We’ve just returned from our adventure into Shakespeare country and I want to share some of the wonderful moments with you. The five of us – Myself, Efan, Annemarie, Taylor and Isabelle set forth on a breezy day in August to brave the motorway and a two-and-a-half-hour journey to Stratford Upon Avon. It’s not the first time we’ve been, nor will it be the last, but it’s the most recent so we’ll crack on.
Stratford Upon Avon is a Tudor town, where William Shakespeare was born back in 1564. It’s still the home of some spectacular Tudor architecture, as as well as many original features, the flavour of the time is everywhere. It’s like stepping into an alternate reality where past and present co-exist in the same moment of time.
Our adventure, with one or two sidetracks, follows Shakespeare’s life, from his mother’s farm, to the place he was born, to where his wife was born and where they made their home. I think a little historical setting is appropriate, especially as we take things out of order.
The story starts in the early 1500’s with Robert Arden, who owned extensive land interests in Warwickshire, and one of his tenant farmers, Richard Shakespeare. Although the youngest of eight daughters, Mary Arden inherited a large chunk of land, including a farm at Wilmcote from her father when he died in 1556.
In 1557, Mary married Richard Shakespeare’s son, John, and they moved to Stratford, where their children, including their son, William were born. It’s not known whether William spent his entire childhood in Stratford, because around the time of his birth the town was struck by The Plague and it is thought he might have been moved to the safer location at Wilmcote.
In 1582, at the age of eighteen, William married Anne Hathway, the twenty-six-year-old daughter of a wealthy yeoman farmer from nearby Shottery and they had 3 children at a place now termed New House, of which nothing remains other than a garden.
Williams oldest daughter, Susanna, born 6 months after his wedding *wink wink* married a physician, John Hall and they lived in a newly build house Hall’s Croft, in Stratford, until Shakespeare’s death in 1616 when they moved into New House.
So these are the five places owned and maintained by the Shakespeare Trust and of whih we visited all but Hall’s Croft. I myself, didn’t visit Anne Hathway’s Cottage, or New House either, but the others did .
Day 1 Friday 17th August 2018
We packed up, dropped the dog at the kennels then picked up Annemarie, Taylor and Isabelle and headed for Stratford-Upon-Avon. The journey was pretty good and we arrived at our home for the next week – Avondale Holiday Lodges – at tea time. Whilst the lodge was in no way the best holiday cottage we’ve been to it wasn’t too shabby at all, with all the necessary facilities, comfortable beds, a bathroom and, joy of joys, no stairs. The great disappointment, however, was that even though it had wifi as advertised, it might as well not have.
Neither of the boys could play their computer games, although Taylor could play one or two games on his Play Station, even though they buffered. The saddest part was that Taylor turned 16 on 20th. Over night on 19th 20th was some wrestling thingie that was a big deal to him. He’d been very much looking forward to it. He watches every year and this is only the second time it fell on his birthday. When it came down to it the livestream was so laggy it was almost impossible to watch, at least until it hit the early hours when more wifi freed up. I’d taken my laptop but as, effectively it was either me work online or Taylor play his game, there wasn’t really much contest. Could you imagine two tech-mad autistic teenagers with no internet and nothing else to do?
After resting on Friday evening, we ventured out into the world on Saturday and discovered a place called Wild Things, which is along the lines of a mini zoo with lots of information, animals, learning experiences and play times. I didn’t get to see as much as I’d have liked because my back and knee were sore from driving, and I spent most of my time in the cafe. I did, however, get to meet some sharks.
The others walked around and reported it to be fab and well worth the entrance fee. The boys then went to play golf while Isabelle ran riot on the jungle gym.
We found a shop and bought more vodka. What? We’re on holiday. Then we had a glorious evening of doing nothing at all. In fact, that set a precedent for the whole rest of the week. Apart from the chocolate. The chocolate came later.
Sunday 19th August
Today we engaged in some culture, at the home of William Shakespeare where it just so happened a troupe of players were performing some of his most famous scenes.
Shakespeare’s cottage is today owned by the Shakespeare Trust and has been beautifully maintained/restored with many original features.
Just across the street from Shakespeare’s cottage are two of my favourite shops – the Christmas shop, where it is Christmas all year around, and the Harry Potter shop which also stocks things pertaining to Game of Thrones
One of the reasons Stratford-Upon-Avon has been our favourite place for a long time is a particular shop called The Leaky Cauldron at Magic Alley in the wizarding town of Wizard’s Thatch. The shop is a mix of real and fantasy magic, theatre, museum, cafe and interactive experience. It’s hard to describe the wonder without having experienced it.
