Town that Shakespeare built
A day trip by Gee-Vee coaches to the old town of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.
The day was overcast, gloomy and every now and then a shower of rain would soak me but I was happy to be somewhere new and was in for a few surprises. We arrived around 11am and after a brief visit to the Tourist information, I was out searching for potential images.
The town would prove to be a curious and often quirky place to explore and I began at the canal basin and Bancroft gardens where the first "photo shoot" was the impressive Gower Memorial. Built as a tribute to Shakespeare (for which the town is famous as being his birthplace) it featured the old boy himself as the centre piece and then featured four of his best know characters including Lady Macbeth and Hamlet. It was a large and bold memorial and even in the gloom commanded your attention.
Not a bad start! There were several Canal boats moored at the basin, however with the grey sky they proved less than interesting in photo form and I pressed on going over the old Tramway Bridge (a lovely red brick construction) towards my next target - The butterfly farm.
More of a guilty pleasure than a photo shoot, when I arrived at the farm I was greeted with a lovely looking flower garden, small pond (Complete with duck houses!) and walked through giant rings with a mirrored inside. It was quite the entrance! When I entered the building itself it was spacious with a well stocked shop and a place to hang your coats before entering the walkthrough area, something I recommend by the way as it is humid and hot in there! The price for admission was £7.25 and once I went through the doorways it was like stepping into the tropics. A stunning tropical hothouse with an incredible amount of greenery, flowers, waterfalls, a stream and even a koi pond. But impressive as that was, it pales in comparison to the stars! Everywhere I looked there were butterflies, on the walls, on the plants, on the ceiling, on the floor even on me and every possible pattern and colour you could imagine was on display. I loved every moment I was in there.
Of-course when I first entered my camera fogged up but that soon cleared as I spent time just wandering around watching the fluttering of the butterflies and allowing my senses to become invaded by the scents of flowers, the running of the waterfalls and bold colours upon the butterfly wings. All of the British gloomy weather disappeared and for two hours I was in a magical jungle. The images I took were hit and miss to say the least and when I eventually went round the mini beast area I gave up taking pics. The mini beast area was another two rooms which featured Leaf cutter ants, black widow, tarantulas, assassin bugs, sungazer lizards, mantis and various other beetles and reptiles. Oh which reminds me, when in the flight area keep your eyes open for the resident iguana, normally just chilling above the foliage near the ceiling.
I definitely recommend visiting this place!
Leaving this mini paradise and returning to the gloom was not overly welcomed but it was time to press on. Staying on the recreation ground side of the river, I photographed the back of the swan theatre (the modern part). Then a little later on I started to photograph the Holy Trinity Church, it was a nice change that I was able to see the church clearly with no obstructions and I managed some very pleasant images.
After that I headed back to Bancroft Gardens, taking more images of the bridge and also the Swan fountain. A very modern and pretty looking fountain but sadly I struggled to photograph it in a pleasant manner, perhaps on a sunny day?
After a bite to eat I followed the waterside, heading up to the church and was soon photographing the older parts of Swan theatre. Featuring carved stone scenes, several gargoyles and various little details. It was tricky to get images as I really needed a wider lens, this along with construction and various groups of students made it a hard indeed to capture it as a whole but I did manage some nice detail images.
Passing a large group of twenty odd swans, a beautiful old hotel and several wood framed buildings, I arrived at Holy Trinity Church. This was the place William Shakespeare was baptised and later buried. The church is made primarily from beautiful looking sandstone and is relatively small given the size of the town. Inside was pleasant though not too impressive, I was expecting more ornate decoration given its age but it still had several carvings, memorials and plaques. The Pastor I met inside was very chatty and nice to talk to and the overall feel from inside was one of calmness. I managed several images before leaving and think I timed it right as when I came out a group of thirty tourists from China entered!
Next up was a trip to Anne Hathaway's cottage but first I passed the beautiful looking Halls Croft. A stunning example of a timber framed building and one I was lucky enough to photograph, more or less, in full. If I return to Stratford this is a museum I want to visit, however by this point I was already running low on time so had to move on.
The path the Hathaway's cottage was pretty simple to follow but I did drift when I reached a park, instead of going past the playgrounds I headed the other direction this proved to be a good thing.
Thatched roofed buildings and plenty of them! These are all private homes so I just took some quick snaps but seeing them was fantastic and even if it added a few minutes to my trip, it was worth it. Eventually I found the cottage but was in for a shock, all I wanted was the buildings face so was hoping there was a "garden only" admission - there wasn't. £12.50 entry! Now this allows entry to the cottage and lasts for a year but still came as a shock for me, however I was here and wanted shots of the cottage so I paid. In the summer the gardens would look amazing but not today, so I just photographed the cottage itself. An impressive building indeed! Sadly there was no way I could enter as I only had an hour and a half left and so much more to see.
After power walking back to town, I passed various buildings including the oldest pub in town (I know this as they had a sign saying so), civic hall, new place and various others before finally finding Shakespeare's birthplace. It was a little odd to see in on the main street without any fence or barrier and after waiting for a while for a view clear of people, I was able to take a nice image. After that I grabbed a couple images of the Fool statue and then....well run back to the pick up point!!