16 May, 2010

The Old Song G.K. Chesterton

A livid sky on London
And like the iron steeds that rear
A shock of engines halted

And I knew the end was near:
And something said that far away, over the hills and far away
There came a crawling thunder and the end of all things here.
For London Bridge is broken down, broken down, broken down,
As digging lets the daylight on the suken streets of yore,
The lightning looked on London town, the broken bridge of London town.
The ending of a broken road where men shall go no more.

I saw the kings of London town,
The kings that buy and sell,
That built it up with penny loaves
And penny lies as well:

And where the streets were paved with gold the shrivelled paper
shone for gold,
The scorching light of promises that pave the streets of hell.
For penny loaves will melt away, melt away, melt away,
Mock the men that haggled in the grain they did not grow;
With hungry faces in the gate, a hundred thousand in the gate,
A thunder-flash on London and the finding of the foe.

I heard the hundred pin-makers
Slow down their racking din,
Till in the stillness men could hear
The dropping of the pin:
And somewhere men without the wall, beneath the wood, without the wall,
Had found the place where London ends and England can begin.
For pins and needles bend and break, bend and break, bend and break,
Faster than the breaking spears or the bending of the bow,
Of pagents pale in thunder-light, 'twixt thunderload and thunderlight,
The Hundreds marching on the hills in the wars of long ago.

I saw great Cobbett riding,
The horseman of the shires;
And his face was red with judgement
And a light of Luddite fires:

And south to Sussex and the sea the lights leapt up for liberty,
The trumpet of the yeomanry, the hammer of the squires;
For bars of iron rust away, rust away, rust away,
Rend before the hammer and the horseman riding in,
Crying that all men at the last, and at the worst and at the last,
Have found the place where England ends and England can begin.

His horse-hoofs go before you
Far beyond your bursting tyres;
And time is bridged behind him
And our sons are with our sires.

A trailing meteor on the Downs he rides above the rotting towns,
The Horseman of Apocalypse, the Rider of the Shires.
For London Bridge is broken down, broken down, broken down;
Blow the horn of Huntington from Scotland to the sea --
...Only flash of thunder-light, a flying dream of thunder-light,
Had shown under the shattered sky a people that were free.

15 May, 2010

A delightful 10 mile walk in the Herts Chilterns. Tring, Aldbury and Berkhamsted.

A day out with additions as recommended by a friend on a pleasant night out.

I haven't been in Tring since 1994, when, as a naieve Estate Manager I visited my employers head office in this pleasant chiltern town, part of the land belonging to the Rothschilds. Tring station is one and a half miles from the town near the Grand Union Canal and the original plan was to walk from the station to Aldbury, then back to Tring and down the Grand Union canal to Berkhamsted. It didn't turn out like that as it looked wet over Aldbury, so I turned first to Tring.

The road to Tring is an avenue of chestnut trees and these make for a pleasant walk although the drivers are utterly mad. My first port of call was St Peter's and St Paul's church which was serving tea and coffee. I had coffee with the rector who had been in post around 7 years, and we chatted about the old vicarage that had been my employers head office, with their coat of arms still above the portal

Not sure I agree that the vicar who built it had delusions of grandeur, but that's one view. I think that there would have been servants and probably a large family with a few aunts and cousins to fill the place. The church dates from the 15th century and has a rood painting above the chancel arch painted in 1899 to replace the ten commandments.

After church a walk up the high street, with a large conservative club and a larger baptist chapel. Tring has a natural history museum, the collection of Lionel Walter Rothschild which consists of rather depressed looking stuffed fauna and plaster casts of animals, all displayed rather dustily. I suppose they're not easy to clean. Still this is a good way of getting near to the creatures without being kicked by a cassowarie, who can disembowel a person with a single kick. Lord Rothschild hept these on his estate along with zebras to drive his carriage and giant tortoises from the galapagos islands. After a look round all six galleries I left and, after a very helpful encounter at the Tourist Information office in Tring, set out to walk to Aldbury along the road past Tring station, a distance of 2 and a half miles (running total 4 miles). I called in first at the memorial gardens to those killed in world war II with its sentinal tree overlooking a free form pond with ducks.

At Aldbury the Church of St John the Baptist contains the Pendley chapel with a parclose (stone) screen and an altar tomb with effigies. This is the only parclose screen in the chilterns. There is a curious wild man on the tomb at the feet of the Knight.

The church is near a pleasant village pond overshadowed by the stocks, with a sign exhorting visitors not to touch the ancient monument, although I'm sure people do, especially as the sign can only be seen one way. Many of the houses here belong to the Duke of Bridgewater who built the Grand Union Canal and whose initial and coronet appear carved in stone on cottages that could not bring shame...

The Valiant trooper pub on the way to the Grand Union Canal provided a stop for refreshment and then I headed off over fields to the canal.

A rare picture of me sitting on the banks of the canal

The walk by the canal in the heat of the day seemed long - around 5 miles to Berkhamsted measured by Grand Junction Canal milestones measuring distances to Braunston (running total 9 miles).
Berkhamsted is home to a minor public school where Graham Greene's father was head teacher, and has a mile long high street. (Total ten miles.)
Berkhamsted was home to Dean Incent, dean of St Pauls, founder of the school at Berkhamsted and assistant to Thomas Cromwell at the dissolution of the monasteries.

Berkhamsted was also a port and this curious victorian warehouse is the remains of that era on the Grand Union Canal

I always like Hertfordshire whenever I go - it probably helps that I go in good weather - but today was a good day out even if the ten mile walk was tiring.

03 May, 2010

Faversham town of the two brewers.

I've been to Faversham before but only seen the former co-op superstore and the inside of the Chimney Boy Pub there so a bank holiday visit was in order, especially as the man who invented bank holidays lies in Kent soil in Farnborough (really the London Borough of Bromley). Faversham is an old market town with an old covered market and guildhall. Even though the guildhall was rebuilt in the 19th century it still has a look of the meadieval market it once was. there are lots of old black and white buildings, although these days they are more dark brown and mustard yellow, the fashion having moved on after mock tudor debased it.

There was this marvellous door with the Kent shield above.

One connection with home is that the bricks for the viaduct that runs through my bit of Saaf London were made in Faversham, and sent to london on barges from the port.

I visited the antique shops that were quartered there.
The Church was rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 18th century but in a half hearted way. The clerestory windows are pointed outside but on the inside they are lunettes. The church has a proper Georgian ceiling and not left open to the tiles like the Victorians would have done.

Altogether the church was a good one with the remains of a meadieval painted pillar, presumably covered up with something when the iconoclasts came to call. The wooden treasury was out of view, as I suppose a treasury should be if it is to be effective.

After church it was time to have lunch in one of the few pubs serving food on a bank holiday washed down with some of the local brew made in the town. Suitably fortified I made my way to the museum, run with great enthusiasm by the local heritage society. The museum had a great deal of interactive exhibits in the form of the staff and one was forced to interact with them, although I would have preferred to reflect on the exhibits myself... They were helpful though
After seeing the Strowger telephone exchange it was time to wander and take pics for the other blog, I went past the substantial Almshouses towards the Chart Gunpowder Mills. Faversham was a major producer of gunpowder until the end of the first world war when it was nationalised. Again run by the heritage society I chatted with the attendant about almost anything but gunpowder.

On the way home called at Sittingbourne.