I had promised myself to make more use of my weekends, and enjoy more local day trips. Since coming back from the last big trip, I had researched a little into easy and pleasant days out local to Nottingham, and as it was a nice weekend, I'd make use of my time. A rare Sunday waking up hangover free, and actually with a bit of energy after getting a decent eight hours sleep on a Saturday night, that didn't eat into the day, for a rare change, I jumped into the car, and set off for the close by town of Southwell.
I hadn't been in Southwell for many years, infact the last time I went was to play football against Southwell Town FC, and din't actually get to see anything of the town other than the small stadium.
I've always known it is a beautiful little town, typical of rural England, and with a price tag to match! This side of Nottingham does edge into the pricey, upper class bracket, and you really get a little insight into the life of those with some serious disposable income. Several of the houses in the town edge nicely into the seven figure price tag, and the reason is more than apparent when you see the size of the stunning Edwardian properties that have survived the test of time, and never suffered the ill-effects of a World War (the town is far enough from the city to be immune from the apparent necessity of bombing). It was in fact home, once upon a time, to one of the greatest and most famed of English poets, Lord Byron, and that was one of the houses we visited during the day. Our first stop was to be the most famed of them all though, Southwell Minster.
We started our little tour of the minster by a leisurely stroll around the religious edifice, and then through the North Porch, inside the building itself.
We paid the £3 for the guide book, so we could see what we were looking at, and searching for, though entrance is actually free (maintenance of these public buildings can be expensive though, so I always donate at least a little if I enjoy my visit, and spend some time there, though i don't particularly judge those who don't donate. At the end of the day, each to their own, and everyone works hard for their own money, so it's up to them how they choose to spend it). We followed the guide book's suggested route, and first saw the naive, in the medieval building, to see the great big stained glass window. It was then onto the crossing (the cathedral is designed in a cruciform shape).
We moved on into the delicately carved out Quire area.
It was highly depicted with intricate carvings with no expense spared on attention to detail. For those with a keen eye, and a willingness to search, you can find the carved out mousemark, which is the trademark of Robert Thompson, whose workshop installed the altar rails and much of the furniture (sadly, we failed miserable in our search, though we did try for quite a while). You can also take in the the view of the four upper windows depicting the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
To the right of the crossing is the South Transept, but it's only a small area. There are still a few things to search for, most notably the mosaic floor, but we moved on reasonably quickly to Christ The Light Of The World Chapel, and St Oswald's Chapel, which are quiet and secluded areas dedicated for prayer and reflection.
A lot of people light a candle in this area as their silent prayer. Opposite St Oswald's Chapel is The Airmen's Chapel which is a similar sized area, which, since the end of first World War, is used for commemorating those who lost their lives in conflict. The altar here is actually made from wood recovered from broken propeller blades found in French battlefields. The area also has the Polish flag and a memorial tablet in tribute to the Katyn Forest Massacre, in which 14,500 Polish prisoners of war were killed. The St Thomas' Chapel is also adjacent to this area, but was closed at the time of visit.
Next up was my favourite area of the entire cathedral, The Chapter House. It is an absolutely glorious surprise, and can easily be missed if you bypass the gated archway on the assumption that there is nothing there.
For those who do explore deeper, you are rewarded brilliantly by passing the stunning, stained glass windows on the right-hand side, leading to the elegantly carved stone foliage. This is a fantastic example of medieval craftsmanship, and all the delictately cut rocks provided an overwhelming amount of detail. If you look closely you can find foxes stealing grapes, dogs chasing hares, and if you a more lateral line of thinking, you may even find the pigs eating acorns. I searched for a while, but I'll admit I failed. I was shown by one of the staff, and though tempted not to, I'll give the secret to their whereabouts away. You have to sit in one seat in particular, and look upwards into the underside of the carvings. It's an incredible location, and just goes to show some of the secrets the building holds.
The North Transept is the penultimate stop, and is the left side of the cross of the entire building as you walk towards the Quire from the entrance.
Here there are a few notable artifacts, but the main showpiece is the tympanum, which is one of the oldest parts of the cathedral, dating back to between the 9th and 11th centuries. Branching off the North Transcript is the more interesting Pilgrim's Chapel. This is where the Blessed Sacrament is kept and the Pilgrimage Tapestry.
It is a fantastic landmark, and a worthy half-day trip from Nottingham, and is easily reached by bus from the city centre. We left the minster and found the famed old sweet shop, and I salivated at childhood memories that flooded back at the sight of the likes of rhubarb and custards, strawberry bon bons, and pear drops. Oh, good memories indeed. we then continued a leisurely stroll to view a few more of the Edwardian houses, the old police station, and Byron's house.
We didn't take too long though, and whilst beginning to get slightly hungry, we moved on to the close by, and larger town of Newark.