A typical Autumn month in England. Any drive out is greeted with a warm autumn glow, as the trees are turning gold and yellow all across the countryside. Although colder winds are now blowing we have enjoyed several short but sunny days between the rain showers.
Today I stopped off at the county town of Aylesbury on the way to visit Avebury Stone Circle. The morning had been non-stop heavy rain, which did manage to hold off just long enough for me to take some photographs in the market square and walk the short but interesting Heritage Trail. The trail leaflet is available for just 50p from the Tourist Information Centre, situated inside the 14th century King's Head, located in a small cobbled alley at the top of the market place. The market place is a great area to explore, filled with statues and surrounded by several listed buildings, with some great old pubs and coaching inns.
This is the first time I've visited Avebury and I was not disappointed. The ancient stone circle, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is larger and much more accessible than Stonehenge. So large in fact there is a small village right in the middle of it! I arrived late evening just as the sun was coming out; following a long day of heavy rain. A tour around the circle takes about 20 minutes, or about an hour if you keep stopping to take photographs as I did. The stone circle is surrounded by a ditch and bank. There are steps and a footpath along part of the bank, providing a nice vantage point to see most of the site and its surrounding countryside. However watch your footing if it's been raining, as unfortunately I did not, slipping head long into the ditch! Just as I was leaving as the sun dipped below the western bank providing a dramatic backdrop to the ancient standing stones, which was more than enough compensation for getting covered in mud.
On the trip back from Avebury I visited the old medieval market town of Buckingham. Always a pleasant place to visit at any time of year, with its quaint old Georgian buildings and timber-framed pubs and houses. Two must-visit places are the Chantry Chapel and the Old Gaol. The Chantry Chapel incorporates a wonderful secondhand bookshop, with books at charity shop prices. The Old Gaol is located in the centre of the Market Place and built in the style of a medieval castle. It houses the town's Tourist Information Centre and a fascinating museum, which tells the story of Buckingham and Buckinghamshire's military history. I finished my tour with a walk along the river, through Chandos Park to Stratford Fields. The recent rain and strong winds had denuded the trees, spreading a spectacular golden carpet of leaves over the grass and along the river bank.
Early this month my wife, Susanne, went for an overnight stay in London, near to Covent Garden, to watch an evening show with friends at the Garrick Theatre. During the day she visited Covent Garden Market and Regents Park and managed to take some interesting pictures of the old market hall, including a great shot of some traditional London Pearly Kings and Queens out collecting for this year's Poppy Appeal.
While Susanne was enjoying the sights of London, I visited Hertford, the county town of Hertfordshire. I took a brief tour of the town centre, taking pictures along the riverside and the old buildings in the town. I found several old English pubs and inns, one of which has some very intricate pargetting (plaster moulding) covering its exterior. The town museum is located in a small town house, filled with fascinating facts about Hertford and its past history. The castle grounds were well worth visiting and I arrived just in time to watch a wedding party leaving. There can be little in England that is more romantic than taking ones wedding vows in a castle by a river, as the autumn leaves fall like confetti all around. The ancient castellated walls in the grounds are well preserved and make an idea backdrop for photographs.
On the way back from Hertford, I stopped off in Sandy just along the A1, to take a picture of its very unusual large mock timber-framed Town Hall, built in 1906. The building has actually never been used as a town hall and is now the "Roundabout Club". I also paid a quick visit the RSPB Lodge headquarters, on Potton Road, just east of the town. This is a very large nature reserve, covering 180 hectares, with good trackways and facilities for bird and nature watching. The reserve was so large I was only able to see just a small part of it during my visit. I plan to return there next spring to ride along some of its new cycle routes.
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