Monday, 18 June 2018
ONCE again the second week in May saw a group from the society embark on their annual five-day mini-holiday.
This year 46 of us went with Horseman’s coaches to the Worcestershire, Shropshire and Herefordshire region, staying in the very comfortable Stourport Manor Hotel.
Stourport became important in the 18th century as it was the furthest point up the River Severn that was navigable to large ships.
It is still a key location on the English canal system as we were able to observe on one afternoon.
Our tour guides were John and Linda Dudley, who valiantly undertook to research and arrange this trip after Jill Hodges, who had successfully arranged so many previous mini-holidays, felt that she was no longer physically able to undertake this task.
As we soon found out, John and Linda had prepared a varied, interesting and worthwhile few days.
It began with a guided tour round the family-run Westons cider mills in Much Marcle in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside.
Although small compared with Bulmers or Gaymers, the smallness, the personal touch and the warm welcome of Westons were really appreciated, especially some of the new ciders being tried. Some of these can be found in our local Waitrose.
The journey should have continued via Elgar’s birthplace in the Malverns but heavy traffic precluded this visit.
Our second day took us to the National Cold War Museum at RAF Cosford, where excellent guides explained the changing nature of aerial warfare and weaponry as the West tried to keep up with the developments in the Soviet sphere of influence.
This was followed by a fascinating trip to Ironbridge, where the Industrial Revolution really began and which was to become the most industrious place in the world.
We visited several of the museums and experienced what life was like for those early pioneers of industry.
These even included some of the monks from a nearby monastery before it was dissolved in Henry VIII’s time.
Despite the inclement weather, many of us left Ironbridge vowing to return.
Our third day started with a visit to Monkland Cheese Dairy, a small, family-run cottage industry with a strong regional following, before heading off to Croft Castle, which has been in the same family, on and off, for more than 1,000 years but is now managed by the National Trust.
The house, the walled garden and the little church were all well worth the visit, albeit in the rain.
On following day we set off through the glorious Herefordshire countryside to visit Hereford Cathedral and city.
As well as some inspirational guided tours full of fascinating insights into the cathedral, many of us also had the opportunity to visit the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library exhibition.
Our final day took us to Witley Court, the ruins of an 18th century country house which was burnt down in 1937 before English Heritage took it over.
Its claim to fame is the magnificent fountain at the back of the house, which is set off every hour, on the hour, from 11am to 4pm.
It is in front of the well-maintained formal gardens laid out by William Andrews Nesfield in the 1850s.
The real gem of this place, however, must be the parish church adjoining the ruin.
Its Baroque interior, the beautiful paintings and the stained glass windows dating back to 1719 took one’s breath away.
From there we made our way via Hanbury Hall and gardens (National Trust), an 18th century country retreat for a wealthy barrister and his friends, before returning to Caversham.
Tired we may have been, but stimulated we certainly were.
Anyone interested in joining the society should contact Carol Cozens by calling 0118 947 4813 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
05 June 2017
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