We left Reading 3 days ago on the train to go to Ealing which is just west of London.The first day it was raining very hard, which was good because we got to spent a lot of time with poor Pablo the cat. It seems he got into a cat fight a couple of days before we got here, and he has several wounds on his body. So he has a cone around his head, to keep him from licking his skin. He needs some gentle nursing and some time with us. So the last few days we have been pretty much staying at home. He is such a sweet baby except when it comes to putting medicine on his wounds. Hopefully, he will heal quickly and be his normal self.
We have four days off between pet sitting assignments so we are now in Reading, England. Reading “was an important trading and ecclesiastical centre in the medieval period, as the site of Reading Abbey, one of the richest monasteries of medieval England with strong royal connections, of which the 12th century abbey gateway and significant ruins remain.” ( wikipedia) The Abbey is under a two year renovation at the moment. Here is a photograph of the 12th century gateway as it looks today.
Inside this gateway in 1539, Henry the VIII had Hugh Faringdon, the last abbot of the abbey, convicted of treason (a verdict delivered before the trial began) and had him hanged, drawn, and quartered . Here is a timeline for these medieval events.
This gateway is actually a tall medieval building where in 1783 Jane Austen and her sister went to boarding school. Jane was 9 years old. She spent three years there, learning sewing, dancing, spelling, French and music.
The renovation should be finished by 2018 and then you can walk through the ancient ruins of this important historical place.
We also took a river cruise on the Thames. We took the Caversham Lady toward Oxford with the trusty captain Ben at the wheel.
The day was overcast and soon turned to rain, but I did get some photographs of the river and the lovely homes that faced it.
The river is a favorite place for people to feed the swans, ducks and geese.
We have one more day here before we go to take care of Pablo the cat in London. Lots of rain is forecast, so we’re planning to visit the Reading Museum tomorrow.
We have mainly been hanging out here at the house with the sweet guinea pigs; Olaf and Elsa It has been raining a lot but that means that the flowers have been amazing. We did get to visit a couple of National Trust homes ( we purchased a pass so it is now essentially free to go). They both did not let you take photographs inside the houses but the gardens were lovely. This is Loseley Park; Here are some of the flowers from there; This house is called Hatchlands Park; .As you can see there are children playing in the front of the house. The National Trust is very good about including things for children to do at their historic homes. They often have a dress up corner for kids to wear costumes from the time period which is a good way to teach history to the young ones.
Our family will be returning tomorrow so we are cleaning the house and getting ready to move to Reading for 3 days until our next sit. We have really enjoyed being here in Godalming.
We have mainly been staying at home and taking care of the guinea pigs and cooking because it has been raining almost every day.
But we have found some good weather during part of the day to do a little exploring. We went to Clandon Park, a home owned by the National Trust. It is an early 18th-century Palladian mansion. It caught fire in 2015 and the entire inside was destroyed. The Trust has decided to restore this mansion to its former glory. But right now you can only go in to see it with hard hats and a tour guide. They have photographs of what the inside looked like before the fire, and you can see what a precious historical house looks like now.
Here are some other photographs of the damage that the house sustained.
This statue must have fallen into the ashes (notice her broken knee) and was put back up into her niche with wooden safety bars.
You have to applaud the grit of the National Trust to tackle this extensive restoration. It is also important for people to see what happens to historical buildings when fire rips through them.
We also had time to go the the Watts Memorial chapel in Compton. This is an extraordinary example of Art Nouveau version of Celtic Revival style in the village cemetery. It was designed by Mary Fraser-Tytler,
the wife of the artist George Fredric Watts.
Amazingly, “A group of local amateurs and enthusiasts, many of whom later went on with Mary Fraser-Tytler to found the Compton’s Potter Guild, constructed the chapel from 1896 to 1898; virtually every village resident was involved. ” ( Wikipedia ). I think it is an incredible example of the Victorian sensibilities around a craft movement to inspire social improvement by using creative craft arts. Here are some of the angels that line the inside of the chapel.
