Greeting fellow Adventurers!
One of the advantages of these lengthening days is the ability to get out on a Friday night after work and do some exploring. Last week we decided to take a trip over to Stratford-upon-Avon for an evening stroll, and possibly a glass or two of wine.
The route we followed was taken from one of our favourite walking guide books – ‘Walks into History: Warwickshire’ (Written by John Wilks and published by Countryside books) – it’s a great little book with many a nice and interesting walk within. This particular one takes you on a tour of the town centre and out through the suburbs to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and back. All in all it’s about 4.5 miles in length.
We started (after a quick detour to the shops) at the site of Shakespeare’s birthplace – you must of heard of him, he’s a Tudor chap famous for writing a couple of plays with lots of shouting and funny sentences.
The Bard’s father, John Shakespeare moved to Stratford in 1552, and after marrying into a good deal of money courtesy of Mary Arden, turned the house in Henley Street into the Shakespeare’s family home. Shakespeare himself was born here in 1564 and it’s where he lived throughout his relatively privileged childhood, watching as the family’s fortunes climbed and then went into a long decline thanks to his father’s increasingly dodgy dealings – until he was forced out into workplace at 16 (poor lamb).
The route then took us through the centre of Stratford, past the site of his house of later years, ‘New Place’ and his school, past some stunning Tudor buildings and the guildhall. We then headed out of town and towards the village (now suburb) of Shottery, the place where Will’s future wife, Anne Hathaway, lived. It is said that the series of alleyways and paths we followed was the original route the 18 year old Bard himself walked when off ‘visiting’ his older milking wench (whilst he was ‘wooing’ her). Whether that is true or not we didn’t mind – as the paths were lovely and quiet and had a somewhat special air about them.
Anne Hathaway’s cottage, or Hewlands Farm as it was known before ‘Shakespeare Mania’ gripped Stratford, was the home of Richard Hathaway and his family. In 1582 this included his daughter Anne, who was 25 and unusually for the time unmarried – much I’m sure, to William’s delight. After a special licence was granted to speed things along, the pair were married in November 1582 and three months later their first daughter, Susanna, was born – probably raising more than a few eyebrows at the tine. The cottage itself is now managed by the Birthplace Trust and is said not to have changed much since their time, and if you get a chance to visit it’s well worth a look. The interior is very charming, being set with period furniture and household items, whilst the gardens, with all the many a varied flowers, are beautiful. As expected it was closed when we got these so we sat on the steps outside and had a snack, bemused by the fleeting visit of coach-load of Chinese tourists. I do wonder if they’ll even remember the place they took thousands of pictures of… perhaps they geotag it so they can look it up later?
Having rested, refuelled and fought off the hoards, we strolled through suburbia, the book leading us back into the town via some of the delightful back streets. What surprised us again more than anything was how quiet it was – for a Friday night in a big market town there was hardly a soul in sight.
Walking past Shakespeare’s school again, we headed off down the hill to the RSC Theatre. Recently having undergone a major renovation and officially opened on the 4th March 2011, this imposing building dominates the area around the river Avon.
Skirting round the RSC, carefully avoiding any floating daggers or fair maidens standing on balcony’s, we followed the course of the river down to the church of the Holy Trinity.
This church had played various roles throughout Shakespeare’s life, he was baptised here on the 26th April 1564 and was buried here on the 25th April 1616.
Shakespeare’s grave is located inside the church next to his wife’s and is to my mind quite a simple affair. It bears the following inscription, which might well give some insight into how he felt about fame.
GOOD FRIEND FOR JESUS SAKE FOREBEAR,
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOSED HERE.
BLESTE BE YE MAN YT SPARES THESE STONES,
AND CURSED BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES.
After the church, weary but happy we crossed over the river and wandered back along it, around the marina, the RSC and back to the Ratmobile – which, by the means of good planning and foresight, was parked next to a pub!
What a great way to start the weekend.
Farewell my Friends!