With airport security tightening up and queues getting longer, this summer seemed like a good time to wander through the Shires and take another look at our own green and pleasant land.
I began in Bath, a World Heritage site, now politically back in Somerset since 1996 after a blip in 1974 when government tried to say it was in Avon! I stayed at Bath University. There are very good deals to be had at Universities in the summer. I booked Bed and breakfast for £25.00 per night. The rooms are simple and clean. Some have en suite but I never met anyone en route to loo or shower across the corridor. The beds are not the most comfortable and the door closers bang, but for a night or two it’s fine. You have to pay for a parking permit on arrival but I was pleased to leave the car parked up when I began exploring.
The campus has a few eating places, most cater for groups but I found one open to lone travellers in the evening. It offered reasonably priced meals with fine views overlooking the gardens. There are convenience stores and cash points plus a fantastic sports centre. Set in very attractive gardens on Claverton Hill outside Bath this location offers a pleasant stroll to the American Museum and a regular bus service into Bath. Using my bus pass I was able to enjoy all the sights with a free ride. I found that the Victoria Art Gallery has a splendid tea and coffee making machine in the atrium and costs just £1. That saving went towards my plate of mussels taken in a café next to the famous weir!
Staying on campus was fun and at breakfast on the first morning I met a young man who teaches in Bogata and the head teacher of International School in Norway who has lived all over the world. So, interesting people, inexpensive clean and simple accommodation, in a good location.
Then on I went up to Lancashire. The Visitors Centre in Manchester offers walking tours for £3.50. I thoroughly enjoyed this, history in a nutshell. Contemporary architecture blended into the old mills. The Town Hall regally overseeing this centre of the industrial revolution. Later on we visited Salford Quays, lucky for me Show Boat had just arrived at the Lowry Centre and I was in my element as it was produced by the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cape Town Opera Chorus.
My friend lives in the Rossendale Valley and so she took me to The Weavers Cottage which is an original 18th Century loom shop in Rawtenstall and virtually next door is Britain’s last original Temperance Bar – Fitzpatrick’s 1890. Just down the road is where the notorious murderous Margaret Allen committed her crime – she was the last woman hanged in Manchester on the 12th January 1949 in Strangeways Gaol.
This walk through history took us up to Haworth to see where the Bronte sisters lived and as the Tour de France had passed through the day before, the local apothecary was sporting a sign promoting a Mustard rub for tired cyclists!
Onto Derbyshire renowned for its beautiful peaks. Scenically this really was the ‘wow’ factor of the trip. We happened upon Buxton when the Literary Festival, Music Festival, Well Dressing and Carnival were all in full swing. What an atmosphere. Wonderful summer days and England at its best.
The U3A Summer School was on the calendar in Shropshire and so I spent 4 days learning about the History of Cinema and again met a variety of interesting people. Coffee and meal breaks were not dull.
Finally, Worcestershire and the Malvern Hills called. The sultry days made stops at fresh water springs a must whilst climbing the hills to take in the views across Herefordshire. The fields almost ready for harvesting, snoozed in the sun and all was quiet in the land.
This truly was a great road trip and opened my eyes again to the delights we have on our own doorsteps.
I thoroughly recommend sauntering through the shires in the summer.