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Frank's travels around Britain 2007.


Was the last trip of the year going to be bad weather? The forecasters said so! Is it Frank's good luck on these breaks that makes it so great  ... or am I pushing the good weather Gods a bit too much by crowing about it? Nevertheless, I got good weather again. I set off in sunshine & came back in sunshine. 2007 has been a great year for good weather on Frank's short breaks.

Getting in the Lodge at Amesbury near Stonehenge, my intention was to head towards the south coast via the New Forest. I wanted to catch the trees as they turned into their autumn colours. I think I was probably a week or a fortnight too early. There was a hint of change and a bit of yellow around but only in formal gardens did I see the variety of colours & those reds I associate with autumn.

The good bit of the trip was finding how attractive Salisbury is & the bad bit was finding Bournemouth was closed!

Travelling down in good weather, it got damper the further south I went. I expected what the forecasters predicted, overcast, grey & rain.

My first trip out was due south to Bournemouth. As I got nearer, the better the weather got. Not exactly true sunshine but clear, bright & warm. The target was the pier, where many years ago we had had an outstanding family pizza while sitting on the sands. (It's amazing what old blokes remember) The first thing was that Bournemouth seems to close for the winter! KFC even apologised when you reached their entrance, with a notice on the door. The second thing was Harry Ramsden had replaced the pizza place. I was hungry & their take away price was only 3.99, I could treat that as a main meal and still live with the expense. My God, was it bad! The poor kids from Poland (or wherever) had no idea of the classic British fish & chips. The fish was not fresh (the sea was outside the door but I suspect a fish merchant supplied Harry from somewhere up north & by the time it got served, out of season, on the south coast it was best described as crap). The chips were on the edge of inedible, pre-cooked & made solid by re-cooking. There seemed little point in a real complaint, their English didn't seem to stretch that far. And to be fair, my sarcasm probably went right over their heads! The staff tried hard, it was clean enough but I bet half their time was spent shooing seagulls out of the seating area. They walked in through either of two doors, they didn't seem to query the appalling food.

Bournemouth sea front is really nice. Excellent clean sand & miles to walk. It was warm, bracing & full of ozone. (recharge your lungs Frank, it smells so fresh) No ice creams of course, the towns closed but after Harry's lead chips, you didn't need anything else. The pleasure of walking by the sea on sand instead of pebbles is perfect. Shoes off on the sea edge, nothing but comfort. Brighton is very popular but it's pebbles are hard, I have this love of sand. Maybe it's my Lancashire roots & Blackpool & all that. A beach needs sand! The gulls, the warm barmy air & the rushing sound of the sea is just what the doctor ordered. Many an hour can be spent soaking it all up. On a pleasant day in autumn, walking along a deserted beach, can make you thankful that lots of people don't want to do what your doing at that moment in time. Bournemouth doesn't seem to have a neglected side either. It looks like its still being invested in. It's so nice, I think in summer, the nearest you may get to parking your car is in Bournemouth is Southampton.

The Wednesday morning was misty and full of autumn, by the time I had eating a bacon butty & finished my cup of coffee the sun was out & I was discovering Old Sarum Castle. This was the original site of the Old Sarum cathedral. It is just south of Amesbury village. New Sarum became what is now the city of Salisbury. The cathedral city of Salisbury is justifiably popular as a tourist destination. It is an attractive city with a lovely river (diverted from the five rivers that converge there) running through it, a number of intriguing older buildings in addition to the lovely Cathedral itself. It's only few miles up the road towards Stonehenge from Old Sarum, the original site. The first cathedral was burnt down only 5 days after it was consecrated. Can you imagine, in the days of religious belief we can't even comprehend  now, what that must have made them believe? They must have thought that God was less than pleased! To see both of the deep sided defensive ditches that surround it, makes you understand the difficulty of attacking a castle. We are talking about the iron age. The banks were begun almost 5000 years ago, and remained intact until the Roman invasion. The Romans installed a garrison in the river valley below the site and it was probably used as a market centre. At this time it was called Sorviodunum. Just to try & scramble up there now, as fit young soliders must have done either in practise or to attempt to storm a castle, makes you realise why they used this way of protecting themselves. Under fire from a great height, it would make you ask the question, "Why did I join this mob?" The only thing it makes you realise is, if your going to have a castle so high up, you better sort out where your water supply is going to come from.

The terrific story about where the new cathedral was to be built is undoubtedly rubbish but what a great one! Tales of Robin hood all over again! The cathedral is built on a gravel bed with unusually shallow foundations of 18 inches upon wooden faggots: the site is supposed to have been selected by firing an arrow from Old Sarum, although this is clearly legend due to the distance involved. It is sometimes claimed the arrow hit a white deer, which continued to run and died on the spot where the Cathedral now exists. Talk about town planning! Did some powerful king or priest make a stupid decision on deciding where it was to be built? One of his minions, who wanted to crawl up the holy ladder of court or church, came up with this story to impress the natives. But what a great story! He deserved the promotion for convincing people it was true. Will they excavate the cathedral in a thousand years & find a deer body under the alter stone?

The city of New Sarum, was founded in 1220, and the building of the new cathedral begun by Bishop Richard Poore in that year. The main body was completed in only 38 years and is a masterpiece of Early English architecture. The stones which make up the cathedral came from Old Sarum. The 123 metre (404 feet) spire was built later and is the tallest spire in the UK. The cathedral's library contains the best preserved of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta. In 1386, a large mechanical clock was installed at Salisbury Cathedral, the oldest surviving mechanical clock in Britain.

The City is very nice. Not just posh shops but a place that has it all. Nice places to eat, places to rest up, a river with fish & wildlife runs right through it. I was well impressed. Its the sort of city you can imagine living in. A Sainsbury's kind of world more than ASDA, up market but real, Asian shopkeepers & Russians seem to blend well with the Mercedes & Land Rovers. A very mixed community.



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Old Sarum