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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Winchester pleasures: cathedral, pubs and easy to use guided maps

Ways to enjoy Winchester - one time capital of Britain - by foot or bike. Words by Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Sun, sunglasses and the great Winchester Cathedral
to explore. (c) aroundbritainnoplane
BASICS: Winchester
One hour from London, heaps of museums and green space. It's already popular with tourists, the University of Southampton has a campus here and it's a good place to wander.
Easy journey? Yes. Winchester - 60 mins from London Waterloo (train has trolley service)
Ticket - weekday off peak £36.40 return
History? Knock out from the train station
Highlight? Head to the High Street (pedestrianised) then right towards Cathedral close. Or down to King Alfred's statue and the ruins of Wolvesey Castle.
Wish list? Rent a bike and explore the Viaduct Way.

It’s Monday and I’m in Winchester on business. It doesn’t feel right: the sun is beating down and every other shop seems to be a café or pub with tempting outdoor sitting. Soon we are drawn into Greens Bar, 4 Jewry Street, with the pretty floor tiles reminding us that this used to be the Matisse Café, where the staff are fabulously friendly. Then during the search for cheap sunglasses I meet a man cheerfully selling Royal Wedding editions of the Big Issue, near the Buttercross who promises that he’ll be over to Windsor for the big day. It's a friendly city.

I’ve only been to Winchester once before – crazy, as it is just one hour by train from London – and that was a December mini-break when the Winchester shoppers were again distracted by eateries, but these were pop ups around an ice rink in the gardens by the cathedral.

But now that Winchester Tourism Information Centre has sent me a new link to all the things you can do here, I’ll be exploring it again. One lovely idea is to take a self-guided walk around various Winchester locations. The sunset tour, approx one and a quarter miles, looks a lovely route passing St Giles Hill, The Weirs and the Abbey Gardens. 

Memorial to Jane Austen in Winchester
Cathedral. (c) aroundbritainnoplane
There are also routes for church lovers, history watchers and the literati with Winchester links. I like the look of the tour for Jane Austen fans which takes you to her old home, now a museum, in Chawton, Hampshire. 

You can also find Jane Austen's grave stone and a memorial brass in the cathedral without leaving Winchester. Forgotten what she looks like? Then scrutinise a tenner.

Winchester is famous for being one of England’s former capitals and home of King Alfred the Great (who burnt the cakes). It’s a medieval city which has plenty of green space and is dominated by the amazing cathedral built around the time of Henry VII. Inside, as well as Jane Austen’s grave, you can find a tomb to a fly fisherman - little known fact fly fishing was developed on the River Itchen which flows through the city. 

My favourite spot was the hole in the wall where pilgrims queued up, then crawled into so they could see St Swithin, the former Bishop renowned for curing boils, various nasties and even making dropped eggs whole again. And that was before his posthumous miracle working reputation.

Entry to the cathedral is £8.50 (adult no discount). It’s a breathtaking building inside (and you can always go in for free if you join one of the many daily services). Once you've paid for your ticket, you can get value for money simply by joining an hour-long guided tour, possibly climb the tower stairs for a huge view of Winchester, or just wander with a floorplan until one of the many cathedral guides take pity on you and give you a guided insight to their little patch. We struck lucky and saw the alter screen in a way that turned exquisite carvings into the stories of the saints - all pointed out with a torch beam of green intensity. 

I really should have known by now that St Peter carries the keys of heaven and St Paul carries a sword. But I got the chance to learn that St Swithin’s special object is a bridge.  It gets you thinking about what object symbolises your lifestyle – reusable bag? Coffee mug? Pen? Or more likely mobile phone which certainly achieves miracles. For example, you can ping on to this link and explore more of Winchester’s great outdoors at bit.ly/2jKkRYy 
(supplied by the Tourist Info Centre).

WHAT’S ON10 June: Cycle at Winchester Criterium & CycleFest
Winchester’s city centre streets will close for cycling, racing, and family activities. The 1 km circuit race weaves through Winchester's city centre. First event is the Family Cycle Ride at 9.45am (Registration).  Cyclists start at the top of the High Street, wind their way past the cathedral, then climb the long uphill to the finishing line.

Anytime tour Viaduct Way
Once a freight and passenger railway, Viaduct Way is now part of the National Cycle Route Network Route 23. It passes the Victorian Guildhall, City Mill, Bishop's Palace, and old railway embankment then continues along the River Itchen, famous for its trout, moorhens, and wild flowers.  You can rent bikes from Bespoke Biking, a social enterprise set up to get more people cycling in Winchester, see https://bespokebiking.com or call 01962 441962 which is on the lower floor of the Brook’s Shopping Centre. All sorts available including tagalongs (good for kids) and tandems (good for stories).

Let me know your tips for Winchester visits.

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