Worcester (UK) and its Cathedral
Catching the 2:40pm train to #Worcester, a 45-minute ride comprised of 2 carriages, I was unable to find space for my bag, so rode with it in the handicap area. Alighting in Worcester Foregate, I began my route: south on The Cross, which took me to the Cathedral Green.
With a 4pm rendezvous at my newly arranged for lodgings, I walked the north face per Google Maps, and had to descend two flights of stone stairs to a walkway along the River Severn. A lovely walk along the river for three-quarters of a mile, I got to the Diglis Basin and tried to find the building and flat I was supposed to stay in.
By word of explanation, I’d booked and paid for a B&B back in February with a woman named Elaine. Two days prior, I’d emailed her to confirm again, and she replied she had no record of a booking. Where I expected to stay was not available, so she offered a flat within 15 minutes of the train station and the cathedral. My “pretty haven for 2 in walled garden” became a ground floor corner two-bedroom flat in a new apartment complex. That was 15 minutes from the cathedral, granted, but the station was almost the same distance in the opposite direction. Plus it turned out there were no services (stores, restaurants, taxi stands) nearby.
Elaine was unable to meet me, and arranged for a friend to get me the keys and explain the flat. I finally found what I thought might be the place, but no one was there. I waited a bit, and finally sent a text with a picture of the front door to ascertain if I was in the right place. The friend was 15 minutes late, having stopped to bring me milk and loaf of sliced white bread. Handed me keys and shown how to enter and leave, she was soon off to fetch children.
A two-bedroom modern flat, the sitting area was very comfortable, albeit the windows on both outside walls were at eye level for anyone walking by. I pushed the suitcase into one room, and settled into the other briefly, before exiting and heading out the door for the cathedral and 5:30 Evensong. Again walking along the Severn, it was a wonderful afternoon. One house had a fantasy approach to its garden, covering every space with small colorful pieces of pottery in a hodge-podge of imagination. Crossing a bridge over a side canal, the signpost indicated the distance and number of locks, to future destinations. I hadn’t realized how compact England is.
Arriving at the main entrance to the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary at a quarter past five, I found that Evensong had been replaced by a service of Choral Eucharist, as it was the feast of Corpus Christi. Offered in the quire, I was able to sit in my favorite location behind the senior choir, with singing by 12 boys and 7 adults. Eucharist ended with a long organ postlude, such that clergy and parishioners had already left once I finished with a few pictures in the quire. I slowly exited the nave, taking more pictures as I gawked at the elements of this large church. As I walked my circuit, I noted that the afternoon sun was giving the stone a warm, brilliant golden glow. My route took me to the school green, and I was almost locked from getting to the river walk at 7pm, as a verger was locking that access for the evening.
Figuring I would walk the surface roads towards the flat, and find a restaurant on the way, I began by rounding the green to the north of the cathedral and turning south. Several places offered menus, but seemed focused on the student population, offering pizza or burgers. Continuing, I spotted two places on the far side of a messy roadway intersection, and decided to stay closer to the river. Crossing a small waterway, this put me climbing a hill along Bath Street, taking me down near the junction of the river and that canal I’d seen earlier. Not seeing anything commercial, I checked for restaurants on Google Maps and had to retrace my steps to Diglis Road, where, at the bend, The Anchor Inn faced out into a harbor.
Moving into a back-dining room, away from the pub bar, I found a seat on a banquette and got a pint of amber ale while perusing the menu. My experience with steak pies had been good, so I ordered Mum’s fish pie, with grilled halibut, salmon and prawns, served in a thermidor sauce with chive mashed potatoes. I decided I’d slow things down with an appetizer, and got Peter Cook’s Artisan breads with local rape seed oil and fig syrup. I pulled out my journal and started recording my afternoon since my train ride.
The fish pie was great. A local couple arrived about the time I was finishing the starter and had half my notes done, so we began chatting. I shared the photo album I was carrying, talked about my journey. They talked about their boys, one his and the other theirs. Lots of subjects covered, and I encouraged them to travel for all their lives. They talked me into trying a dessert with them, so with a decaf espresso, I had a “blow torch banana cheesecake, toffee sauce, vanilla mascarpone, and butter on a biscuit base.” The food pictures that the phone took that night are dark, with none of the fish. But the dessert looks good and fattening.
Cutting through the harbor to get to the #Riverwalk so I knew how to get to the flat, I could have followed the Diglis Road to the Dock Road which would have put me at the flat sooner. But the riverside was beautiful with discrete lighting. Back at the flat I called Florida to discuss my options for my review copies of the book, and then promptly managed to blow the power circuit for the entire flat. Having done this once before in Porto the previous spring, I knew where my flashlight was and found the box to reset the switch. I organized my suitcase, separating clean from dirty, and was amazed at how much stuff I’d picked up in three weeks. Finally pulling curtains in both bedrooms, I cleaned up and crawled into bed, with everything charging for the night.
