Hereford & Worcester
More photos here
When I first looked at visiting Hereford (pronounced Herryfud) and Worcester (pronounced Wooster) I was discouraged by the two-sides-of-a-triangle journey to Hereford, with a change needed. This time I explored travel to Worcester instead and found there was a direct train, from Paddington. Another railway oddity is that upgrades to first class vary greatly in price amongst UK rail companies depending, it is said, on how far ahead you book, and it was so cheap this journey that I am traveling first class for the first time as I type this, but I can't say that my mind is being blown by the luxury. It's quieter than it is amongst the plebs, though, and then came the free refreshments - coffee and fruitcake! I could get used to this. After Oxford the places we stopped at were new to me, but the carriage emptied by Evesham, so they must have meant something to some people, and included stations to access the Cotswolds, which you need to do if you're an American.
The train arrived around 13:00 at Worcester Shrub Hill, as promised. My walk across town to my hotel wasn't as direct as it might have been as I was tempted by a canalside route that took me too far south. But Worcester isn't a big city, so I was soon at my hotel, the Premier Inn, too early for the now-standard 3.00 check-in. So I left my bag and headed into town, ending up with a cheese and tomato toastie, with a banana milkshake, at a joint called Elgar's in an old shopping arcade. The toastie was chunky and tasty, but the shake was nasty. Waterstone's and the tourist office provided a book about the 50 best buildings in town, two friendly chats full of sound knowledge and advice, and some handy maps. Worcester doesn't seem chock full of bakers, but from a Cornish pasty shop I got a Cornish Heavy Cake, which was. Checking in was no trouble and I was soon unpacked, taking afternoon tea, and having a snooze. Out of my rather small window is the Worcester County Cricket Club ground.
An early evening stroll up the river took in tree-blocked views of the cathedral, millions of swans, sundry bits of riverside equipment - weirs and locks - and a return on the other side via the Cathedral, which is oddly inaccessible around most of its perimeter in the evening. A hotel veggie burger was right tasty, and a bottle of Pravha beer went nicely with it.
A good night's sleep in my uncannily quiet top-floor room. Darkness last night revealed the scoreboard of the cricket field to be full of a random pattern of coloured dots. The club badge is three pears, I noticed. There's some impressive peaks in the distance which, the breakfast waitress tells me, are the Malvern Hills. Breakfast was up to Premier Inn scratch - good orange juice, fresh croissants, decent coffee and, in addition to the usual jams and marmalades, Golden Syrup. The croissant with Golden Syrup was a new experience for me, and a good one.
The cathedral was all good, apart from the east end being closed off because of building work. The cloister garth still has gravestones in it, which you don't see usually, and a suitably rough-stone undercroft has recently been spruced up as a learning centre. After a nice long visit, and walk around to the square with good views, recommended by a guide to whom I complained about not being able to do an external circuit, I made for the Greyfriar's House. Which turned out to be booked guided visits only, and fully booked for today. Wandering vaguely north, a found a place called the Cafe Bolero that did a fine mozzarella, tomato and pesto panino, accompanied by a superior vanilla milkshake. A brief visit to the Museum and Art Gallery, as it was up where I was, and which was cranky, like a lot of such museums, but not wildly fascinating. Good to learn more about Lea & Perrin's Worcester Sauce, though, and that early tries were disgusting, but that on sampling a try much later it was found to be much more palatable after maturing for a bit. Having found no bakers beside Greggs I got a tea-time apple turnover from M&S and headed back to my hotel for the traditional.
In the evening I headed to the north, to find attractive red-brick buildings, mentioned in the 50 Buildings book I'd bought yesterday. In the hotel restaurant later I had a pizza, done in the English way that toasts the cheddar topping. It was OK.
Today I caught a train from Worcester Foregate Street station to Hereford. The cathedral there has a bit more of the ancient thing going - it has Romanesque arches in the nave - but still no medieval glass to speak of. A bit of a lack of attendant guides to talk to too. I liked it but found it a bit cluttered, with piles of chairs, out of use barriers, display boards and the like blocking many photo opportunities. I paid good money to see the rooms devoted to the famous Mappa Mundi and The Chained Library, but there were none of their much-promoted library of illuminated manuscripts on display, not the one. I bought some page-detail postcards, but it's not the same.
After a cheese and onion toastie in the cathedral cloister I found the town museum opposite, which was promoting the Herefordshire Hoard and open days, but the man inside said it was elsewhere, in the Museum Resource and Learning Centre. He provided me with a handy map so I trotted off there, found it to have a sort-of industrial estate vibe and was eventually lead to a small case with four highlight items and four enthusiastic archaeological attendants. An interesting and informative experience, if not a mind-blowing one. It seems all in aid of getting the hoard bought for Hereford, with museum space already planned.
A slow return to the station through town, picking up a Snail Bun, which you and I would call a square Belgian bun, and then the train back to Worcester, somewhat full of chattering teens. Trains from Hereford head into darkest Wales, and the announcements of the Welsh place names while I waited were impressively guttural. On my walk last night I had discovered a MacDonald's so close to my hotel only a park, with masking trees, stood in the way, so tonight, after a riverside stroll, I went for the McPlant burger.
Today was maybe going to be a train to Gloucester, where I have been before, but it was complicated, and from yet another different station. So I decided to stick with Worcester, and the attractions I'd missed so far. The half hour I had to wait until the National Trust booking shop for the Greyfriars House opened I spent in the Tudor House Museum up the road. There I got talking to the attendant/guide, who said he also guides for Greyfriars, and does the town tours. The Tudor House was diversely interesting, btw, for dealing with many aspects of life at that time, and later. I then booked the Greyfriars tour for 11.00, so I had some time, and went and had a look at the Guildhall, which was a feast of Georgian gilt plasterwork.
Back at Greyfriars the tour was excellent, again covering swathes of time, with the most recent, authentically eccentric, owners not being the least interesting.
Then to the Commandery, a house much recommended with a wonderful room with medieval painted walls and ceiling that deserves to be much more generally known. Continuing the theme of the morning it had rooms of all periods too, and lots of words on walls and panels about the famous revolutionary episodes that Worcester is famous for. The Commandery is also locally famous for its cafe, where I had my Last Toastie of the Trip, and took away a large cinnamony snickerdoodle sandwich biscuit. On my way back to my room I had a last wander in the cathedral, which was better for some sunshine streaming in.
A repeat of my Monday walk up the river in the evening, again improved by sunshine and warmth.
Today was just about getting home. The 10:16 from Worcester Shrub Hill being ideally timed for an unrushed breakfast and a stout stroll across town. Back with the plebs for this journey, and the refreshment cart paid no visit to my end of the carriage. Home in time for lunch.
Venice // Florence // London // Berlin // Trips