The shop itself sells everything from porcelain dragons to wands, crystals, books etc. Then there is the museum, which is a walk-through collection of all kinds of wonderful things, from tiaras to trees, crowns to velvet cushions and all kinds of books and bottles, potions and playthings. There are puzzles, codes, clues and all kinds of teasers and treats. And that paragraph exhausted me 😀
We made a bee line for the shop – only to find it had gone. To say we were gutted was a massive understatement. We loved the place so much we were invited to their twenty-fifth birthday celebrations a few years ago.
Efan was absolutely gutted, but I wasn’t about to let things just drop. After having been in business for twenty five years there’s no way a shop was going to disappear in a year without a trace somewhere. Unfortunately, the wifi signal in Stratford is shit and it took some time and trouble to find the shop has not closed, only moved. We therefore went in search.
After some fumbling, we finally tracked down the Creaky Cauldron and discovered its wonders all over again in a completely different setting, with a different focus and new stories. It isn’t the same, but it’s still good. (Objectively, it’s better because no more tiny, steep staircases and small, dusty rooms, but to us it’s change and we liked the old way)
In case anyone is interested, here’s a link to the shop website. NOTE the picture is of the old place. I don’t have anything of the new place because my phone was out of charge.
On Sunday night Taylor wanted to watch a wrestling live stream but unfortunately the wifi was too weak and it was a bit of a mess.
Today was Taylor’s birthday. Originally he wanted to go to Kidderminster to catch the steam train, but the other plan was Cadbury world and we couldn’t do both, so we decided to postpone the steam railway until Friday. We therefore set off for Cadbury world and a day full of birthday goodness
Cadbury world was awesome. It was built on the site of the former Bourneville factory and village which was essentially a social experiment way beyond its time. The Cadbury experience told the story of how the Cadbury brothers, having risen from poverty became disenchanted with the lot of the poor person in Birmingham at the time and built an entire village for their workers. It’s an amazing story and well worth a look-up.
I should have taken more photographs but I was so enthralled I forgot. There was one particular part that really appealed to me. It was the story of chocolate from its discovery in South America. Some very interesting and charming methods were used to convey the story. My particular favourite was the dioramas which had projections of real people, about six inches high.
The best thing about the whole experience was the fact that every time we moved on to a new section, they gave us chocolate. Couldn’t fault it.
My favourite thing I took away from the day was a chocolate teapot, which was absolutely beautiful and just proved that a chocolate teapot can be useful after all. (Well it looked pretty and tasted awesome, so I’ll leave it to you to decide how useful that was.)
Today was not the best day for me. After all the walking I did yesterday, I was in a lot of pain. It was decided that we would go for a boat trip and visit Hall’s Croft and The New House. Sadly, the walking from the car park was too much for me, so I found a nice little pub just opposite where the boats left, and settled in. It’s called Encore and their frozen yoghurt and strawberries is to die for.
I then went back to the car and napped while the others went to the houses.
Mary Arden’s farm. I remember going here before and was excited about it. Efan was excited to look up the blacksmith because swords and I was more than happy to oblige because eye candy.
I think Mary Arden’s Farm is an ideal place to take children like Isobelle because there is so much room for them to run around and burn off energy. The downside, of course, is that someone has to run after her.
The highlight of the day, as with the last time we came, was the falconry display. Those birds are amazing, even if they were a little reluctant today. For some reason, I only took two photographs. Go me. I’m terrible with taking photographs. I never think of it. Maybe it’s because I take my photos on my phone now and I haven’t got a camera in my hand or around my neck to remind me.
On the day that everyone went on the boat, they found a little hidden gem. It’s called the Tudor House Museum. From the road, it just looks like another building in a row of shops. Absolutely nothing about the outside catches your eye. (Yeah, we got blase about the Tudor houses by now) As an aside, I’m pretty sure that blue blob isn’t supposed to be there. No idea where it came from.
But once you step under the arch… Well, let’s wait for that because before we went into the museum we decided to have something to eat. Just across from the museum we found the most amazing place (today was a day of discovery), a 1940s tea room. Wow. The food was great (not rationed or 1940’s) and the atmosphere exemplary.
And so, full of food and 1940s good cheer (apart from the three younger members of our happy group who were less than thrilled and bored). we headed across the road and stepped through the arch into wonderland.
This was what was under the arch.
And this is what was inside the house.
Home time. Before we returned to the Valleys, we took one last trip – to Kidderminster, to ride part of the Severn Valley Railway on a steam train. This was Taylor’s treat and I must admit, not really my cup of tea. On the whole, I enjoyed the trip but I have to comment that if anyone with a disability is thinking about going here, don’t. The facilities, especially parking for people with mobility problems are practically nonexistent. Not only was the closest parking a very long and painful walk away, I was forced to stand for part of the journey even after telling the guard about my disability. I would not, therefore, recommend this for anyone who has mobility issues.
Having said that, there is always a certain excitement in travelling on a steam train, especially when, as this one did, they are corridor trains. I felt like I was on my way to Hogwarts. I even shared a carriage with a dementor.
And thence home to plan our next adventure.