28 to 30 May
Well dear reader, last Saturday was the last day of our 2016 UK trip, so we made it a full one with a trip down the M5 to Exeter, on another sunny day.
The main purpose was to visit the Exeter Cathedral, which is Gothic in design and one of the most beautiful cathedrals around.
An earlier cathedral was built on the site in the 12th century, in the Norman style – austere, thick walls, few windows, so dark and gloomy inside. In the 13th and 14th century, it was rebuilt into the current cathedral in the Decorated Gothic style, retaining only the original North and South Towers which are obviously different – walls about 4 ft thick and hardly any windows and the windows have rounded tops instead of arched.
By about 1375, it was largely as it stands today. The newer extension made the building much larger. The use of the flying buttresses meant that the walls are nowhere as thick as those of the towers. A lot more windows could be accommodated with more decorative styles, making it much lighter inside.
The stone carvings on the outside are impressive, but the work inside is beautiful.
Exeter Cathedral has the longest nave of any Gothic Cathedral in the UK. The pillars and the ribs supporting the ceiling are carved from a combination of local marble and sandstone.
There is some decorative glasswork but not a lot.
Most of the windows are plain glass, installed in the 1940s after a part of the building, St James Chapel on the South Wall was destroyed by a bomb during an air raid in 1942, which also took out most of the windows on the North and South walls. Repairs were made very quickly as the bomb had taken out 3 of the buttresses making the whole building vulnerable to collapse. They did a good job though, we looked very closely at the new St James Chapel and could not see any difference in the new work from the old.
The ribs of the roof are supported by keystones or bosses which would normally just be functional. In Exeter, they are highly decorated, and all mean something or identify somebody.
The original organ has been recently replaced but the housing for it is original, made of carved oak.
The Bishop’s chair called a cathedra, which is how cathedrals got their name, is positioned in its own tower also made of oak and stands 60 ft high.
There is also an old mechanical astronomical clock which keeps perfect time but unfortunately our pictures of it did not work out as our camera is still playing up.
We had a walk around Exeter which was pretty much like any downtown shopping precinct. These young percussionists were doing a terrific job of entertaining Exeter, making a huge amount of rhythmic noise in the process.
They were very good, but the homeless people trying to sleep on the other side of the monument were not impressed.
We also came across a group of school children called ‘Not a string between us’, playing brass and woodwind instruments and entertaining people.
We walked down to the Exeter Docks for a look around.
This is the River Exe, but it was rebuilt in the 1560s, as a navigable ship canal which drops to the tidal river Exe at Exmouth. As such, this predates all the canals that we have seen in the past by at least 200 years.
We went for a cruise on the ferry at the dock and found the river/canal quite peaceful, with a strange collection of craft using it.
There are several small ships moored, and a lot of canoes with people out enjoying the lovely weather.
There are a couple of swing bridges that we went through and we went as far as the first lock which was huge, apparently the largest pound style lock on the system.
Our boat’s deckhand had an unusual method of opening and closing the bridges. We don’t think the elf’n safety people would be impressed, but he was quick and effective.
There were a lot of cyclists on all kinds of bikes using the towpath.
This young lady had had enough, preferring to pick the dandelions instead.
On our way back to Taunton, we stopped to have a look at a theme park called Diggerland at Cullompton.
The theme of this chain of parks is diggers, and if you are 90 cm or more in height, you can operate one of their diggers which come in all shapes and sizes.
You can drive around in the mud.
Or you can dig holes –
The machines were mainly being operated by children but a few daddies were having a go as well. From what we saw, the kids were better at it than the dads.
No mummies seemed to be doing it though.
There were a couple of rides based on diggers. A Carousel called a dig-around –
This digger has been reborn as a truly scary ride. You sit in the bucket while it lifts you up in the air, and spins round in circles quite quickly.
We know of at least one young bloke who would have thought he was in heaven if he came here. If only he was 90cms tall.
We went back to our hotel for the night after a beautiful and interesting last day of our trip, and soon afterwards the weather changed and we were in the midst of a raging thunderstorm.
On Sunday morning, we were up early to make the 150 mile drive to London to catch our plane home.
The drive and flight were routine. We managed to get the seats next to the exit with a lot of leg room , the only problems were with Roger’s noise cancelling headphones which wouldn’t work but the standard ones did. Then a couple hours before we arrived both our TVs shut down and couldn’t be revived.
We arrived home late on Monday night to find all well at home, although a bit chilly as Oz is now into winter.
A good end to another fun visit to the UK, with no injuries this time.