Tag Archives: river avon

Tewkesbury

Summer in Tewkesbury, by Jayt74. Image used under creative commons, click pic for link.

Summer in Tewkesbury, by Jayt74. Image used under creative commons, click pic for link.

Things you might associate with Tewkesbury: floods; mustard; abbey; battle. For a fairly modest market town in Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury has a fair volume of history and contribution to society behind it. Floods first – perhaps more than anything, these define Tewkesbury in contemporary popular imagination. 2007 was only the most recent drama to affect the town – see here for a full breakdown of flooding in the Severn catchment – and not the first time the town has been completely cut off. The dramatic pictures on the TV revealed a low-lying town at the confluence of two of the biggest rivers in the country (the Severn and Avon), and Tewkesbury is essentially built on the wide meadows of the Severn plain, making it a prime spot for a bit of flood water. It’s a shame, because it’s a lovely town, but like Worcester and other towns on major rivers, there’s a risk to living here (and no doubt a significant chunk of insurance premium).

But beyond the obvious, Tewkesbury is home to a whole pile of Englishness. Tewkesbury Mustard combines the heat of mustard with the heat of horseradish. Genius! Tewkesbury Abbey is the third largest church that’s not a cathedral in the country; the Battle of Tewkesbury was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses (York won, much to my dad’s chagrin), and  Edward IV became the boss. (not The Boss, just the boss). Not just a market town, it’s a historic (sadly now historic only, and no longer operative) flour milling town, and the relics of this industry are clearly seen along the banks of the Avon, just off the High Street. It’s a delight too for historians of vernacular architecture – we met my folks there for the day and were regailed with all sorts of information about jettying and timber-framing, which hopefully didn’t push any other, more useful, information out of my brain. It’s also a pretty good charity shop destination.

Parking is available in several spots around town – next to the Saturday market is handy; so is St Mary’s Lane, overlooking the Avon. Be careful when you choose to go: hit Tewkesbury on Medieval Festival day and you’ll be hard-pressed to get a spot. Tewkesbury’s array of charity shops is strung along the High Street, between the Cross and the shopping arcade at the upper end. Don’t just stick to this stretch if you want to fulfil the Tourism part of our brief: some of the most scenic parts of Tewkesbury are on Church Street, including the Old Baptist Chapel, the Abbey itself, and ancient pubs like the Berkeley Arms and Royal Hop Pole (now a Wetherspoons hotel, but mentioned in the Pickwick Papers). At the bottom of the High Street you’ll find the slightly random Roses Charity Shop in aid of the town’s theatre and opened by Gervase Phinn, don’tyouknow; and close by, the Bookworm shop (I have to be very selective about going into charity bookshops like this as I’m quite prone to temptation).

Further along we have British Hearth Foundation, Cancer Research, AgeUKTenovus and Blue Cross (always proud of its medieval-themed displays), then a string of Guideposts Trust, St Richard’s Hospice and the Salvation Army. I wouldn’t say that any of these were remarkable shops, as such; but again none are poor or weird (always a possibility), and as a rule are fairly large. Happy hunting grounds, really, and a distraction from the biggest attraction Tewkesbury has (for me at least): Cornell Books, with its ramshackle side entrance and its boxes, and boxes, and boxes of old maps: Bartholomew, vintage OS and many more besides, many of them for a solitary pound. I could genuinely spend a day in there, but I am very careful.

I love Tewkesbury, actually. It warrants a whole day of exploring the alleys and ginnels, the antique markets and tea shoppes, the river walks and – of course – the charity shops.

Find: Tewkesbury @ Google Maps
Get there: the station is Ashchurch For Tewkesbury, on the mainline from Brum to the South West, but it’s a bus-ride for anyone who doesn’t want a hike.
Consume with: plenty of choice in terms of hearty pub food or cafe culture; my experience can recommend cheap-and-cheerful pub grub at the Berkeley, or coffee and cake at Caffe Ricci.
Visit: plenty to look at too, the obvious choice being the magnificent abbey.
Overall rating: four slotted spoons

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Filed under 4/5, Gloucestershire

Pershore

Pershore Abbey, under Creative Commons. Photo by Timothy Rose, click pic for link.

Pershore Abbey, under Creative Commons. Photo by Timothy Rose, click pic for link.

Surprising (to me) as it may seem, I’ve yet to sit down and plan trips out on the basis of one road. At some point, however, I’d like to be able to write down my experiences of the A44 – an otherwise undistinguished route between Oxford and Aberystwyth, this ploughs through a great deal of what I love about the English countryside and its accompanying towns, then takes a nice hike through the mountains of mid-Wales to its final destination in the Irish Sea. For future reference, expect detailed accounts of the A449 from Stafford to Newport, the A458 stretching from home turf into deepest Snowdonia, and when I feel really brave, the A38.

Oxford is a destination that we’ve achieved once, and have been thwarted by breakdowns, newborns and all sorts in our attempts to revisit. It remains a future write-up, as do the Cotswold towns of Chipping Norton and Moreton-in-Marsh, which are to come much more quickly. After Evesham, Pershore is the next decent-sized (read, CST-relevant) town along the road. After that would come Worcester, Bromyard, Leominster (recently scoped out), Llanrindod Wells, Rhayader, and finally Aberystwyth – our hopefully-soon-to-be-purchased caravan might help add some of these names to our visited list.

Situated on the river Avon on its way to meet the Severn at Tewkesbury (also coming soon), Pershore is at the heart of one of the most fertile fruit-growing regions of the country (as evidenced by the annual Plum Festival, which will undoubtedly *cough* be on our list of to-do’s in 2012). Entering via a bridge over said Avon, the most notable sight is the restored Benedictine Pershore Abbey on the Western side of the town centre. You could park along the road here, or as we did around the corner at Asda, from whence a profitable and pleasant charity shopping trip. If you park in Asda, you’ll have the added convenience of being dead close to two large St Richard’s Hospice shops – one for clothes, another for small furniture and a vast array of crockery, kitchenalia and assorted bric a brac. Be warned – there’s some nice things here, but they may not be high up the bargain scale.

On the main drag, there’s a significant-sized Oxfam and an equally well-sized Blue Cross shop. Just off the high street on Broad Street is a poky but well-filled Cats Protection League – I found a pair of Levis here for £4 (a miracle because of my odd proportions), which was excellent until we got home and saw just how green they were. They’ll need consideration; possibly dying.

The pick of the bunch is Acorn Hospice. This is a huge shop with a couple of side rooms for various things. It’s not so much that they stock anything unusual, just a large quantity of it. This is particularly evident right at the back, where books are piled wall-to-ceiling and weigh down a large table as well. Six is not a bad haul for a town as little as Pershore, so it punches above its weight. It has a great location for us, as it could easily be combined into a big old day out by hitting up Worcester, Upton and Malvern as well, even Tewkesbury for the adventurous (I wouldn’t bother with Evesham). And it’s nice! A polite, charming little town with some things to see and do. Good work.

Find: Pershore Google Maps
Get there: Pershore station is on the Worcester to London line, so stops in all sorts of helpful spots.
Consume with: the standard cheese baked potato, in Sugar and Spice, was fairly basic but went down well. Don’t ask for something off menu though, you’ll enter a world of pain.
Visit: the abbey or Bredon Hill would make good trips.
Overall rating: four Peter Gabriel LPs

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Filed under 4/5, Worcestershire