house prices there! Its traditional pier has only quirky amusements, made by an artist, and is the best I've ever been in.
Beach and pier at Southwold, Suffolk
Lavenham, in Suffolk, is inland and does historic/picturesque very well, with half-timbered houses. It was once a big trading centre and a wealthy town.

Historic half-timbered houses in Lavenham, Suffolk
Coloured cliffs at Cromer, Norfolk
On to the Norfolk coast to finish this taster trip, to Cromer, the main town on this stretch of coast, famous for its crabs. But it's the cliffs which make it memorable for me, with these striking layers of coloured rock.

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