Imposing and peaceful Tintern Abbey, Wales

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC travelled from Bristol to the Wye Valley in Wales to see Tintern Abbey, on the recommendation of a coffee vendor we met at the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

My impressions? The mix of fallen and still-standing walls is strangely effective in conveying the grandeur and peace of the place.

Word of the day

Abbey is the word of the day. The word stems from the same root as the Aramaic אבא (‘abbā), the Hindi abbā, and the Arabic ab, all of which mean “father”. An abbey is where the abbot lives, the abbot being the head of a group of monks. ABBA is also the name of a rather well known Swedish pop group. The group’s name is formed from the first letters of the singers’ names.

Travel tip

Pay heed to coffee vendors and other wise folks.

The book I’m in

Alaskan Fire, by Sara King. A good read, although slightly less sophisticated than this author’s other works.

The photos

Me taking in the sights from a window at Tintern Abbey:

The Welsh name for the abbey is Abaty Tyndyrn. The tourist brochure says Tintern Abbey is Wales’s best-preserved abbey. In Welsh, that’s “Yr Abaty sydd yn y cyflwr gorau yng Nghymru”:

Play this video to hear the sounds of Tintern Abbey:

The first buildings that formed the abbey were built in 1130s. Most of the original structure has disappeared, and what we see now was built in the 400-year period leading up to 1536. Then King Henry VIII passed a number of laws that put a stop to monasteries and the monastic life in England, Ireland, and Wales. The abbey fell to ruin:

Flowers and poetry grow from its walls:

Symmetry and sky greet you as you enter:

The pantry has an imposing ceiling:

Do not climb on the walls, written in English and Welsh:

This worm has noticed that the plumbing is often a high point in ruins. The abbey is no exception – the drainage system is lauded in the tourist information:

Me and Peg checked out the bathing facilities:

The view of the hills probably hasn’t changed much in the 850+ years since the abbey was built:

Farewell gracious abbey:

That’s all for today, folks.

In search of the Grim Reaper

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark (I haven’t aged at all since I first wrote this introduction) and I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC found ourselves in Bristol and went in search of the Grim Reaper by Banksy. This is the tale of our quest from the Thekla to Spike Island in search of the artwork.

My impressions? A vibrant, thoughtful area of Bristol.

Word of the day

Graffito is the word of the day. It’s the little-known singular form of graffiti, and comes from the Italian word graffiato, meaning scratched. In the most common usage, graffiti are words, signs, drawings, or paintings that someone has put on a wall without permission. In art history, graffiti are works of art produced by scratching the surface. Another meaning of graffito is a deliberate mark or sign, such as a mason’s mark.

Travel tip

A good quest is a fine excuse to explore your surrounds.

The book I’m in

The Visitor, by Lee Child. I’m still munching my way through the same book as in my previous two posts. A good Lee Child is a good place to be.

The photos

Me at the Thekla. I’d heard Banksy’s Grim Reaper was on the Thekla, so that’s where I started my quest:

At the start of the quest I didn’t know what a “Thekla” was. Then I found the boat. Next, look for the painting. I examined the river walls, the sides of the boat, the nearby buildings. No Grim Reaper.

However, I did come across this striking picture on a window near Welsh Back:

Here’s a closer look. This worm thinks it’s an impressive work of art:

Still, not a Banksy. A quick internet search yielded the vital clue. Banksy’s Grim Reaper had indeed originally been painted on the Thekla in 2003, but it was moved to the M Shed, a nearby museum, in 2015. The water and weather had damaged the work of art, and the owners were afraid it would disappear entirely. They cut out the piece of the boat that contained the Grim Reaper, and presented it to the M Shed as a long-term loan.

So, off to the M Shed we go. First, a pretty view across the River Avon:

The TC found this no-nonsense sign post amusing, particularly as the bridge does indeed present itself as a “weak bridge”:

Wend your way past the evidence of a good night out:

And there’s the M Shed:

Inside, the Grim Reaper at last:

This worm does find it a little ironic that a stencilled graffito, surely expected to be temporary, should be behind glass and locked doors. On the other hand, I’m very glad that I managed to see this work, and that other people will be able to find it too.

That’s all for today, folks.

Colleges, punts, bowler hats and gargoyles in Oxford

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC stayed in Abingdon for a week this month, using it as a central point from which to visit friends and family in England. One morning we found ourselves in the nearby big smoke: Oxford.

My impressions? Mellow stone. Autumn melancholy.

The book I’m in

Harvesting the Heart, by Jodi Picoult. This worm is an admirer of Jodi Picoult, and has spent time in a couple of her books. But Harvesting the Heart is not her best, I feel. Ms Picoult’s books are by their nature intense. Usually they have a flair and an interesting theme that lifts you out of the depression. This time, although I’m well into the book already, that flair has not yet appeared. I feel the urge to tell the characters to snap out of it and get on with life. Perhaps this worm is not in the mood for this book at the moment.

Travel tip

Go inside any of the buildings that grant you entry. The inside is as good as the out.

Recommended restaurant

Quod Brasserie, on the High Street in Oxford. Good service and reasonably good food, in the old banking hall of the Old Bank Hotel.

