"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

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.


Bovey Belle said...

What a lovely post. Nearly as good as going there myself. Hopefully when we FINALLY are able to relocate to Herefordshire, we will be able to explore Tewkesbury. I've been there once, on a coach trip, but it must be 40 years back now! Looking forward to the Abbey post.

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Thanks so much BB - so glad you enjoyed the post :) Well worth a visit (or several)! Am slowly re-discovering Herefordshire - we used to go all the time when I was little as we had family in Hereford and Cleobury Mortimer/Burford. Its a beautiful County and I could live there too :)

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

The Natural History museum has a policy of not replacing its taxidermy animals which explains why many of them look rather "tired". Same can be said for the museum, sadly.

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - That's interesting Simon - did you mean your local NH museum or the one in London? The museum in Birmingham City Centre got rid of most of its NH section when they had a re-organisation a few years ago - very sad :( When I worked in City Centre many many years ago I used to spend most lunch hours in there.

amanda peters said...

Great post and interesting to read, like the shots of the houses too, taking more notice of buildings when I am out. There was a big display of taxidermist animals at Cliff House in Keighley, not sure if they are still there, I do remember I got to see animals I would never see, and the sizes they were struck me as well.
Look forward to seeing what the Abbey was like.
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks Amanda. Your comments abut the stuffed animals/birds are very valid. The guide to the museum made a similar point and my son said he didn't realise how small weasels were - I think he's only seen stoats in the wild. It would be a great place to take children too. Been planning the Abbey post tonight - photos aren't very good though. Do struggle indoors with my camera even using flash!!

Countryside Tales said...

Great post- you do visit some interesting places. I have mixed feelings about taxidermy. I don't like in instinctively, but I can see the value in preserving examples of species that may one day be extinct. Tewkesbury looks like a beautiful place to visit.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks very much CT. Share your views about taxidermy. Difficult subject really but if the specimens died of natural courses or by misadventure haven't so much of a problem with it.

SeagullSuzie said...

Thank you for this tour, what a wonderful place to visit.

Em Parkinson said...

Taxidermy is a strange art isn't it? I'm never quite sure what I feel about it. Another great tour with you RR - thank you.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Thanks Suzie - so pleased you enjoyed :)

Em Parkinson - Thanks Em. Yes, you're right - it is strange and like you (and as other have said) not sure about it overall either.

Chris Rohrer said...

Like your post, you stroll along with the views. It's a fun tour:) I'm not big into taxidermy myself and it creeps me out, but I understand the importance. I wonder how many of his concerns became reality. Wonderful post and thanks for the walk!

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris. Sadly many of his concerns have become reality :( Agricultural intensification, degradation and fragmentation of habitat etc. etc... ad infinitum... have resulted in declines in so many species :(