Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The City of Bells

The title of this post comes from a book written by Elizabeth Goudge. I read it as a teenager and loved it, partly because the setting was (I believe) based on Wells, that beautiful gem of a city on the edge of the Mendip hills in Somerset and where the author was born. I'd been there a few times with my parents and had fallen in love with it.

This last weekend, I went there again for the first time in about thirty five years (yes, really!) and was charmed to see it has changed very little, except of course for the huge shopping malls, which are thankfully on the edge of town, and for once have done little to diminish the heart of this lovely place.

I was there to visit my very dear friend from South Africa, Moira. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will remember I spent time with her over there last year. But this year, she is in the UK, working as an old people's nurse and at the moment, she is living in with a delightful elderly lady in Wells. As an aside, I cannot think of a place where Moi would be better suited. Wells fits her like a handmade glove.

Anyhow, we had a lovely time catching up. Because the nature of her work means that she cannot leave the house, much of this was spent at the kitchen table and often included the old lady too as she had many interesting stories to tell about her own life. But on Saturday, my sister and her daughters also popped down from Bristol. I had lunch with them and a walk round the cathedral. It is breathtaking, so very beautiful with its cruciform arches in the central nave (I think that's what they're called anyway). We were also treated to an informal carol concert by the choir who were practicing for a real concert that evening. I don't know about anyone else, but a good choir singing carols in a setting like that, well, it had me quite choked up. It was just gorgeous and so uplifting.

Cathedral in the mist
The weather was typical of the west country for the time of year: foggy, mild and wet, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. There was a very brief burst of sunshine on Sunday morning and I was lucky enough to catch it while wandering round the Bishop's Palace. Here are a few of the photos I took.

Bishop's Palace walls and moat

The sun bursts through for a minute

The ray that bathed the palace in gold
I had lots of other fun too: rediscovering public transport, learning to drive on the left again and finding random people to chat to, but I'll put all that in another post. I'll also say more about the history of this lovely place. For now, I just want to give a shout out to the lovely Bed and Breakfast I stayed in. It was Middleton House in Shepton Mallet and it was really fantastic. I have rarely been given such a warm and friendly welcome. Gill and Kevin are wonderful hosts; my room was not only beautiful but spotlessly clean as well; the shower was heavenly; the tea, coffee and biccies provided in the room were plentiful and very welcome. I think the views from the house must also be lovely, but the mist fogged my vision, so to speak. So to finish this post, here is a link to their website. If anyone is going that way and needs a (very reasonably priced) place to stay, this is it.

Have any of you been to Wells? If so, I'd love to hear your impressions of it.

16 comments:

  1. I haven't been to Wells for many many years, but from your post it looks as if I should return. Glad that the malls haven't wrecked it. I still remember how upset I was returning to the once lovely town of Hereford to find it ruined by road "improvements" and a bug ugly supermarket development which saw most of the fascinating old shops gone in just a few years, and all of the atmosphere.

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    1. Oh how awful, Jenny! I felt the same when I went to Rugby a year or so ago. It was run down and shabby and full of pound shops, betting shops and Weatherspoons pubs. Again, a huge shopping mall had killed the heart of the town. I'm just so glad that hasn't happened to Wells...yet!

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  2. I am unfamiliar with Wells, but it looks like a place I would love. We avoid Malls at all costs when travelling; we get enough of them all year at home. Your last photo is brilliant, I clicked on it to enlarge and it is just perfectly beautiful. Well captured Val. The Bishop's palace and moat look very old, romantic and appealing too. Glad you enjoyed catching up with your friend; it is like a Christmas gift.

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    1. Thank you, Patricia! Yes, I'm sure you would love it too. My time with my friend and my family was indeed a gift!

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  3. I love Wells. I don't get there that often, but it's a gentle little town, and the cathedral is magnificent.

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    1. It is, isn't it, Jo. I love the cathedral!

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  4. I was a frequent visitor to Wells when I lived in Glastonbury and on more than one occasion was given the opportunity to take tea with the then Bishop (can't recall his name now) except he raised a bit of a furore when he shot some wild ducks from the battlements, amazing how sensitive some people become at the activities of others.

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    1. How very lively of the Bishop! He must have been quite a character :) I didn't know you'd lived in Glastonbury, Mel. That's a lovely place too, but I didn't make it there on this trip.

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  5. Hah' there is lots not known about me :-)
    Re the gun toting Bishop you might like to read for your self
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/05/this-charming-man/

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    1. Great article! Thanks, Mel. I'm slightly baffled as to why someone's ability to shoot geese should qualify him for such a post, but I suppose in the clergy it's like everything else:not what you know but who you know that counts :) He sounds very down to earth and fun.

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  6. Lovely blog, Val, and such fantastic photos! This is the perfect time of year for catching up with family and friends again. I'm so glad you had the opportunity.

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    1. Thank you, Steph! I treasure such moments.

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  7. Val, your post made feel as if I was there in Wells.Glad you had those special reunions with friend Moi and your sister and nieces. Sounds like a great getaway trip. Lynn

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    1. It was lovely, Lynn. Very refreshing for me!

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  8. Well Val, you talk about me travelling all over the place! I love Wells Cathedral, one of my favourites. Do the swans still ring the bell for food?

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    1. Gosh, I don't know! I hadn't heard about that! I wish I'd known...

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