Our travels recently have taken us to a number of Abbeys dotted along the Thames from the days of the French Pilgrims, and spookily I've been reading Joanne Harris's book called 'Holy Fools' which I'd picked up on a book swap from the launderette at Braunston Marina - it's coincidentally set in 17th century France and much of it is based around Abbey life. Once again I'm struck by how little knowledge I have of English history and picked up more gems on Thursday when we visited Dorchester and its Abbey.
Dorchester sits close to the confluence of the rivers Thame and Thames, and was a centre of Saxon Christianity. The village is delightful, with houses, just a few shops, three pubs and a Co-op store, and the restored Abbey taking pride of place.
Flint ingrained brick cottage from 1715 Old converted pub
'Thatchers Cottage' - almost chocolate box perfect
Main street of Dorchester with the Fleur De Lys pub, circa 1520
A rather unusual corner building which used to be Dorchester's Missionary College
The White Hart Hotel on Dorchester's High Street
This little High Street house is only about eight feet wide - it must be rather compact inside
A thatched cob wall - haven't seen one of these before The side door to the abbey
Within the Abbey there are once again fascinating timelines of England and I was astounded to realise that much of English life was ruled by Abbeys for around 400 years, from the 12th to the 16th century when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the Monasteries. Incredible to think that this accounts for about 7 generations! It certainly makes me relieved I didn't live in the middle ages, there's a high chance I'd have been burnt at the stake as a witch as I really don't think I could bear the confines of a secular society, try as I might I've never been able to believe in a 'God'-like presence watching me and to whom I should ask for forgiveness daily if I step slightly out of line or have a bit of fun.
At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, Dorchester's church building was saved from destruction by wealthy landowner Richard Beauforest, who bought it for £140 and subsequently left it to the village in his will.
On our visit to the museum in Abingdon, we saw an exhibition about the Puritans which I also found incredible - what stark and dismal lives they led, wearing only black and white or grey and not taking any pleasure from life as they were hoping for redemption in the next life if they lived this one purely. After years of thinking I may be a little odd not to 'believe', I finally found my personal 'niche' in Humanism, where their belief is that it's highly unlikely there's another life after this one which frees me up to enjoy this one to the full!
The breathtaking Abbey interior, with crocheted kneeling cushions each with an individual design
Candle chandelier and the People's Chapel which has an original restored 14th century wall-painting of a crucifixion
The old Toll House at the end of the road - one of the earliest roads to become a toll road due to its location on the main road from Gloucester, and the Oxford to London route
The bridge over the River Thame, which runs south east of Dorchester
A resplendent roses round the door cottage
Another aspect of the converted pub alongside an ivy covered house
Along the footpath to Dorchester there's what looks like a heavily furrowed field but is actually a Celtic settlement and a rare example of a pre-Roman town, called the Dyke Hills
Having got up late and mooched around Dorchester for so long, we finally set off mid-afternoon down the Thames, heading to Goring.
Though the time was well spent, we think we may've stayed too long in Abingdon, as there's not enough time now to visit the other places along the way! But we're aware we can't see everything, so although Wellingford looked and sounded splendid, we didn't have time to stop as it was already after 1700hrs when we travelled through ...
So many beautiful boathouses along the Thames ... and a river swimmer - how brave!
Skirting through Wallingford with many a backward glance ...
to Wallingford Bridge - 17 arches, only 5 over the river, originally built around 1141, rebuilt in 1809 and has a Bridge Chamberlain appointed annually
And yet more boathouses
A little sunshine every now and again lit up the way
Moulsford Railway Bridge - built by Brunel
Hurrah! Barry managed to get a Kingfisher photo!
Cruisers for hire
More amazing homes ...
and a rather ostentatious riverside property just past Wallingford - it'd look more at home in NZ's Art Deco capital, Napier, than here - bizarre!
Ploughing a very dry and dusty field
Approaching Goring we could feel the wealth oozing from the properties, and weren't surprised to learn from the lock-keeper that George Michael has a home not far from Goring Lock. We'd travelled to the lock hoping for one of the few Environment Agency moorings down river, but they were understandably all taken by the time we got there.
We turned around and managed to get a mooring, but not such a lucky one as the previous night's, as it entailed a rather precarious walk of the plank to disembark, and was so close to bunches of nettles that we had to close windows or they may've invaded the boat. There was a notice saying there'd be a charge of £4 but no-one came to collect so that was a bonus.
Approaching Goring Lock
The weir at Goring - straddled by gangs of geese
No moorings after Goring Lock, so we turned back around without going in
Another spectacular home
On Friday we'll visit Goring and see if it's really so gorgeous, especially if George is around - he's one of my favourite artists, despite his misdemeanours (or maybe in spite of them bless him!).
Spot the poppy!