Not far outside of Winchester, near the small village of Newtown, we decided to get off the main road and stop at the nearest pub for some lunch. The pub, The Swan Inn, was a beautiful 16th Century building that was clearly designed around the average human height of that era. Minding our heads, we ducked down into the main restaurant and ordered some fantastic food. Before we could poke fun at Mum for not having to duck under any beams, we had devoured the food, drank the beers and were back in the car and on the way to Winchester. Wine is usually ferociously steadily consumed when staying in Winchester, so, after filling what space we had left in the car with beverages, we continued on to St Cross, where would spend the next couple of nights with Jassy & Julian. We arrived early enough in the afternoon that we were able to wander out to the meadows and past Winchester College towards Winchester Cathedral.
We wandered past the house where Jane Austen passed away, through the Priory Gate into the Outer Circle and on into the Cathedral.. Inside it was spectacular, but we were unable linger, as we were heading straight to the Crypt that had only reopened after the recent flooding to see the eerie statue by Antony Gormley. It was quite a cool setting as the remaining water created a kind of optical illusion as it reflected the statue and archways. While my camera’s battery started to run out, we raced around the Cathedral to try and to see the Winchester Bible, the largest (and said to be the finest) remaining 12th Century English Bible, but, to Uncle War’s sheer disappointment, it was closed.
Ah well, at least we had time to get to Winchester’s Great Hall.
As we walked up the hill of the High Street towards either, the North, South or West Gate, the clouds turned black and the rain came pouring down as we stepped into the home of Arthur’s Round Table. Most of us have been in the Great Hall before, but it is still an amazing building with lead-light windows displaying the coat of arms of people such as Lancelot. After walking around for ten minutes, talking like Sean Connery in my head (“Lanshalot, Welcome to Camelot”), it was time to leave. But the rain was still there, so we instead sat around the doorway talking about the only thing people in these situations talk about, old age leakage. It came as quite a relief for the poor volunteer listening to us when the rain eased and we could leave under an umbrella of rainbows. We wandered through the old barracks back towards the house before enjoying a lovely curry and reasonably early night – 3:00am due to cards.
The next morning we wandered down to the beautiful Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, a mouthful in more than one sense of the word. This time, even Uncle War wanted to go to see the Church, as we were going to partake in the ancient tradition of the Wayfarer’s Dole. Founded in the early 12th Century, it is one of the only churches left were they are still obliged (only when asked) to give you a slice of bread and a small beer. It was an ale, not our usual tipple, but it was pretty good, so much so, that “Tea-Total” Tammy downed it quicker than her seasoned counter parts. After we received the dole, we wandered out of the Porter’s Lodge into the church and then back out around the Almshouses, of which St Cross is said to be England’s Oldest Charities.
We were then into the cars and heading toward Portsmouth to see H.M.S Victory which found fame as the flagship in Britain’s greatest navel victory – the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 – under the command of good ol’ Nelson. It was quite a ship. It must have been disheartening if you were French/Spanish in those days, when a ship of that size came across the horizon and lined you up with her 100 cannons, one of which could be fired over 1km. I am not saying they were compensating for anything but judging by the height of the ceilings and size of Nelson’s cot hammock, they weren’t really the tallest of folk… Even though there was a bit of a wait to get in, it was definitely worth the drive. We returned to Winchester after lunch, where we picked up Mrs Larko before heading back for another delicious meal (where everyone definitely ate all their spinach) before a few quick games of cards until 4am.
A Roast Sunday Lunch later we squeezed our full bellies into the car and were homeward bound. Strangely enough, we finished our weekend off at Sam’s before we shuffled the oldies off to Paris the next day while the rest of us actually had to go back to work….