These are all made from clay that was found on the Watts estate and hand crafted by Mary and the villagers. They painted and gilded the work in gold leaf. It is a truly stunning example of what ordinary people can do when their creative artistry is unleashed.
We are in a small town called Godalming in Surrey, England. We are petting sitting two beautiful but shy long haired guinea pigs named Olaf and Elsa. I have not been able to catch them out of their houses to get a photograph. Here is their outdoor cage and they are in the house. The netting is to keep cats and birds of prey away. I will post one of them soon.
We are doing our normal house sitting routine here. We have been to the grocery store, spent some time feeding and cleaning the guinea pigs enclosure, and doing our laundry. It has been raining for the last two days so we are being home bodies.
I had time today to work on some of the photographs that I have been taking and thought I would dazzle you with the stunning flowers that are abloom everywhere here.
You can see why I am going crazy with my camera in this country full of glorious flowers.
Yesterday we left Stratford and sweet Enzo.We were happy that Anne and Steve (Enzo’s parents) had a great time on their trip. We had a great time taking care of their lovely home and their special dog.
We have four days until our next engagement, so we drove down to see Stonehenge. The drive was drizzly and full of slow-moving trucks. The weather at Stonehenge was windy, as it often is, but it was exciting to see this prehistoric monument “up close and personal.” David had been here in 1981, when access was a lot less controlled, and visitors a lot fewer. Now there is a fee (£16.50!), a parking lot for 400 cars and dozens of coaches, a shuttle bus fleet, and cords holding you quite a ways back from the stones themselves.
We drove to Winchester to stay in a hotel. Today we went into town to see the Winchester Cathedral. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. It was finished in 1093. It is so humbling to be in a building where that many people have worshiped within over the centuries. We did not get to see the entire church because there was a music festival going on. We will try to get back there sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Jane Austen is buried in this church. She died 200 years (and two days) ago and the city of Winchester is celebrating her life. These photographs are from her monuments inside the cathedral.
It was a fun and interesting day in Winchester. Parking was difficult and expensive, as it is in every city that was laid out 1000 years ago. On our way back to the hotel, we spied a KFC store and bought some — there are never any good specials on “American” fast food, but sometimes you just gotta have it. We had actually had an early lunch at McDonalds, which are really a big presence in Europe. Most of them have ordering kiosks that permit you to order in different languages and pay by card. In this particular restaurant, it also dispensed an identity “puck” that permitted the staff to find you and bring your order to your table. Still no free refills, though.
Today we took the train (about 70 minutes, £16.80) up to Birmingham airport and rented a car for the next 26 days. This will take us through our current pet-sit, a four-day inter-sit period, the next sit, and another three-day interval before we arrive in west London, where we know a car will not be a desirable thing.
On the way back to Stratford, we drove out to the Mary Arden farm in the village of Wilmcote, about 3 miles outside of Stratford. Mary was born there in 1537, the youngest of 8 daughters.
Mary’s family were considered a wealthy farming family. John’s family was one of their tenant farmers. But John was a clever businessman and a glove marker. He had managed to purchased a house (Shakepeare’s birth place) in the town of Stratford on Avon before they married. John Shakespeare and Mary Arden were married in 1557 when she was 20 years old. They had eight children together, including the eldest son William Shakespeare, the playwright.
The good news for us is that the Arden’s family farm and home was lived in until 1930 when the The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust purchased it .
Today, the Trust keeps it and the Palmer’s farm ( the close neighbor’s farm) as a working Tudor farm. The farm keeps many rare breeds of animals including this black and pink pig who can jump over fences when he feels like it.He and a pal did this while we were watching. It was pretty amazing and not very graceful . A beautiful white farm horse. A plucky goat who was willing to do almost anything for food. But the real show was the birds of prey show that was performed by the master of the falconry and his precious bird friends. Here he is with one of the majestic birds.These birds are well cared for and beautiful. Here is a barn owl. And here is my favorite, a big eagle owl named Wesley. It was just my kind of a fun day of history and wonderful animals. We may have to go back because the long horned cow was supposed to give birth tonight and I would love to see a new calf.