Exploring England

With the knowledge that our time in the UK is fast running out, lately we have been trying to see a bit more of the country that we have called home for almost 2 years.  Like many Australians that move to London we have spent a lot of time exploring this wonderful city that always has something new and exciting on offer and have spent our holidays travelling Europe.  However there’s also a lot to see in  England which is why lately we have spent our spare time venturing out and exploring what this country has to offer.

Boat Race

The Boat Race is an annual rowing race between the Oxford and Cambridge University boat clubs that has been taking place around Easter since 1829 on the River Thames in London.  We know we said this blog was dedicated to exploring parts of England other than London but as the race is between two non-London universities we think we can get away with mentioning it.

Usually known for a great day out in the sun we were greatly looking forward to this event however as we seem to attract bad weather it was of course cold and wet when the day finally arrived.  Once again we donned our warmest clothes and set of to Putney in London’s south-west to find a good spot on the river bank.  The street was closed to traffic and stalls with beer, cider and bbq food were all on offer for the event.  After a few drinks it was time for the race, we were near the starting line so once they had passed us and rowed around the river bend we had to watch the remaining race on the big screens.  Having recently visited Oxford we chose to support them and after they were crowned the winners we set of to the pub to celebrate with everyone else.  Another great day out!

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Dover

After a busy April we decided to spend a Sunday in early May exploring another part of England; The Cliffs of Dover. We drove just over an hour east from home and parked the car at the White Cliffs  information centre above a spectacular view of the Dover Docks.  There we could see an ample amount of cars are lorries (semis to the readers back home) cuing to board the ferries that leave from Dover and head towards the coast of France.

After a quick study of the hiking trails map we set of on the pathway along the cliffs and decided to walk the whole distance to the lighthouse. It was a pleasant day with the sun shining bright, with blue but cloudy skies above.  There were plenty of people walking the trails along the cliffs and even more so families with their dogs.  Something that we noticed immediately apart from the stunning white, chalky cliffs  was how the water closer to the shore was a very cloudy, but bright blue.  This was due to the water mixing with the chalk-like cliffs and rocks on the shore.  There were plenty of lovely views from various parts of the cliffs along with the striking white house at the end of the trail and the immense Dover castle in the distance, it all made for wonderful photos.  We also noticed an unused and outdated lighthouse closer to the cliffs edge which must have been one of the first lighthouses used in that area.

The walk back from the lighthouse seemed a lot more challenging than our walk there as we took an alternate route closer along the cliff side.  This trail was much more narrow and precipitous than the regular track that we took on our way to the lighthouse which called for one last stop to look at the marvellous view and to take some last photos before heading back towards the car.

Car on their way to France

Car on their way to France

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Dover (101) Dover (102)

Sandwhich

After our visit to Dover we still had time for one quick stop (and a bite), before heading back to London.  Although we have been Londoners for nearly two years now – and although Hannah wouldn’t like to admit it – Matt still considers ourselves to be tourists.  So a trip to County Kent wouldn’t be complete without stopping in Sandwich to eat a Sandwich.  The trip also wouldn’t be complete for tourists (which we still are), without posing for a cheesy photo with an actual sandwich beside a sign that reads Sandwich.

The town itself is quite small and pleasant with some buildings that are still recognisable from the Tudor period.  There were plenty of markets along the riverside and being a nice day out, a lot of people were enjoying the sun while dining in cafes.  And for those curious readers out there, the bacon, chicken and avocado sandwich that we ate whilst in Sandwich, was in fact delicious!

Buy the time we consumed our mouth-watering sandwiches, it was time to return to London, only to be greeted with grey skies, colder winds and a hint or rain – but nothing surprising there!

A tasty sandwhich in Sandwhich!

A tasty sandwich in Sandwich!

