UK trip 2 May 2005: Heathrow to Bath
Continued from UK Trip May 2005 | Hayes & Greene family history
Our plane from South Africa landed early, just after 6:00 am, and Val got a cell-phone kit, and then we went to get the car we had hired, a Fiat Punto. We drove down the M3 to just before Winchester; all the trees were spring green, and the birch trees looked particularly beautiful. The ones in South Africa were in their late summer dark green, beginning to turn yellow, and here they were the light and bright spring green.
We turned off to Itchen Abbas, where we saw Richard and Cathy Wood, and had to catch up with 30 years of news, since we had last seen them. Richard was now 84, and had not been well, and their daughter Rachel was there, with her husband Jean-Bernard d’Arcy and son Antoine, who was about a year old. They normally live in Toulouse in France, but had come to help look after Richard who had been ill.
Richard Wood had been an Anglican priest in Fort Beaufort, in the Diocese of Grahamstown, and when his first wife died he toyed with the idea of becoming a monk. The Anglican bishop of Grahamstown, Bill Burnett, suggested that he work in Namibia for a while, to see how he coped with solitude, so he lived and worked at Keetmanshoop, and when he visited Windhoek stayed with us in our commune, the Community of St Simon the Zealot (whiat would now be called a “new monastic” community). On these visits he met Cathy Roark, who had come from the USA to be a youth worker at St George’s Cathedral. When Cathy left to return to the USA, Richard met her in England, where he was doing a tour of Anglican religious communities to see which might be a good model for Namibia. Cathy accompanied him on one of these visits, and they decided to get married, and Richard wrote back to the bishop in Windhoek, Colin Winter, to say that he had at least found one other person to take life vows.
Later, after Bishop Winter had been deported from Namibia, Richard was elected as suffragan bishop, and eventually he himself was deported.
Cathy took us to see Winchester, and we took some photos of the cathedral and other buildings, including the house where Jane Austen had lived, near the Cathedral. The day had started rainy, but was now turning sunny. Winchester had lots of narrow streets.
Then we had lunch at Richard’s favorite pub, sitting outside in the sunshine, and chatted about Namibia and the activities of the Security Police back in the days when it was still ruled by South Africa. We had a look at the river, and Cathy told us that it had originally been a swamp, but King Alfred had channelled it in order to build Winchester. Now, however, environmentalists wanted it to return to swamp.
We talked about friends from Namibia. Cathy said that John Witherow, who had come from England as a volunteer to help with education, was now the editor of the Sunday Times, which had turned into a rabid right-wing rag. That surprised me — not that it was a rabid right-wing rag, but that John Witherow was the editor of such a paper.
When I had been in the UK in the 1960s, the British Sunday Times had been a good newspaper, one of what had been called the “quality Sundays”. In 2000 I picked up a discarded copy at Rinas airport in Albania, and was quite shocked to see how it had deteriorated — all objectivity in reporting had gone, and had become nothing more than a vehicle for propaganda.
We left the Woods about 2:30 pm, and drove through some picturesque villages along the way, Stockbridge, and Nether, Middle and Upper Wallop, then turned off to look at Stonehenge. Val had seen it before, but I hadn’t. It looked smaller than I had expected, and we took some photos from the hill above.
We drove on to Beckington, where we arrived at 4:30 pm, and booked in to Pickford House, a bed and breakfast place run by Angela and Ken Pritchard.
After a nap we went into Bath, and drove around looking at the Georgian and Regency houses, as Val wanted to see some of the places mentioned in Georgette Heyer’s novels.
We looked at the Royal Crescent, and then had supper at a Chinese restaurant, which was quite expensive, but very good indeed.