Ach du lieber Gott, I am way behind with my bloggerei about my jaunterei. Must rectifei.
It’s almost three weeks since I asked Ted where he wanted to go for our first proper walk of 2011. He said ‘Sharpness and bark-bark-Berkeley’, so that’s where we went. It suited me, anyhow – an easy, six-mile stroll on the Severn flood plain to test my ribs and hip and find out how they were mending.
Having passed the museum to Edward Jenner, local pioneer of the smallpox vaccine, our first stop was Berkeley’s Church of St Mary the Virgin, which has a very odd-looking exterior as its tower is situated the opposite side of the churchyard from the rest of the building, this having been done for strategic reasons, apparently.
I am a bit of a late convert when it comes to Berkeley Castle, having spent a good 40 years assiduously avoiding the place, after visiting at an impressionable age and being terrified by stories of a jester falling from the balcony to his death and the gruesome fate of people imprisoned in the dungeon at the bottom of a 36-foot deep shaft in the incongruously well-appointed King’s Gallery. (I’m relieved that no one took it upon themselves to reveal to my five-year-old self how the hapless Edward II allegedly met his end.) I love it now, although in mid-March it was still closed for winter and Ted and I only saw it from adjacent fields.
The church itself is exceptional, its most striking feature being the survival of such a lot of its mediaeval paintwork.
I especially liked this corbel of two female heads surmounted by a toad, a sermon in stone to reinforce the message that gossip is poisonous …
… and this Tudor rose, believed to relate to Edward VI.
Here, the intricately carved tomb of Thomas Berkeley, the 5th Baron, and his wife Katherine.
After leaving the church, we wandered along Berkeley Pill towards the estuary. It was a bright day and the sun had real warmth in it, so after we had negotiated a field of cows the size of caravans, I sat down in a patch of teasels and composed an ode to my faithful and fearless(!) canine companion.
There was loads of mistletoe in the trees. Why do we only put it up at Christmas? The world would be a better place with more snogging.
Eventually we reached the Severn, with sunny views up to the dock at Sharpness, and a gloomier vista downstream towards Berkeley nuclear power station, with Oldbury in the distance. The post-earthquake problems at Fukushima might be half a world away, but there was a catastrophic tsunami in this estuary in 1607. The next one promises to be far worse, thanks to our idiocy.
The return leg of our walk took us inland from Sharpness to Berkeley. As is so often the case, the very last section, just prior to getting back to the car, involved negotiating the muddiest lane of the day. I was rather more careful, and thus considerably less besmirched, than Ted, who needed a stern rubbing down with the old towel I keep in the boot for just such eventualities.
All in all, though, my ribs and hips held up pretty well and it was a good opening to our jaunting season. Looking forward to many more forays over the year.