Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Back to Reading, Old towns and Knights of old

Then we were on the road again, back to Reading.

This would be our last couple of days in Reading before heading back to St Albans and beyond.
We were going to enjoy a few local sights and events.
On Saturday Michael and I caught the bus into town for a walk around some of Readings quieter back streets and re visit the Forbury Gardens. We only found out about these gardens on our last visit but apparently the locals love the peace and quiet and can be found enjoying the grounds in their lunch hour.

We walked around the garden, read about the lion, erected as a monument to commemorate the loss of 286 soldiers from the local regiment at the battle of Maiwand, in the 1880 Afghan war.
 (The lion's gait/stance is actually incorrect - it should be right front leg forward, left back leg forward, not as shown. I think trotting horses are about the only animal that moves as the lion is depicted. There was a rumour that the sculptor was so upset at the abuse he received that he committed suicide, wrong. He may have been upset but he weathered the storm and lived another 43 years.)

We wandered the streets around the old abbey, down to the river and the Kennet and Avon canal running through the town. The markets are still there in town but we have to wonder how much longer they'll last, there weren't many stalls selling anything.

Then we got the bus back, had lunch and then set off for a little tour of some Chiltern towns, mainly Wallingford.
As we travelled through the country we passed the Chiltern Flying Club. There were quite a few little planes there, including an old bi plane which was in the process of strapping a young man on top of the top wing.
There wasn't anywhere to stop next to the airfield so we drove on and stopped a little further along. We were surprised when the bi plane suddenly took off and flew overhead – there weren't any screams from the young man, but we could hear the cheers and shouts from the airfield.

We carried on into Wallingford, parked the car and set off to walk around.
 Agatha Christie lived near Wallingford for many years and the town hall has been used in many Midsomer Murders as the Causton Town Hall. 

We popped into the Lamb Antique Arcade, a huge building with lots of individual stalls. There were some interesting pieces, but none of us bought anything. We walked on to the old castle ruins, through the lovely gardens and up a rather overgrown path to the top of the hill. When we reached the top we were up among a couple of Red Kites flying around.

We then walked back through town and went down to the river. We sat in the shade watching the birds and the boats, then in the absence of an ice cream van we stopped off at a pub for a cool drink.

Then we went back to Reading for a nice relaxing night.

The next day we were off to the Chilterns again – to The Chiltern Open Air Museum, in Chalfont St Peter.
We took the scenic route there, through some interesting villages and countryside.
The Chiltern Open Air Museum covers a large area and has 'saved' buildings from destruction. It rescues various buildings, carefully dismantles them and rebuilds them at the museum, creating an old world village museum.
Throughout the year they hold various special events, weekends. This weekend was a Medievil one, with a troupe of dancers, and archery display and a group of knights in combat.

We arrived just as the knights were finishing their first 'act', then we walked across to the village green and watched some dancing. We wandered around the site, stopping for lunch at the tea rooms, which are in the old Furniture factory building, rescued from High Wycombe. Then we ambled back through the farm yard, the old toll keeper's cottage, a nissen hut and a 1947 pre-fab house. 

We gathered to listen to the archer tell us all about bows and arrows, very, very interesting. Then we followed the archer out to a field where 2 of the knights were waiting.....to be shot at.
The archer fired arrows at the 2 knights as they advanced, some arrows hit home, hard; but the knights continued their advance. (True arrows would have pierced the armour but that would be taking things too far so our archer's arrows had rubber tips).

Then the archer demonstrated how far arrows travel, he fired up into the air and still most of the arrows landed at the end of the field. If he'd not fired up into the air he said that the arrows would have gone through the trees for miles. It really demonstrated the power of an arrow in expert hands, but the archers did not wear armour and were easy targets for their enemies. At the end of the demonstration he fired a few arrows into models of a deer, a rabbit and a pheasant. The children were a blood-thirsty lot, calling for him to shoot the animals in the head, “aim for his eye”!!

Then we went back to the 'arena' and cheered on the knights as they fought each other, they goaded and abused each other – medieval 'sledging'? But as they were teasing each other about eating the last Weetabix biscuit at breakfast and referred to one of them falling 'like a sack of potatoes', they weren't in true medieval mode.

It was a great day out, the museum is relatively small but it's exhibits are first class and the special , medieval, event really made the day special.
We headed home, had a little bit of a rest and then went down to Caversham, to the pub for dinner.
Another great beef and wine pie for Michael and I had Sea Bass and Scallops with risotto – yum.

The next morning we were driven across country, through more beautiful villages and pretty scenery over to St Albans – from one brother to another. John had offered to drive us over to Jim's when he realised that it would take us over 3 hours to travel by public transport, he could have us there and be back home in that time.
What a nice big brother.

We had told Jim that we'd be back in the afternoon, it was 9 minutes past 12 when we rang his doorbell!!

A day to rest and get ready, then off to Ireland.....

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