Arrived in London on the morning of April 4, 2003 with my sister who was also visiting friends. We went out separate ways after leaving Heathrow. I made my way to the train station and bought a return to Paddington on the Heathrow Express since I had to get the train from Paddington to Worcester. It costs a bit more than the tube or the airbus but it’s quite convenient depending on where you’re staying or what your onward plans are.
But bloody hell! I expected the £24.50 for the one way to Worcester but the ticket to Cardiff for the 13th was nearly 40 quid and I thought buying it a week in advance would make it cheaper! *sigh* Well I went and had another cup of tea while waiting for the train. I figured out which train and platform I needed and the journey was pleasant with some lovely rolling countryside in Oxforshire and Worcestershire. When we rolled into Oxford I could see some of the spires and towers of the colleges and churches but the train station was away from the old city center. Coming into Reading (pronounced "Redding" for the uninitiated such as I was) I saw a great palladian heap on a hill outside of the city.
My mate Chris met the train in Worcester in a rush, turns out he had to get back to work when he had thought he would have had the afternoon off. He had to go out after work with a buyer that was in from out of town and worried I would be upset but really, all I wanted was to stretch out and have a nap so he needn’t have worried.
The next morning, we headed into the medieval city centre of Worcester. Worcester is a very old town dating to the Roman period, later with strong Royalist ties during the English Civil war and it was the site of the last battle of the war. It was also
the home of composer Edward Elgar and that name is found repeated all over the city. It has a lovely cathedral situated along the Severn River, dating back to the Norman age with various other periods represented up to some Victorian exteriors.
It’s a beautiful day, the clouds have parted and I’m walking around without a coat on! Two days ago in Halifax I was still shivering in my winter coat! We strolled around the pedestrian center and went into the Queen Anne era Guildhall for a peek. There’s a lovely Victorian ornate ceiling in the upstairs assembly rooms where there is now a tea room. In the lobby there was a market being held. We browsed through some prints in one booth and I was surprised when the stall owner knew right away I was Canadian rather than American! Doesn’t happen too often!
The tourist information shop is also in one wing of the Guildhall so we stopped in there to pick up a walking tour pamphlet and some postcards. On we walked, taking a side street because I spied an older building I wanted to look at. We passed by St. Helen’s Church which sits on the site of the city’s first Christian church, or so it is thought. Chris found it interesting seeing the place where he has been living through the eyes of a tourist. He was also astounded at how many things I could find to take a picture of !
A few photos later we came to the majestic Cathedral dating back as far as the 12th century in parts. (see review for more details) we wandered through there and had a cup of tea in the cafe.
From there we emerged out the back onto the Cathedral Green where there are some ruins of an earlier building beside the Cathedral. We exited the close through the Edgar Tower, a 13th century gateway into the Cathedral green with 800 year old wooden gates, looking very forbidding. There are other buildings in the area including a college and private school. We walked around the city center, a mix of old and new buildings past a 17th century building called the Commandery, now a civil war museum. It sits along side the Worcester-Birmingham canal as well which made for some pretty scenery.
Worcester has strong ties to the English Civil war, where it began in 1642 and ended in 1651 when Charles II fled to France and Oliver Cromwell took over running the country until his death. His son, Richard Cromwell took over but wasn’t the man his father was and the throne was restored to Charles II in 1660.
We made our way to Friar Street which has quite a few buildings dating to the 14th to 16th century including the Cardinal’s Hat, purported to be the oldest pub in Worcester variously dating frm the mid 1300’s to the mid/late 1400’s. We decided to have a bite to eat here and sat in a sunny windowed room. Chris was startled when I seemingly turned around and took a photo of the wall but my aim was to capture the old latch lock that contrasted with a modern Yale lock just above it . The beer and sausage hit the spot and gave us fuel for more walking. (see restaurant review for more details)
Along Friar Street we ambled, me taking photos randomly and Chris following, the best place to be since I tend to go off in any direction depending on what catches my eye. We found some old Almshouses that I think are probably now private residences and we also walked around the old GreyFriars house, now owned by the National Trust. There’s a lovely walled garden behind it and the building itself is half timbered and dates to the 15th century. It was built next to an actual friary by a wealthy citizen. There is a museum in it now though we didn’t partake.
Along Friar Street which turns into New Street, I admired many old buildings including King Charles house which is a pub now. It’s odd to see all these creaking and bent old houses with modern shops in the street level. There are also some covered shopping centers and markets in this area. We saw a lovely 18th century church, St. Swithins but it’s not open to the public without an appointment. Along the way we visited the money gods in the wall and a Thornton’s shop where I started to work on my stash of my favourite chocolate bar.
We doubled back and went to the Royal Worcester factory which is near the cathedral. We stopped first in an old pub, the Salmon’s Leap, just across from the factory for a quick drink out in the sun. We perused the clearance store in the factory compound and the seconds shop but decided not to do the factory tour and museum this visit.
We made our way back through the Cathedral green down to the riverside walk along the Severn. The sun is shining and the trees are trying to bud out. There is a small ferry boat here that is continuing on a tradition that goes back thousands of years. There were lots of swans in the river and the views were wonderful. We are getting really tired, or at least I was, by this time so we decided to end our walking tour around the city center. My jet lag is still lingering a bit and my feet are sore and we were both thirsty. We made our way back to the car park past a spire called St. Andrew’s Spire, also known as the Glover’s Needle after the fact that Worcester was historically a large center for glove-making.
We went back to Chris’s flat for a cold drink and then a drive out of Worcester up into the Malvern hills a little way for the view in the early evening long shadows. There was one spot we passed that had a sort of fountain where people were filling up large plastic water jugs with the Malvern spring waters.
We parked in Great Malvern and decided to try out an Italian place we found tucked away called Benedicto’s (review)
On the way back to Worcester we stopped at an off license and stocked up for the evening. We watched a movie and chatted to his best friend Joel who arrived a bit later on with takeaway food and I tasted my first kebab. Interesting. It was tinted with a curry spice which surprised me and I had it with a garlic sauce rather than the usual hot chili sauce. We talked about everthing from classic tv and movies to Bricklin cars. We’re off to Glasgow tomorrow.