The photos

Me inside the Oxford Town Hall. Note the ominous creature looming over me. The TC does put me in the most awkward situations, for the sake of a holiday snap:

The Oxford government website describes the Town Hall as a “magnificent grade 2* Victorian building”. This worm wondered briefly about the meaning of “2*” and decided he gives it a grade 1^:

Another view of the inside of the town hall:

The modest entrance to Christ Church College:

Peering in to the quad, we encountered this dude, who was studiously not guarding the entrance. This worm admires the bowler hat and noncommittal slouch:

Moving on, we came across Magdalen College:

The college walls are encrusted with sculptures. Two people embrace:

Nearby a gargoyle grimaces:

Punts tethered on the River Cherwell, next to Magdalen College:

A poignant moment, courtesy of this worm – the punts are filled with water and autumn leaves, and shadowy reflections of the bare trees above:

The TC, bless her cotton socks, has visited Oxford a few times. She delights in telling us that, for her, the city is characterised by the mellow colour of the stone. Here is the museum:

Chequers Courtyard and The Chequers pub, which dates back to the 1500s:

The Chequers boasts a giant in its history, and is still haunted by the screams of dying monks from one of its less salubrious periods. The badge on the wall tells all:

The High Street, with a rare patch of colour complementing the usual stony grandeur:

Let’s leave the big smoke and take a look at the ducks in Abingdon, at the join of the rivers Thames and Ock:

That’s all for today, dudes.

A cathedral, a cinema and a ghost in Salisbury

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC wandered the streets of Salisbury in England for a few hours, ooh-ing and aah-ing over its architectural cuteness. We strolled into the cathedral close at eventide, became enthralled in its grandeur, and came back the next morning for more.

My impressions? So much history and beauty – worth a longer visit than we had time for.

The book I’m in

The Dark Tide, by Andrew Gross. A good thriller with engaging characters.

Travel tip

You don’t need any travel tips from me when in Britain. Everyone you meet will delight in telling you how to get from A to B. Britons will also exhibit a healthy distrust of GPS devices (sat navs).

Recommended accommodation

Cathedral View, 83 Exeter Street, Salisbury. Wenda and Steve put a great deal of love and care into making their guest house a welcoming, comfortable home from home.

The photos

Me inside the walls of Salisbury cathedral:

Salisbury cathedral, officially named the Cathedral of Saint Mary, was built between 1220 and 1258. This makes it a medieval building, and 750 years old. Here is the main entrance to the cathedral, known as the west front, with the spire behind:

The architectural style of the cathedral is early English gothic. This worm admires the clean, sweeping lines of the building and the eye candy added by the sculptures and other decorations. Here is a view looking down the nave (the main hall) towards the altar:

Zooming in on part of a stained glass window:

Another hall in the cathedral:

Outside the cathedral, the streets of Salisbury beckon. This is the Lazy Cow, opposite the entrance to the cathedral close in St John’s Street:

Me, the TC, and the “TC once removed” went to the Odeon cinema in Salisbury. (We watched the latest James Bond film, Sky Fall. This worm gives credit to Daniel Craig, Judy Dench and the team for a good job well done.) The cinema is said to be haunted:

The entrance to the Odeon cinema is the Hall of John Halle, a fifteenth-century Tudor banqueting hall. Here is a closer view:

We did not meet any ghosts in the cinema. In the cathedral, we did find a tomb or two. This one belongs to Thomas Bennett, who lived in the sixteenth century and was secretary to Cardinal Wolsey:

Shadows and shivers. This is one of the many sculptures on the outside walls of the cathedral:

We encountered a weird cloaked figure with glowing blue eyes roaming around the cathedral close. This worm is sure it was real flesh and blood, not a ghost, but close enough to give the TC a delightfully shivery feeling:

Seen from the outside at night, the inside of the cathedral offers a safe haven:

Farewell beauteous building:

That’s all for today, dudes.

Shivering at Stonehenge

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC were bowling merrily down the A344 and there it was, right there: Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is an archaeological site and monument in Wiltshire, England, not far from Salisbury. Its most striking feature is a ring of large standing stones, some connected by lintels to form huge doorways.

My impressions? Majesty and mystery.

The book I’m in

The Dark Tide, by Andrew Gross. A good thriller with engaging characters.

Travel tip

It’s cold and windy on the downs. Wrap up well. The TC had red ears and a red nose by the time she had finished taking photographs. She professed herself quite dizzy with wonder. This worm thinks it was the extreme cold that had affected her brain.

The photos

Me at Stonehenge. Like the TC, I tend to lose focus when exposed to extreme cold:

Stonehenge was built at some time, by someone, somehow, and for some reason. No-one can quite define the “some”s. Archaeologists play it safe by saying the stones were placed in the period from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The earth bank around the outside of the stones was constructed around 3100 BC. That makes the site 5000 years old.

This worm suggests we all agree that Stonehenge was built in 4 VLTA (a very long time ago).

The stones are enormous.

There is much debate about how men of old moved them around and placed them with such precision.

Stonehenge may have been a burial ground, a temple, a celestial clock, a social project intended to unify neighbouring peoples, a time machine… Whatever it’s purpose, it is majestic and intensely interesting.

That’s all for today, dudes.