An English Country Village and a Cathedral City
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Bradfield is a small village in West Berkshire in the South-East of England. It is a settlement of beautiful old cottages, many of which are part of the public school Bradfield College, surrounded by farms and woodlands. It was our country home away from our city pad when we were living in London. We would pop out every now and then to visit with Alan's sister Anne and her hubby, Alain, and so we were rather excited to return for a couple of days.
Anne and Alain are wonderful hosts and lots of fun - and a big part of our story from our year in the UK. We took the train from Paddington Station in London and they met us at Theale. From there we went to their home at Bradfield College (where Anne works as a Matron in one of the boarding houses), where they welcomed us with bubbles as is their fabulous custom with all visitors! Over their 8 years at Bradfield, many of the Barry whanau (family) and friends have been part of the famous couch shot - bubbles on their sofa upon arrival! From there it was off to The Old Boot for happy hour - Isn't country life grand?
The Old Boot is in the nearby village of Standford Dingley (also in the beautiful English countryside) and is an 18th century village inn. It was on a cold winters afternoon as dusk fell that we parked the car and crossed the lane, where the Inn is situated, and went inside to a welcoming bar with a roaring fire in the fireplace on the far side of the room. The fire made it super cosy and the traditional decor with a modern-rustic chic together with the buzz of 'local' conversations made it a great place to be!
1-2 Welcome bubbles with Anne and Alain
3-7 Cottages around Bradfield
8-12 At The Old Boot
Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire in the South-West of England.
An Early English Gothic Cathedral
Many years ago I had read Ken Follett's book 'The Pillars of the Earth'. It was set in12th century England in a time of poverty and war, and was about how a small town begins the construction of a cathedral to claim wealth and safety for its people. It followed the lives of several people including the builder/architect of the Cathedral and as I read, I became familiar with lots of architectural terms and the materials used in the building of cathedrals. Since then I have always been fascinated by these colossal buildings and we had visited many of them when we lived in the UK. I'd never been to Salisbury Cathedral though and so I was delighted when Anne and Alain suggested an excursion there - as an aside, Follett's fictional cathedral at Kingsbridge was inspired in part by Salisbury Cathedral.
The Salisbury Cathedral took over 38 years to build and was completed in 1258. It has the tallest spire in the country and houses one of the oldest working clocks in the world. Its style emphasizes height and light, especially compared to the bulkier, heavier cathedral buildings of the 11th and 12th centuries. It also has the largest Cathedral Close in England that has townhouses dating from the 1200s that look out to the cathedral across expansive green lawns.
Much more recently and infamously in March 2018, the town of Salisbury and the Cathedral hit world headlines when it became the location where Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for the UK's intelligence services and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. Both survived after many weeks in hospital as did a police officer after apparent exposure to the remnants of the toxic agent at Sergei Skripal's residence.
Three months later, a similar poisoning of two British nationals, seven miles north of Salisbury, involved the same nerve agent. A man found the nerve agent in a perfume bottle, in a litter bin, somewhere in Salisbury and gave it to a woman who sprayed it on her wrist. The woman, Dawn Sturgess, fell ill within 15 minutes and died on 8 July.
British authorities identified two Russian nationals, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, also suspected of the Skripals' poisoning, and alleged that they were active officers in Russian military intelligence.
The two men gave a surprise interview to RT, Russia's state-run international broadcaster, and claimed they were merely tourists visiting the English town of Salisbury at the time the poisoning happened. They claimed their friends had suggested for a long time that they visit this wonderful town as there's a famous cathedral there.
Not surprisingly, the claims of innocence were not taken seriously and then British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said that it was "overwhelmingly likely" that the poisoning had been ordered directly by Russian president Putin.
On the day that we visited Salisbury it was very cold but the sky was a clean deep-blue and the sun was shining so that as we approached the cathedral it's stone took on a honey-coloured hue and the surrounding lawns were a lush vivid green. Picture Perfect!
The interior of the cathedral is stunning and we spent a long time there absorbing the history, the atmosphere and the grandeur of it all. Because there is so much, I have focused on three things at the Cathedral that I was particularly taken with and then included a few more images of the Cathedral interiors for you to get an idea of how exquisite it was.
I loved the cloisters - both the architecture and the idea that they are there for the practice of walking around them in contemplative thought. I spent quite some time there, taking pictures of both the Gothic vaulting of the cloisters and of the Cathedral's tower framed by the cloister arches.
The baptismal font that doubled as a reflection pool - a later addition (consecrated in 2008) its surface reflects and extends the architecture of the cathedral, while four smooth filaments of water pass through spouts at each of the four corners of a bronze vessel and disappear through a bronze grating set into the floor. What an inspired addition to such an ancient building!
How the sunlight transforms the building. Windows are everywhere, and when the light streams through the clerestory arches and the enormous west window, the interior turns from a dreary grey to transcendent gold. This ability to get sunlight into such large buildings with massive stone walls is what made the Gothic style so revolutionary!
1-4 The cloisters and a view of the tower from the cloisters
5-8 The reflections in the baptismal font
9-11 Vaulted ceiling, altar, arches - ceiling and arches showing clerestory windows
12-14 Quire, vaulted ceiling, Gantry Chapel
15. More arches
16. Pulpit and a member of the clergy
17--18 More arches
19-20. The contrast of dark grey stone of the cathedral in the shade, with the warm honey-hue on the parts that were touched by sunlight.
21-22 The vivid green lawns and some of the houses of the Cathedral Close
Salisbury City Centre
Salisbury is an extremely pretty and compact town/city. It’s set upon five rivers – the Nadder, Ebble, Wylye, Bourne and the Avon and we spent a little time wandering along one of the rivers before strolling around the centre of the town. We stopped for lunch at a traditional English public house called The New Inn. Built circa 1380 The New Inn is an old timber-framed building with massive beams that was originally several cottages. It has only been used as a public house for around 200 years 😂. Its floors were a mix of flagstones, bare boards and carpet, and it had quiet cosy alcoves, Badger Beers were on tap and there was an inglenook wood-burner which was just what we needed on such a cold day.
By the time we had finished lunch the clouds had rolled in and we only had time for a very quick walk around the town again before the rain arrived and we headed back to Bradfield.
1-3. Salisbury City centre before lunch
4-12. Our lunch spot - the New Inn that has operated as an Inn for 200 years!
13-16. Salisbury city centre after lunch - cloud and eventually rain!