Yes I guess we’re being treated to the edge of the very blustery front which is currently snuggling up to North West England and Scotland. It started off with a very light drizzle just before lunch and worked its way up to an incredibly black sky (cue lights on in house) and lashing rain against the windows. Now it’s down to a few blustery showers but I guess it will soon decide it wants to be off elsewhere!
I’ve had a busy week. Earlier on I posted about my Tuesday blood test (heavens did I really write about something so mundane?). Wednesday saw me at lunch with my editor going over one or two things on my current to be published novel and discussing my new project – I’m actually on chapter six already and motoring – it’s going very well. Then yesterday there was Winchester.
Now I absolutely love this place. For me it’s on a parallel with Glastonbury. Not that the two are anything alike. Glastonbury is mystic, there is definitely something in the air there, besides the odd waft of wacky baccy. It’s amazing to think that at one time Winchester was the capital city of England. King Alfred still proudly stands on his plinth with sword aloft where the High Street and Eastgate Street meet although today he presides over traffic rather than troops.
We came for the Christmas Market and were not disappointed. After a two hour journey (with a short comfort stop in Salisbury) taking in open countryside (the scenic route) we arrived just after eleven thirty and after a short wander returned to one of the local pubs for lunch (including that all important large glass of wine). My Christmas shopping had already been done, this trip was essentially an opportunity to browse and maybe buy without the pressure or hassle of Christmas gift purchases.
After lunch I set off for the Great Hall where the Winchester King Arthur’s Round Table hangs. I’d been here back in the summer but our stay had been short and I wasn’t able to visit. This time, however, I wanted to get in a shot of THAT Round Table. We arrived just after two only to find they were closing to set up for a carol service. However the guide let me in and I took my pictures quickly and left. Unfortunately I didn’t get close enough to achieve the shot I really wanted – either that or I’m a little ambitious regarding what my camera can or cannot do – but never mind, we will be back and maybe it will be third time lucky!
Winchester is well laid out for shopping with everything fairly close, including the Cathedral where the Christmas Market was being held. The venue was ideal, scoot down a small side road from the main drag and you are in the Cathedral precincts. My home city of Bath has an excellent Christmas Market which is situated around the Abbey. However, the geography of the city means browsers are also mingling with those who are merely walking on their way to somewhere else with no intention of looking at the market. Now in one sense this is good as you trap all potential custom and maybe pull in people who would not otherwise have stopped. However, from my past experiences, Bath Christmas market can be a real rugby scrum. Winchester I have to say was a good deal quieter, although I read on line that the local paper had previously reported the city inundated with traffic and coaches and querying how it would cope with the huge influx of people . However on Thursday afternoon when we wandered there most of the crowds seemed to have moved on to the adjacent open air ice skating rink. This was absolutely packed with all the hourly booking slots full right into the evening.
Winchester Christmas Market had the same format as Bath (I guess they all do) – chalet type wooden cabins and I would guess similar items on sale. It had a designated food area with everything from assorted sausages (aren’t they always a favourite), burgers, mulled wine, cheese, roasted chestnuts, fudge and even candy floss (which is something I was never allowed as a child – what spoilsports parents can be!). There was a trio of young women singing swing numbers which was very good and drew an interested crowd and then to one side accessed by a small flight of metal steps, a whole section given over to local artists. Such a wonderful selection of glass, metal and wood items, knits, jewellery and ceramics. I doubt if you were shopping for Christmas gifts you would have come away empty handed, there was something for everyone.
The pick up for the return journey home was at 4.30 just as the daylight was fading. It’s a strange thing coach travel in the dark. If you’re in a car at least you can see the road ahead and get some indication of location and direction. On a coach six seats from the rear, however, everything goes by in a dark blur. It also has the habit of making you feel sleepy although maybe the fact we’d waited for an hour in the pub drinking more white wine may have had something to do with it!
So to anyone within striking distance of Winchester before 22nd December, please do make that trip and take a look. You won’t be disappointed.
Oh and that rain? Well it’s gone and left us with this: