The light was just dawning when I set out on my journey. Four hours later I'm standing in the nave of Worcester Cathedral, whispering into my mobile, asking my Eldest son to meet me so that I can drive him and his girlfriend home. They have been on a short holiday, riding a canal boat from Birmingham, but now their time is up and I have agreed to drive them back to Essex and home. So here I am, 9 45 in the morning, in a medieval colossus on the other side of England from where I live.
|Worcester Cathedral, on the banks of the Severn|
The Cathedral is a fascinating building, its life beginning as a Priory back in the Anglo-Saxon period. Nothing remains of that structure, but the present building was constructed between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries, and as such represents every style of architecture that was practiced during those years. I have only been here once before, back in 1998, and recall walking the banks of the Severn to the rear of the Cathedral. Along that bank is a tunnel, and upon the walls of that tunnel is a group of plaques representing the water levels of various floods. The Severn is notorious for bursting its banks and, indeed, it did so again a few weeks after that visit at the end of last century. I have had many occasions to use the Worcester bypass on my way to my Powys bolthole, and more than once have I witnessed the Severn floodplain turning into a colossal lake.
It won't take long for my son to reach me, so I make a quick tourist round of some of the Cathedral's internal features. The ashes of Stanley Baldwin are buried in the nave. He was Prime Minister three times, dominated national politics between the two World Wars and is the only Prime Minister to date who served under three monarchs - George V, Edward VIII and George VI. I linger at the chantry chapel of Arthur Tudor, who died at Ludlow Castle during his mid-teens, freeing his widow Catherine of Aragon to marry her brother-in-law Henry. I wander towards the tomb of King John, who requested burial here before dying of dysentery at Newark in 1216, only to be startled by the sight of a camera crew clustered around the chipped effigy. I wheel around and stride away, affecting a casual air, and that is how I inadvertently ended up in the background of a BBC documentary marking the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
Eldest son arrives, and we take a short walk to the boat moored on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to pick up his girlfriend. One cup of coffee later, we set out on our drive across the country, back home to Essex. But, as usual when we are going a journey, we intend to make the most of it.
A few miles to the south, at the confluence of the Rivers Severn and Avon, lies another town famous for flooding. Its Abbey is the resting place of members of the Despenser family, Marcher Lords infamous in the reigns of the early Edwards, and George Duke of Clarence, brother to Edward IV and Richard III. He was executed for treason in 1478, supposedly choosing his own method of leaving the world by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine.
|Battle of Tewkesbury, depicted in the Ghent MS|