Tour stages and How we chose them(The Two Doctors Tour of England)
Most of our readers have been very complimentary about us embarking on a tour of our own country, England, not Britain. We have no bias against any other part of our great Union, just a common sense approach that made it easier to manage for 12 months. The Welsh castles and Scottish islands will all get their turn! Not sure about Northern Ireland yet, more research needed.
It all began just before our annual trip to Burgundy in July, a feeling that we had missed something brought on by our grand Europe escapades of 2016 …… Paris, Bruges, Rome, Budapest, Prague, Estepona, Madrid …… each city visit driven by a desire to see something specific ….. The Louvre, Tyne Cot, Ostia Antica, The Danube, The Slav Epic, The El Bosco Exhibition. It was this list of items, venues, events that steered us towards each city and it brought on a realisation that THIS was how we should plan our future travels.
The first list to emerge has 46 items on it, all of them in England! None are in London, the North West or Cumbria. I was born in Cumbria and have completed all of The Wainwrights, visited every lake, eaten Herdwick lamb and occasionally lapse into my Cumbrian accent. We lived in the North West of England for 15 years where both our children were born, worked in three different types of industry, and became deeply interested in The Industrial Revolution. To round it all off we have worked in, visited, and had property in London for 12 years too so had weekend access to theatres, restaurants, museums, sport, with our favourite area being The Embankment between Waterloo Bridge and The Globe.
These 46 items have been chunked into 5 geographic areas: The Industrial Midlands, The South Coast, The South West, Yorkshire Plus, Northumbria Plus. (The “Plus” just means other bits added such as a bit of Durham or a bit of Lincolnshire)
The Tour so far
Regular readers will know that we have already completed The Industrial Midlands from The Potteries around Stoke on Trent, through Ironbridge Gorge, and down to Hereford. It was good fun over a 4 day period, but maybe we tried to take in too much history in such a short time. It was also physically demanding for us with the museums we visited being outdoor such as Blists Hill Victorian Town, The Gladstone Pottery Museum, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron. You can read about all of these visits via the links.
As we toured through this first area two “aids” to our longer Tour were taken advantage of. Firstly we joined English Heritage, the organisation who manage Stonehenge for example along with about 400 other heritage properties. A full year’s subscription for two Seniors with a current special offer only cost around £55, and we saved over half of that on a recent day out at Stonehenge. On our upcoming South Coast tour we will enter Battle Abbey, Dover castle, Richborough Roman Fort, and Upnor Castle all for free. That’s about £100 worth in about 10 days!
Secondly we came to rely heavily on The Rough Guide To England, full of useful information about towns, historic attractions, restaurants, hotels, routes etc. However, at the end of our day in The Potteries (I hadn’t used the book for this as we know the area well) I thought I’d sit in the pub and add to my existing knowledge. To my absolute surprise there was no mention of this area at all in the guide and we have written in more detail about it HERE. We have also asked Rough Guide for an explanation. In the meantime one of our readers said “what about Grimsby?” which also isn’t featured, so Andrew, come on and give us all yer list!!
A Very English Tradition
A couple of days after our return from The Industrial Midlands, about half a mile down the lane from us was held the local Annual Ploughing Competition. I kid you not, this is an annual event for all of the surrounding farms with various categories of tractor, and other elements of the furrow we just didn’t understand. There were thousands of people there spread across 4 fields with one field for parking, two fields with marked out sections for ploughing, and one field for “country entertainments”. This latter field had a massive beer & cider tent (naturally), demonstrations of log cutting, hedge making, falconry, show jumping, kids tug-o-war, a chicken show, ferret racing, (honestly I’m not making this up), plus loads of commercial stands for everything from tractors to clothing. There were two large trailers with benches pulled by tractors taking folks in a circuit around all the fields for those who couldn’t walk so well. Then, in the evening, a live Indy band (whatever that is) with a hog roast for £2!!!! These are exactly the sort of traditions we should preserve, like the Grasmere Show in Cumbria, Morris Dancing etc, though I did read recently of a group of Morris Men attacked in Birmingham because they had the traditional blackened faces and were accused of racism! God help us!!
Hooray ….. A Century of Grapes
While on holiday in Burgundy I read about something called The Wine Century Club for people who have imbibed 100 different grapes or more and it got me writing yet another list of all of the grapes I have “drunk” during my time on this planet. It began when I was a student which I have written about here “From Wine Bluff to Wine Buff” and it took me a while to identify all of the grapes from 50 years of sniffing and slurping. It helps that we have travelled extensively around Europe, though some regions are quite selective grape-wise such as Burgundy only permitting a single grape in its red wine (Pinot Noir) compared to the Rhone Valley with up to 13 different grapes in Chateauneuf du Pape. Anyway, a week ago I finally crossed the 100 mark as I had ordered a case of Italian wines from The Wine Society, with wines made from a number of grapes I was “missing”. So, wish me luck as I submit my application and I will write up the full story if I am admitted to the Club.
The South Coast
Very shortly Dr C and I will embark on our second area of the Tour of England, it will take about 5 days as we cross Sussex, Kent, and up towards The Medway. Our planned sites and events are, roughly in order: Dungeness, Chapel Down Vineyard (of course!), Battle Abbey and a 1066 Re-enactment, Dover Castle, Sandwich, Richborough Roman Fort, Whitstable for oysters, Rochester, Chatham Naval Dockyard, Upnor Castle, Greenwich Royal Observatory (The John Harrison Longitude Exhibition). Naturally we shall try to write something here daily, but often we get a couple of days behind ………. blame it on the afternoon naps! We hope you will follow us on our Tour of England.