On July 26 (yes! July 26 ... I'm catching up with the vacation photos), Claire and Morgan and I did a little driving trip in the west of Gloucestershire and in and out of Wales along the Welsh-English border. We started at Chipping Campden (see "A" on the map below), and our first stop was Tewkesbury (see "B" on the map below).
I bet if Morgan is reading this, she will start laughing if she remembers our parking there. I would do anything this summer to avoid turning the car around as I drove. You'd find yourself in these impossibly narrow little alleyways if you ventured off all willy-nilly. It's a miracle I didn't scrape up the sides of the car.
Morgan is such a good sport.
Tewkesbury is, for lack of a better word, adorable. We stopped there to break up the day's driving and see Tewkesbury Abbey, but the town itself is ... adorable.
It's in Gloucestershire, where the Avon and Severn rivers meet.
The 120-ish painted banners flying in Tewkesbury display the coats-of-arms of people who fought in the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. It was one of the decisive battles in the War of the Roses, in which the Lancaster and York branches of the House of Platagenet battled over the English throne. Henry Tudor from Lancaster won, and then the House of Tudor went on to rule England for 117 years.
Volunteers at the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society create the banners from cotton duck and acrylic paints, and then rent them to Tewskesbury businesses to display every summer. I think this is a marvelous fundraiser, and I would like to do it here. Was there a Battle of San Gabriel?
When Henry VIII (himself, of course, a Tudor) was king, he went around England "suppressing" all the monasteries, but the people of Tewkesbury managed to save their abbey by appropriating it as their (Protestant) parish church.
Pretty sneaky, huh? :) The Abbey was part of a larger monastery that was mostly destroyed, but thankfully, the Abbey stands today.
You have to buy a little photo-taking permit (it's a couple pounds, I think) to take photos inside the Abbey, and I did not care to do that, so there are no photos of its insides. It's very interesting and if you're in the vicinity sometime, you should visit. The grounds are lovely, too.
After peeking around the Abbey for a bit, we had lunch at The Bay Tree, and then we hit the road again.
Our MAIN goal for the day was to show Puzzlewood to Morgan. (Puzzlewood is "C" on the map up top. It's in the Forest of Dean, just north of Coleford, and still in Gloucestershire, but just a bit east of the Welsh border.)
Puzzlewood is a nice place to visit if you are a fan of the show Merlin. You will recognize it, because it is sometimes filmed there.
It's also a good place to visit if you're a Tolkien fan.
Claire and I had been there (with Bob) a couple years ago. I was crushed that time, because when we got there I realized I'd left my camera battery charging at home. But this time, I had brought both the camera and its battery. :)
Elves began it, of course, waking trees up and teaching them to speak and learn their tree-talk.
(from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien)
He led the way in under the huge branches of the trees. Old beyond guessing, they seemed. Great trailing beards of lichen hung from them, blowing and swaying in the breeze. Out of the shadows, the hobbits peeped, gazing back down the slope: little furtive figures that in the dim light looked like elf-children in the deeps of time peering out of the Wild Wood in wonder at their first Dawn.
Some of us are still true Ents, and lively enough in our fashion, but many are growing sleepy, going tree-ish, as you might say. Most of the trees are just trees, of course; but many are half awake. Some are quite wide awake . . .
After we left Puzzlewood, we headed south to Tintern Abbey ("D" on the map up top), in Wales. It is my favorite place in the United Kingdom.
I know EXACTLY what Wordsworth was talking about.
... that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,--
(from Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798)
I have to admit that I prefer ruined abbeys to non-ruined ones, because once you clear out the furnishings and pop that roof off, WOW. Now you can worship without distraction.
Although I wouldn't go so far as to go around actively ruining the abbeys on purpose. No. Shame on you, Henry VIII.
Although maybe the cows could be considered a distraction to worship for some. I don't know. I think they're a nice addition.
For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
And then we headed home.
It is good for your heart, to have a day of such beauty.