Stratford walks


I have been informed by my Happiness Engineer that WP have retired the Classic Editor just like that. I have though managed to keep it working on my machine via some old back ways. But good news, I’ve managed to sort out my image uploader hurrah! So pics to follow.

You’ll most certainly be aware that Stratford-upon-Avon hosts the fabulous riverside Royal Shakespeare Theatre where our greatest dramatist’s works are performed live on stage. Just look at it…

It’s not just a delightful setting, I also think it’s a truly interesting building that I love to walk around it and explore its features. I notice something new each time like these huge modern weather vanes on the roof of the old part of the theatre…

But the town offers more than its theatre. If you’ve never been here before you might be interested to learn that you can also visit Shakespeares’s birthplace, then where he went to school, where he eventually bought and settled in a large family home, his wife’s cottage when she was growing up, his mother’s home, his two daughters’ married homes and, of course, his final resting place. And there are quite a few olde worlde shoppes selling his happy crap too.  It’s amazing that so much property linked to the great man remains intact some 400 years later and yet we know so little about him and his life*. Ironic eh.

And whilst we live within easy walking distance of most of these facilities it remains a sad fact that we cannot visit any of them at the moment – they’re all closed to the public because of lockdown. Sigh. I can’t wait to get to visit them all once things open up (v soon now!!) but in the meantime we’ve been exploring a load of great walks in and around the town. I’ve been toying with the idea of a new blog site to describe them but  I can’t see how to easily monetise the info, so I just CBA. An old contact of mine sold her social media marketing business a couple of years ago to set up a business delivering interesting country walks (and walking paraphernalia) around Northants/Leicestershire/Warwicks. It was doing really well but I’m sure it’s been heavily impacted by lockdown. Anyway my covid mindset is just too trimly at the moment to think about setting up a business.  But I can of course share some background on our discoveries with you dear readers. No charge, ha!

As I said earlier, just walking around the town is a delight. It’s compact and every street seems to have something lovely or historically/architecturally significant to look at and admire (even if you can’t go in). Walking down Chapel Lane (which is literarily at the top of our road) you pass the walled garden behind New Place, the house which Shakespeare acquired once he became successful. It has a lovely yew hedge that a topiarist has gone nuts on…

Look at that! I bet it’s supposed to represent the castlements of Elsinore castle or some other historical Shakespearean reference but who cares; I can’t wait to check out that garden. Incidentally the substantial house at New Place which became the Shakespeare family home for nearly 20 years was later acquired by another local businessman after William’s death. I suspect he was looking at the business opportunities to exploit the dramatist’s fame. However he got so fed up of visitors gawping through the windows of his home that he had the building knocked down. Just like that. He could have worked for WordPress. Imagine what we might have learned about Shakespeare if the building had been preserved.

Across the road from the gardens is a beautiful magnolia tree which is just budding…

And you’ll notice that beautiful old lamp-post. If you stop to look you find out that Stratford’s town council has received gifts of old lamp-posts from civic authorities throughout England and reinstated them along its streets. They work of course and look brilliant. This particular one was donated by Sunderland City Council. There’s another in the picture above and they run all down the street…

Now this lane is only about 300m long and you see what I mean about interesting features – and I haven’t even mentioned the beautiful chapel at the top of the street, the lovely costume department of the RSC, the famous Arden hotel, and the King Edward School – Shakespeare’s own. You just have to absorb it all. To help there are loads of information panels sunk into pavements or attached to walls to inform the walker. And whilst the throngs of tourists are still missing, it’s a joy to be able to explore it in blissful peace.

I also like the attitude of the local council which seems to have a really positive approach towards enabling people to exercise. There are some fantastic recreational spaces just behind the town centre supporting tennis, squash and bowling clubs, alongside a lovely cricket square and several football pitches etc as well as pathways and open grass areas for kids to just run around and play. There are playgrounds for youngsters and a new adventure park area is literally being created as I write.

Plus what I really like is that the Council has adopted a former railway line into Stratford and turned it into  The Greenway, a 5-6 mile walk and cycleway, with fab views over the racecourse and surrounding countryside and river…

Plus they’ve somehow sited a couple of old railway carriages fairly close to the start of the walk and converted them into a cafe/bar and cycle hire point. They are always busy…

In addition to the Greenway the Council have taken the route of a former tramway stretching from almost  the hub of the town out to the Waitrose complex on the ring road.  It’s dead straight, nicely tarmacked and well-landscaped and offers lovely views over the recreation fields on one side and some handsome private houses on the other…

How enlightened of the Council to create these facilities. They’ve proved massively popular throughout the lockdown as people needed somewhere to walk, run, cycle and exercise. It’s almost like they had anticipated this bloody pandemic and people’s need to just get out and take in some fresh air whilst safe-distancing.

But here’s a little secret these aren’t even my favourite walks in and around Stratford. For that I need to talk to you about the draw of the water in the next posting.

pp

*Oh and just to conclude things if you want to find out just how little we do know about our greatest dramatist then I’d recommend the book entitled Shakespeare by Bill Bryson. It is a great read full of fascinating details. I’m sad enough to keep it in the car and dib into it every time I have a few minutes to kill.

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