Brighton

With Hannah spending a lot of time working in Brighton lately it has been a good opportunity for Matt to also come down for a visit and for both of us to see some of the sites.  Obviously the first thing we wanted to see in Brighton was the beach known for having pebbles not sand.  We bought some fish and chips for dinner one night and sat on the shore to enjoy the sunset over the sea.  One thing about a rocky beach is its not comfortable and it wasnt long before we both had sore bums! There are advantages though, such as not getting sand in your shoes!  After dinner it was time for  walk on the famous Brighton Pier while we had ice cream for desert.

As it was a weekend Matt had plenty of time the next day to explore the other sites of Brighton while Hannah was hard at work.  He spent the morning exploring the Royal Pavillion and the afternoon at the Brighton Marina before “stumbling” upon the local nudist beach.  The story as he tells it was that he left straight away…

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Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier

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Portsmouth

Recently it was school holidays and Hannah couldn’t get time off work.  This left Matt with some time to explore parts of England on his own.  His first day of solo travelling took him to the coastal city of Portsmouth.  We had heard good things about Portsmouth’s Historical Dockyards, and it was certainly interesting and would be a recommend destination for anyone, especially those with naval interests.  Before reaching the Historic Dockyard, there was time for a quick drive past the house where Charles Dickens was born.

Charles Dicken's House

Charles Dicken’s House

Three of the most-impressive sights at the Historic Portsmouth Dockyard which is overlooked by the famous Spinnaker Tower, would be the HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and ‘The Panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar’ by William Wyllie.

The HMS Victory is a 104-gun ,first-rate ship of the Royal Navy.  It was laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. The ship is most famous for been Lord Nelson‘s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  In 1922 it was moved to a dry dock here aThe HMS Victory is a 104-gun ,first-rate ship of the Royal Navy. It was laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. The ship is most famous t Portsmouth and has been preserved as a museum ever since. 

The HMS Warrior was built for the Royal Navy in 1859–61. It was the first armour-plated, iron-hulled warship and was built-in response to the first ironclad ocean-going warship, the wooden-hulled French ironclad Gloire, launched in 1859.  The ship was converted into a floating oil jetty in 1927 and remained in that role until 1979 when restoration began and later kept as a museum ship in Portsmouth.

Artist William Wyllie campaigned vigorously for the restoration of HMS Victory as a founder member of the Society for Nautical Research, and in 1930 his 42-foot (13 m) panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar was unveiled by King George V. The painting is seen by about 100,000 people every year where it still hangs in the Royal Naval Museum within the Historic Dockyard.

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HMS Warrior with the Spinnaker Tower in the background

Lewes, Battle and Hastings

The next day was another very long day of road-tripping.  The first stop was the small, yet historical town of Lewes.  Although there is not a lot there Matt still managed to keep entertained by walking around and taking in the sights on offer.  These included Lewes Castle, St Michael’s church, Anne of Cleves house and the ruins of the Priory of St Pancras, which was the largest and monasteries in England.

The historical town of Battle was next on the agenda.  This town gets its name from what  took place here in 1066, the Battle of Hastings.  This is one of the most pivotal moments in British history being the last ever time England was successfully invaded by William the Conqueror.  Battle Abbey is definitely the most important site in Battle, as it was built by William the Conqueror as a promise to Pope Alexander II.  He felt the Normans should be punished for the massive scale of killing of the people in England.  William the Conqueror even promised that the high altar would be on the exact spot on which King Harold died in battle.

Battle

Battle

The other interesting sight in this small town was Saint Mary the Virgin Church of England Church.  It has been the centre of Christian life in Battle for nearly 900 years.  The Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin was built on the battlefield of the Norman Conquest and established St. Mary’s to serve the community which had grown up around the monastery.

The final stop of the daywas  the coastal town of Hastings.  With limited time to explore Hastings; a lot of it was done by car.  It seemed very much like Brighton with its amusements along the coastline.  It also had many large and impressive cathedrals and other historic buildings. 

