Sunday, 12 April 2015
A Visit to Tewkesbury - Part 1: John Moore Countryside Museum, Town Centre and Severn Ham
B was in Reading for the weekend (an old school friend re-union) so D and I had a day out yesterday in Tewkesbury. I won't tell you how many times this trip has been postponed due to us all being unwell last month!
Tewkesbury (probably most famous for its beautiful abbey and the horrendous 2007 floods) is a very lovely medieval market town located at the confluence of the Rivers Severn and Avon. In the past it was famous for major industries such as mustard making, brewing and malting, pin-making and knitted stockings. Goods were transported by river. The Battle of Tewkesbury (the final battle in the War of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York) wasa fought here on 4th May 1471 and Prince Edward who lost his life during or after the battle is buried in the Abbey.
We arrived around 11.00 a.m. and, after wandering around the grounds of the Abbey, our first port of call was the John Moore Countryside Museum. Huge thanks are due to Andrew who once did a blog post on this fascinating museum. It really is a gem and well worth a visit if you are in the area. The museum is located in a row of 15th century buildings that were built by monks from the Abbey.
The museum is dedicated to the memory of John Moore who was born and lived in Tewkesbury. He was a naturalist, conservationist and renowned writer of more than 40 books. He was well ahead of his time writing in the mid 20th century about the mismanagement and threats facing the countryside which could destroy the balance of nature.
The exhibits are spread over 3 floors and contain a wealth of information on the countryside, travellers, farming, conservation and natural history.
I must admit I am not a lover of taxidermist displays of stuffed animals so it was re-assuring to know that all the exhibits in the cases had either died of natural causes or by misadventure.
I bought myself a biography of John Moore from the museum which contains extracts from his books and am looking forward to reading some of his books in the future.
There was a pretty little garden at the rear where
the flowering currant and quince were attracting several bees.
Entrance to the museum also includes a visit to a Tudor Merchant's House built around 1480 and now restored to show the life of a Tudor merchant and his family. The house contains a shop, workshop and living quarters.
Finally, you can visit a secret walled garden full of traditional plants.
Pool with the Abbey to the rear. Apparently a pair of Peregrine Falcons have been sighted round the Abbey recently.
The Walled Garden which had lots of hellebores still in flower.
Looking towards the back of the museum and the Merchant's House.
We then spent some time wandering round a Farmers' and Craft Market. D bought me a rather lovely badger drinks coaster and I treated E (who was sadly at work and unable to come with us) to some handmade soap.
We had lunch at the Abbey tea rooms - cheese bap and salad and a piece of ginger cake - excellent value for money too :)
Then off for a walk round the Town - there were lots of independent shops, antique centres, second hand bookshops, tea-rooms and pubs.
Loved this front door design!
Lots of little alleys like this one.
Half way along the M42 on the journey D had announced that he wasn't prepared to visit the Abbey. I have to admit this was met by complete stunned silence on my part as the Abbey, in my view, was one of the main reasons for the visit. Whilst we were looking round the museum we noticed some information on the Severn Ham and also picked up a leaflet on a nature walk round the rivers and meadow.
So we decided that whilst I visited the Abbey D would walk round part of the nature trail. I was rather in two minds myself as the Ham looked exceedingly interesting and good for wildlife but I couldn't bear the thought of visiting Tewkesbury and not going to the Abbey. There's already far too many photos in this post so I'll write a post on the Abbey in Part 2 in a few days.
The Severn Ham is an ancient water meadow and Site of Special Scientific Interest. Ham is an old Saxon word meaning bend in a river, a flood plain or water meadow. It has a long and varied history beginning around 1000 years ago when the area became an island due to the mill Avon being dug which may have been for defensive reasons and to provide a water source for the mills. The Abbey once owned the Ham followed by local landowners with the town burghers having their ancient rights of Lammas (i.e. the right to graze animals on the second crop of grass). The site is now owned by the Town Council and is under a Countryside Stewardship agreement with Natural England. The meadow is often flooded by the Avon and Severn.
Otters are recolonising the area displacing the alien mink which is good news for the local water voles. Birds, depending on the time of year, include Redshank, Curlew, Reed Bunting, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Moorhen, Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Snipe, Mallard and Great Crested Grebe. Many wildflowers occur, such as, Lady's Smock, Celandine, Buttercups, Horseradish (used in Tewkesbury mustard), clover and vetches. Narrow-leaved Dropwort (an endangered species) flourishes in the damp ground along with the rare Great Dodder. I can imagine the meadow would be a lovely sight in early summer full of wildflowers and insects. Hopefully, we'll return as a family later in the year and I'll get the chance to visit the meadow myself although I can imagine it gets horrendously busy in the town during the summer months!!
I've included a few of the photos D took with the Canon bridge during his walk.
As mentioned above I'll do a separate post on the Abbey in a few days.