Stratford upon Avon – Bard and Breakfast

Royal Shakespeare Theatre - by David Dixon Commons WikimediaAs we parked the car along the banks of the river Avon, the weather forecast wasn’t good. Cold for another week and much snow to come. Signs of spring were all around. New born lambs in the fields, lighter at night but as yet no prospect of warmth.

Today the sun was shining and the iconic Royal Shakespeare Theatre, an imposing structure, looked majestic next to the waterside. But it was still so cold.

Swans gathered around Clopton Bridge arches. Well fed by the tourists. Beside the Avon is Bancroft Gardens, a delightful area originally grazing land for cattle and sheep.

William Shakespeare surveyed all around, perched high on top of Gower memorial. Four smaller figures encircled the statue. Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Falstaff and Prince Hal. A Stratfordian pointed out to my wife and I that they symbolise philosophy, tragedy, comedy and history. Even the statues looked frozen, the icy blasts of winter still all around.

Clopton Bridge - by Ken Crosby Commons WikimediaNear the canal basin the steel sculpture of two swans in flight was beautiful catching and reflecting the sun as we strolled by.

Unfortunately the toilets by the riverbank car park smelled as though they hadn’t been cleaned since Elizabethan times. What a pity. YE OLDE BOGGE.

No one can accuse the tourist bosses in the town of missing an opportunity. Shalkespeare has brought a tourist bonanza to the local community. KERCHING.

Yet very little is known about his life here but he is everywhere! Born here in 1564 Bard Will was the third of eight children. He liked the area so much that he came back here to die – in 1616.

His actual birthday is not known but it is traditionally celebrated on April 23, St George’s Day, the national day of England.

The jester Touchstone statueHoly Trinity Church is a perfect resting place for the playwright, buried here in the chancel. On the banks of the river Avon it attracts thousands of visitors each year and must be one of England’s most visited religious sites.

Stratford has embraced Shakespeare. You don’t kill the golden goose do you, but it has so much more to offer. So attractive and best explored on foot. Fine quaint shops are everywhere. As are places to sit, eat and observe. Nooks and crannies off enchanting streets.

Designer clothes, designer jewellery and shops with designs on you. Offering something different from run of the mill shops. Visually tempting, tempting wallets at every turn.

Do walk along pedestrianised Henley Street. Look at the house in which Will was born. The comic statue of the jester Touchstone, from As You Like It made us both smile. In summer the streets become alive with street performers and cafes that extend out onto the pavements. But not today.

Bancroft GardensThe Elizabethan period Harvard House on the High Street was home to John Harvard’s mum. Who’s he you may ask. He sailed to America and founded the university which bears his name – a place I was privileged to visit many years ago.

I loved bustling Stratford. Rich in history and beauty. Elegant. The town has made an effort to preserve its history. Shops galore. Stylish. A place to explore, to learn. A culture vulture’s heaven. Utterly charming. A place I started to enjoy learning about history and literature again.

I must confess that I hated everything we did about Shakespeare at school. Even though one of our English teachers was called Mr Shakespeare. Honestly he was. I felt it had no relevance to life at all. Slade, 10CC, Wizzard and all the latest hits in the 70’s were all that mattered. I wanted to become a pharmacist so what was the use of Shakespeare. How wrong I was. How sad but in those days I was a stroppy teenager.


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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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