Arundel, Winchester and Portchester Castle

When Hannah was staying in West Sussex for work, Matt took the time to get to explore the local area.  The first area that he explored was the grounds of the hotel which formed part of the Avisford Park Golf Course.  Although this golf course was fairly similar to most prestigious golf courses, some of the interesting things that catch your eye were the various bronze sculptures around the grounds made by a local artist, the many floral fields in the countryside and the many baby animals roaming the countryside seen as though it was spring time.  There was even a bit of time at the end of the day for some croquet.

Avisford Park Golf Course

Avisford Park Golf Course

Some were better at playing croquet then others...

Some were better at playing croquet then others…

Matt then ventured further into Arundel where you can see Arundel castle: a medieval castle. Construction began in 1067 during the reign of William the Conqueror as a fortification for the mouth of the River Arun and a defensive position for the surrounding land against invasion from France.  From the 11th century onward, the castle has served as a hereditary stately home and has been in the family of the Duke of Norfolk for over 400 years.  A tour of the castle would have been great however time was short and he had to give it a miss unfortunately.

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle

Just around the corner from Arundel Castle, is Arundel Cathedral.  This particular day was very significant for this small town as Arundel Cathedral was celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi with a festival of flowers.  The Cathedral’s celebration includes a magnificent carpet of flowers in the central aisle of the Cathedral and other floral displays throughout the Cathedral.

Arundel Cathedral

Arundel Cathedral

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After spending the morning in Arundel, it was then a short drive to Winchester, Hampshire.  Winchester was the highlight of Matt’s day as there was so much history there and many sights to spark his interests.This quaint town was the original capital of England before London was named the capital in the 12th century.  A walk through the centre of town towards to remains of Winchester Castle was first on the agenda.  The castle was founded in 1067 and only the Great Hall still remains of the original building.  Within the Great Hall there were numerous sites including a statue of Queen Victoria, a medieval garden called Queen Eleanor’s Garden and legendary King Arthur’s Round Table.

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The famous round table

Next he headed for Winchester Cathedral.  It is a Church of England cathedral and is one of the largest cathedrals in England with the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe.  After seeing many cathedrals over the past few days Matt decided to skip visiting the inside but still admire the outside of the amazing structure.

The last stop in Winchester was the ruins of Wolvesey Castle.  But along the way I stopped to take a quick photos of the house in which Jane Austen spent her final days and eventually died in.

Wolvesey Castle was erected by the Bishop of Winchester Henry of Blois between 1130 and 1140.  The castle was the scene for the Rout of Winchester in which the Empress Matilda assaulted the Bishop Henry in 1141, during a period known as The Anarchy. The besieged defenders of Wolvesey set fire to the city, destroying most of the old town of Winchester and holding off Empress Matilda’s forces until Stephen‘s wife, Matilda, arrived with reinforcements from London.  It was once a very important building, and held the wedding breakfast of Queen Mary and Philip II of Spain.  The castle was destroyed by Roundheads during the English Civil War in 1646.  The chapel is the only considerable remnant of the south range of the castle, and is still in use, being attached to the palace built by Bishop Morley in 1684, which is now the residence of the Bishop of Winchester.

On the way back towards the hotel, Matt briefly stopped in for a tour of Portchester Castle.  Portchester Castle is a medieval castle built within a former Roman fort at Portchester.  It was founded in the late 11th century, Portchester was a baronial castle taken under royal control in 1154.  The monarchy controlled the castle for several centuries and it was a favoured hunting lodge of King John.  It was besieged and captured by the French in 1216 before permanently returning to English control shortly thereafter.

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 Chichester, a brief passing through Midhurst & Fishbourne, Cowdray and Bramber Castle and lunch in a little place called Cocking…

Matt’s final day of touring the English countryside was quite a random day with quick visits to many places of interest.  Once again he was attempting to cram in as much as possible in the very limited amount of time that he had.

