Backpacking across England - Finding hostels as I go - Will this work?
Replies: 28 - Last Post: Jun 24, 2012 4:51 AM Last Post By: barney_uk2
Jun 17, 2012 10:24 AM
Jun 17, 2012 12:11 PM
Interesting information about the historical color scheme. Where did the "black and white" color scheme originate then? If I were to use my imagination, I'd guess that 19th century Victorians who saw well-preserved timber architecture in Germany felt that it evoked an archaic "Saxon" style and ended up copying that color scheme back home. That's just my imagination, though..
Either way, it seems like that timber-frame road in Germany is hard to do without a car.. so I'm thinking I'll leave that for a future non-solo trip and still focus on England for the present trip.. I'd guess that Germany has some local trains to those places as well, but perhaps the British rail system is easier to figure out for an English-speaker? (it still seems hopelessly complicated when compared to Japan, however, though i guess that can be attributed to the density of older, non-linear rail routes in Britain and to the relative shapes and geographies of the two island nations..)
Jun 17, 2012 12:49 PM
17German trains are generally excellent in my experience. Be aware, though, that in quite a lot of places in Germany historic buildings ruined during WWII were rebuilt in their original form, so you're not always seeing originals! Much the same pitfall as with our Victorian copies, though actually the 19th century fakes in Britain are pretty easy to distinguish after a while; they don't really look like medieval buildings though they have many medieval-like features. (And they were not seriously intended to actually be mistaken for old buildings.) They use the same language to say different things, as it were.
On the black-and-white colour scheme - from memory I think you're right, it was a C19 fancy, though I wouldn't swear no medieval half-timbered building was ever painted white. On the whole, though, they liked their colours - the interiors of medieval churches, for example, were often vividly painted with murals (to inform the illiterate congregation of Bible stories, much as stained glass windows do). These have almost all disappeared now (partly thanks to our Victorian friends imposing, again, their idea of what medieval architecture ought to be like) though fragments, at least, have been recovered in some churches by skilled restoration work.
BTW before you mistake me for an anti-Victorian...I love Victorian architecture and indeed a church of 1875 was the topic of my main university research. But they were not always perfectly aligned with today's ideas, let's put it that way. :)
Jun 17, 2012 1:31 PM
18Sounds like Stratford on Avon probably isn't for you. There are 3 or 4 lovely buildings of the type you describe, but it is always heaving with tour parties doing the Shakespeare thing.
Chester is a good bet for half-timbered, definitely.
Also Suffolk, as people above have said: Lavenham, Saffron Walden, Bury St Edmunds et al.
Cambridge has some wonderful architecture but full of foreign language students in thr summed and can feel a bit over-touristed.
In your original post you seemed worried about being in rural or provincial areas: to reassure you, any town or village with more than a few historic buildings will be well used to visitors, and all the places we're mentioning are pretty sophisticated, with cafes and shops and goodish transport links. However, you might need to pre book if you're looking for YHA or other cheap accommodation.
In summary, you could do something around the Welsh borders taking in Chester, Shrewsbury, Ludlow etc and/or something in the east of England, perhaps including Cambridge & some of the pretty towns I've mentioned above. Either would give you a nice taste of historic England, while the former would also offer great scenery and castles (Ludlow's castle is magnificent).
Jun 17, 2012 1:37 PM
Jun 17, 2012 1:50 PM
20I knew I was probably wrong about Suffolk - anyway, Saffron Walden is close to Cambridge.
Jun 17, 2012 2:17 PM
Jun 17, 2012 3:29 PM
22It sounds like I should consider three main regions and then either pick one or combine the three, relying on a combination of rail and bus to more thoroughly see a limited area.
1. York and its surroundings - this hasn't been covered well here.. could anyone recommend some sights in the vicinity of York?
2. Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds, Lavenham, Saffron Walden. - Also, Frommer's recommended Ely near Cambridge.. is Ely worth visiting? How does it differ from the other 3 places listed?
3. Shrewsbury, Chester, and Ludlow. - Someone also recommended Hereford, but I couldn't get a sense of whether there's much to see there relative to the other three.. could someone tell me a bit more about Hereford?
Norwich was mentioned. It seems that it's closest to Cambridge but a bit far. Is this a major destination for medieval history? How does it compare with York?
One thing that was not discussed: Which region has the nicest/most interesting countryside? I hope that some countryside will be visible from the train? In addition, do any of these cities/towns provide good views of the surrounding countryside (the natural landscape, specifically, not of the town itself)?
Jun 17, 2012 10:13 PM
23The Shrewsbury area - Welsh borders - is top for countryside (I did mention this above). Ludlow has great views of countryside from the castle - the town is on a river and is altogether one of the most beautiful (and beautifully located) small towns in Britain.
York is a wonderful city with plenty to interest you. Like Chester it has some interesting mediaeval shopping streets and surviving city walls. Bigger and more touristed than some of the other places mentioned. Several popular museums. The countryside of North Yorkshire (the Yorkshire Dales & the Moors) is some of the most stunning in Britain. Not terribly accessible by rail, unless you were to take the Settle train.
Ely is worth a visit - amazing cathedral.
Jun 18, 2012 2:51 AM
24Hereford is a compact city with the feel of a traditional English market town. There is a mediaeval "black and white" half timbered house in the square which is open as a museum - The Old House. The cathedral is lovely and has (or used to) the Mappa Mundi, one of the earliest maps ever made, showing Jerusalem as the centre of the world. The Chained Library is fascinating. Herefordshire also has a well-signposted "black & white village trail", and, yes, the vast majority ARE black and white, which would lead you through Pembridge, Eardisland, Weobley and others, and there are many good pubs along the way. Leominster is pretty but there's not a great deal of tourist stuff to see, it's mainly the local centre for shopping, banks etc. A slightly off the wall suggestion; there is a great auction house selling horses and cars (not at the same time) which is always fascinating for people-watching: have a look at www.brightwells.com. Ludlow is also very pretty; the castle is interesting and there are some truly great restaurants and food shops. The Feathers is an amazing half-timbered pub but I've not eaten there for years so don't know what it's like these days. Large parts of the fim "Hot Fuzz" was filmed in Ludlow, and the mostly forgotten "Unconditional Love" (Kathy Bates, Rupert Everett) was filmed in Weobley.
I've never been to Chester; I've heard it's great.
Jun 18, 2012 3:11 AM
Jun 18, 2012 4:16 AM
26OP - Norwich - if you are interested in medieval history and medieval building generally (i.e. not just black-and-white half-timbered houses) I would say Norwich is every bit as good as York, and much less touristy.
Ely - primarily worth visiting for the magnificent cathedral - other than that it's a pretty, pleasant, but not very remarkable town.
Jun 23, 2012 10:41 AM
Jun 24, 2012 4:51 AM
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