Ø June 21 Worcester (Friday)
Up about 8, I had to keep the curtains drawn as the complex seemed to be emptying out, and folks walking by constantly. I downloaded the 250 pictures from the day before and then uploaded to the cloud, had a banana, and go clean and dressed for the day. The cathedral tour, at £6, would be at 11. Because the only way to charge the camera battery was to plug the camera into the power outlet in the wall, despite having three batteries, I could only charge one at a time. I left thinking perhaps one battery wasn’t fully charged.
No High Parts Tower tours happen during the week, I found out when I returned to the cathedral at 10:30. For the next ten minutes I investigated the cloister, getting pictures of the walkways, vaults and outside shots of the church. There are several etched glass windows keeping the weather out, which are interesting both inside and out – good reflections.
Once inside, I began exploring prior to the 11am tour. John, a spry 82, took five of us around on an hour tour, while the nave and presbytery seemed overrun with a horde of red-sweater’d school children. Their presence kept all out of both the crypt and chapter house for the better part of the day. Of note are the two members of royalty buried in the cathedral. #KingJohn, who signed the Magna Carta, and #ArthurTudor, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Henry Tudor (Henry VII) who married Catherine of Aragon. She later married his younger brother who ascended the throne as Henry VIII, and her being older and unable to bear a son was a contributing factor to the Dissolution.
The long stone vault in the nave changes at the cross to an ornate stenciled and painted ceiling in the presbytery. A carved wood cathedra of Victorian style sits beside the choir stall on the north side. The facing of the main altar is modern and includes the colors of vestments worn for services throughout the year, removing a requirement to change to match. Behind the table is an elaborate reredos screen with five carved, gilded seated figures: a larger crowned Christ flanked by representations of the Evangelists. A tomb memorial to Charlotte Elizabeth Digby was another stopping point, as the seated young woman is an unusual pose, and it was felt that the statue was quite lifelike and beautiful.
We had a few eccentricities included – the giraffe window, a stunning altarpiece, carved in a red wood and included two-paneled folding doors, a tall carved stone screen which included symbols for both factions in the War of Roses; and a vault highly decorated with winged angels. Several organs are placed throughout the church, with the pipes for the quire organ mounted above the choir stalls, and an organ with battleship gray and gold etched pipes in the transept.
Leaving the cathedral after more photo taking, I headed upstream to a bridge, where I’d been told was an excellent vantage point for getting pictures of the church building. The trip took me past a building sporting figures of the first and second King Charles, most likely built after the English Civil War, as Worcester had been Royalist, causing the Parliamentary troops to ransack the cathedral, smashing windows and the organ. The view was well worth the walk. Coming back along the riverbank, I walked into St Helen’s/All Saints, a red stoned church and bell tower; the space was being used for an art exhibition. Crossing the street to the Farrier Arms, I had a lunch of a tuna melt on a ciabatta roll with a pint of amber ale.
After lunch I wandered the commercial district. Several corner pubs attracted my camera, and a jeweler with a steeply raked upper story. Returning to the cathedral after 4, I was able to enter the crypt and see the quire in a different light. Evensong was unaccompanied, as the organist was missing (10 boys, 6 men.) I was able to speak with the Dean after the service about my “pilgrimage”.
While I had thought of take-away Chinese, I opted instead for an early dinner at Benedictos, which had been overflowing the prior evening. Bruschetta and tagliatelle Bolognese, with a glass of Branciforti dei Bordonaro, a Nero d’Avola (IGT Sicily) and water. An amuse bouche of a Sicilian chickpea appetizer came with wilted rocket. For once, I found my gift to be slightly salty and very warm and tasty. The bruschetta was served warm, pizza style, with a warm tomato topping. Ground black pepper helped, but I’d add some balsamic to punch up the flavors. I was starting to feel full, but the pasta arrived. The tagliatelle was good, but needed plenty of parmesan cheese (this is me, the cheese addict, remember). A second glass of wine confirmed the suggestion of the maître. I did opt for a palate cleansing dessert – sorbet. scoops of raspberry and hazelnut arrived with the raspberry pretty conventional, but the hazelnut was superb. A cappuccino “capped” my dining experience.
Knowing the way home, I again came through the marina and walked along the river in the dwindling light. Back at the flat I finished preparing for the next leg, packed ready to close up the bag. I was able to upload both days’ worth of photos to Dropbox, and got all the batteries charged. Elaine had not responded to my inquiry regarding transportation, and Uber didn’t appear to function. I resolved to get up early to push my bag back to the station. Clean face and teeth, I was down for the count.