The first stop was the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, otherwise called Chichester Cathedral.  It is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Chichester.  It was founded as a cathedral in 1075, when the seat of the bishop was moved from Selsey.  Chichester Cathedral has fine architecture in both the Norman and the Gothic styles, and has been called by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner “the most typical English Cathedral”.  Despite this, Chichester has two architectural features that are unique among England’s medieval cathedrals—a free-standing medieval bell tower (or campanile) and double aisles.  The cathedral contains two rare medieval sculptures, and many modern art works including tapestries, stained glass and sculpture, many of these commissioned by Dean Hussey.

Another place of interest worth checking out was Fishbourne Roman Palace.  It was a drive along many back roads in the country side, passing through a nice town called Midhurst.  Once herrived at Fishbourne Roman Palace Matt decided not to go inside and check it out as again there was’nt much time.

After a lot of driving and not much  sightseeing, Matt decided to visit the ruins of Cowdray House.  These ruins were one of England‘s great Tudor houses and was architecturally comparable to many of the great palaces and country houses of that time.  It is situated just east of Midhurst, standing on the north bank of the River Rother.  It was largely destroyed by fire on 24 September 1793.

Driving through many back roads of the countryside, Matt decided to stop into a very small town for lunch.  Fortunately, this small town has a very amusing name; Cocking.  The pub that he stopped in for a very late lunch was called the Blue Bell at Cocking, which provide quite a delicious lunch.  He was very am glad that he chose this small town to stop in and stopping just to take a picture of the town’s name wasn’t the sole purpose of stopping.

Heading back to Arundel, he noticed some more castle ruins and decided to take a quick peek.  It was Bramber Castle.  This was a Norman motte-and-bailey castle formerly the caput of the large feudal barony of Bramber long held by the Braose family.  It is situated in the village of Bramber, West Sussex overlooking the River Adur.

 Swanage

Matt was fortunate enough to be asked to attend his school’s Year 6 School Journey (school camp) in his first year of teaching at Sheringon.  But recently, he was asked to attend School Journey for the second year in a row.  This meant that he was going to return to the small coastal town of Swanage in Dorset.  Apart from the regular school camp activities, one of the tourist activities that Matt was able to do in Swanage worth mentioning was a visit to Brownsea Island.  They had to take a bus to Poole, and from there a ferry across to Brownsea Island.  It is the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour in the county of Dorset.  Much of the island is open to the public and includes areas of woodland and heath with a wide variety of wildlife, together with cliff top views across Poole Harbour and the Isle of Purbeck.  The island is one of the few places in southern England where indigenous red squirrels survive, largely because non-native grey squirrels have never been introduced to the island.  Brownsea also has a small ornamental population of peacocks.  The island has a heronry, in which both Grey Heron and Little Egret nest.

Henry VIII recognised the island’s strategic importance of guarding the narrow entrance to the expanding port of Poole.  As part of a deterrent to invasion forces from Europe, the island was fortified in 1547 by means of a blockhouse, which became known as Brownsea Castle. 

From 1 August until 8 August 1907, Robert Baden-Powell held the first experimental Scout camp on the island for 22 boys from differing social backgrounds.  The boys took part in activities such as camping, observation, woodcraft, chivalry, lifesaving and patriotism.

This year, school journey was in the summer term, not the autumn term so as you can imagine the weather was much more preferable than Matt’s first visit to Swanage for school journey.  The details of the school activities won’t be listed, as we don’t want to bore you.  However, it is a lovely place to hike and there are many trails across the plains in Dorset with a lot of forest areas and farming land.  The natural wildlife is plentiful with many deer, squirrels and even badgers.

Another worthwhile activity was when the students were taken rock pooling by the seaside.  As Swanage is a part of the Jurassic coast, many fossils are often found in the limestone along the coastline.  Of course Matt had a very attentive look in the hope of finding his very own fossil.  Instead he had to purchase one from one of the many shops throughout Swanage.  And no trip to Swanage would be complete without the purchase of some Swanage Rock (a large stick of chewy sugar with the words Swanage Rock printed all the way through).

With two weeks to go in the UK we think we can safely say that we have now explored a fair amount of this amazing country although we must admit theres much more we’d love to see but you can’t do it all….

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