Monday, 29 March 2010

Spring break in Wells

I recently described this blog to my husband as "Me gallivanting round the UK while my husband maintains the allotment"! He is always with me on our travels, but I have to say that without him there would be no allotment.

This weekend we went to a christening in the Bishop's Palace at Wells. As it is a three hour drive away, we decided to make a weekender of it. I found a hotel in Wookey Hole near Wells offering 'cheaper' rates online than normal, so decided to go for it.

First a bit of info about Wells, the smallest city in the UK. As its name suggests, since medieval times it has been a place where natural springs emerge within the grounds of the Bishop's Palace.

The city itself is more like a large village, completely charming with an impressive Cathedral dominating and presiding over a picturesque town centre. Jamie and I spent our honeymoon here, we are always glad of an excuse to return.

You can see in the photo above that the natural springs run down channels round the town centre.

The chapel where the baptism took place is within the grounds of the Bishop's Palace, and what a fabulous place to be baptised!

Beforehand, we had a quick wander around the grounds of the Palace, which are spectacularly romantic. Apparently the remains in the picture below are of a great hall that was erected in honour of a visit from Edward I, but subsequently pulled down by one of the bishops who felt it looked more romantic that way!

There happened to be a rare plant fair in the grounds earlier today, so I picked up some interesting plants for our new garden, including a raspberry ripple rose called 'Ferdinand Pichard' that apparently smells like raspberry.

The key to this rose for me was its advertised ability to 'grow well in poorer soils'. Even though I have high hopes for our new garden, the chalk rock that we used to have has definitely dented my confidence.

Anyway, the hotel we stayed in had fabulous grounds and a really quirky interior. It seemed to me that if you wanted to experience what it would be like to have your own stately home full of servants, then a stay at Glencot would satisfy your curiosity.

The place had a distinctly gothic and romantic air, and you almost felt as though you had stumbled through a trapdoor in Alice in Wonderland rather than staying in a hotel. As we played chess on chairs within the inglenook fireplace, I felt so comfortable it was as if we could have stayed in that room forever, watching day and night pass by.

The interior was full of quirky antiques which have been assembled by its eccentric owner, Martin Miller, writer of the Miller Antiques Guide. He seemed to be in residence while we were there, entertaining guests.

I have to admit that 4 and 6 year old children may have been a mistake in such a luxurious hotel (!), full of expensively breakable objects, but we survived, and they were actually quite good considering. The little one only weighs about a stone, which was good because jumping on us as we tried to rest was so irresistable for her:

Everywhere there are books, lining every shelf, windowsill and corridor. You are encouraged to take paperbacks home if you haven't finished them by the end of your stay.

The gardens are well worth a walk round, even in March before they really get going. They would be magical on a warm midsummer's evening as there are lots of tables and chairs strategically placed for whiling away hours.

The ultimate one had to be the 'Romeo and Juliet' balcony, which can be booked for special occasions:

It looks even more spectacular at night, candle and chandelier lit (like most of the house interior), but alas my phone wasn't up to the task of taking a decent photo at night! Next time, I will remember to pack a proper camera.