Saturday saw us travelling to Essex with Barbara and David. They organised the day for us in return for me showing them around Melbourne when they visited a year or so ago.
We caught the train from Liverpool Street Station to Chelmsford where they live and after meeting us at the station, we headed first to the National Trust property at Flatford Mill. This beautiful location is the location where John Constable painted a number of his famous paintings in the early 1800’s. I’m sorry that I don’t have the artistic skill of the drawing group who had set up by the stream so I had to resort to photography to capture some of the local scenery. It was extremely picturesque with dozens of superb landscape views from every angle. We could see the lock in Constable’s painting of the mill (atjhough it has recently been renovated and now looks brand new) as well as the old dry dock featured in his painting of boat building at the mill.
I did try to recreate his painting of the Hay Wain. The little house to the left his painting still exists although some of the environment is now very different now after 200 years. My photo below was taken petty close to the exact spot from where the ‘Hay Wain’ was painted. I couldn’t find anyone to lend me a horse and wagon, so you will have to imagine them in the stream.
From there, we drove through some very scenic countryside to the little town of Lavenham. I am not sure whether anyone ever painted there, but the town is full of old Tudor buildings. There is not a straight line in any of them. Clearly, the builders of the day had never herd of a spirit level. It’s surprising that some of them are still standing!
In the centre of the town is the old Guild Hall. By the late 15th century, Lavenham was at the centre of the local wool trade and had become one of the richest towns in England. To reflect this prosperity, four guilds were established in the town by the local merchant families. The most important of these was the wool guild, which founded the Guildhall of Corpus Christi in 1529. Given the dominance of the cloth and wool trade, the guildhall soon came to function as Lavenham’s principal meeting place and centre of business. With the eventual decline of the wool trade and, as a result, Lavenham’s prosperity, the guildhall’s role changed. By 1689, and until 1787, the guildhall was in use as the Bridewell Hotel, and was then used as the workhouse.
Our final destination for the day was the little town of Finchingfield in the area of Braintree. Apparently, there has been a settlement there since historical records of the area began. There also is archaeological evidence for a Roman villa 400 metres from the village church, and during the time of William the Conqueror it was called Phincingfelda. It is delightful village centred around a stream and duck pond with the village green on either side. Of course, the pub is on the green, as is the undertaker. I thought it fitting that on the other side of the duck pond is an antique centre. You can get old on one side of the town and get buried on the other!
I understand that Finchingfield is often called the most beautiful village in England. It is truly a ‘picture-postcard’ village and one of the most photographed. (I certainly did my share). Just down the road is an eighteenth-century windmill. The town has often appeared in television programmes, films, and commercials, as well as on chocolate boxes, biscuit tins, and other quality products. It is the quintessential picture postcard town!
Before we returned to London, Barbara and David took us home for a delightful tea with beautiful scones and cakes. We had a superb day and wouldn’t have ever come across these locations without their help.
Sunday is our last day in London and we had arranged to meet Paul and June (who we had met on our tour of New England in the Fall). We planned to visit the Tower of London and then have lunch nearby. The British Governement have created a spectacular commemoration of WW1 at the Tower by placing over 888,000 ceramic poppies in the moat. These seem to flow out of a window and represent the blood of every British and Commonwealth soldier lost in WW1. It is a very moving attraction. The poppies were sold to individuals who received details of the solder that it commemorated. Over all they have raised over 11 million Pounds for charity. This was planned well and finished well in time for Remembrance Day which will be commemorated next weekend on November 11
It’s a pity that the management of the London Underground didn’t plan as effectively. The Tube lines that service the Tower are closed for the weekend due to Engineering works and at the station nearer hotel there was complete chaos. That, however, didn’t seem to deter the thousands of people who were out to see this spectacle today. It was raining constantly this morning but that didn’t deter people from lining up in their thousands to see the poppies. We were a bit concerned asa to whether we would be able to see much but we were a little surprised to have a wonderful view from the top of the moat. After a few minutes of looking and contemplating, we then walked around it the Docklands area for lunch at a nearby restaurant.