We drove from Bath to Tintern Abbey, then thru the Forest of Dean to Stow.

 

Great Britain
Day 5 - Monday, 12 May 1997

After breakfast we left Bath driving north and west to Tintern Abbey. What a special place! It is just a ruin now, but the magnificence is evident in what is left. We arrived there early, before the hordes of tourists. It was raining a little, and we had the place to ourselves for a little while. The sun came out a bit while we were there which allowed us to take some memorable photos of Tintern Abbey. Then a busload of French teenagers descended and broke the silence and the peace.

Picture at Tintern Abbey
Jim at Tintern Abbey

But for that little while, we could understand why the early Christians would choose such a place to withdraw from the world and give themselves over to worshiping God. Tintern Abbey housed hundreds of monks over hundreds of years. It is hard to truly comprehend. There's a hint in some of the books however, that monastery life really was a better life in some ways than living outside and struggling to survive. Their community gave strength to each individual, and although each individual gave up the rights to personal property, as a community they accumulated much wealth. The tithes from the community around them provided much sustenance and resulted in wealth which led in its turn to corruption, envy and attacks by pirates.

Most of the abbeys were destroyed by Henry VIII who apparently wanted their wealth. He is also the one who created the Church of England because the Catholic Pope would not put a seal of approval on his divorcing and killing wives. Apparently the bishops in the abbeys were not so prudish, but it made a convenient excuse for Henry to take their wealth and land. Some of the stories are pretty terrible.

We left there and drove further north and east again, through the Forest of Dean. Here we could imagine Robin Hood and his merry men hiding from the Sheriff of Nottingham. I think that if the Kings had not declared some areas as royal forests and prevented the population from taking what they needed, that there would be no forests at all. Even the royal forests were selectively logged for ship-building in Englands golden naval age. They needed the lumber for warships.

Certainly the history of this island called Great Britain is fraught with war, strife, struggle, bloodshed, cruelty - successive waves of attack. As one man said to me "Everyone has had a go at us." In the Forest of Dean, we came across a place called "New Fancy View" which gave us a panoramic view of the forest. It was magnificent - worth the climb and the hairpin turns. The forest floor is pretty clear, not much in the way of undergrowth, just some lovely blue wildflowers carpeting as far as you can see.

Near the edge of the forest, we visited Heritage Park. It was an interesting historical presentation, including a charming little foresters cottage - so tiny, so dear; and such hard lives these people had! We took photos of each other sitting in rocking chairs beside a fireplace. All the cooking was done in the fireplace. No microwaves, no electric or even gas ovens, no refrigerators.

West Dyne B&B

We drove on to our next B&B, West Deyne. It turned out to be one of the more memorable places we stayed. Our hostess, Mrs. Joan Cave brought us tea and biscuits after she seated us in a lovely glassed-in porch or solarium looking out into her garden and across the beautiful English countryside. We could see patches of yellow flowers - the fields of rapeseed which is grown for its oil. Jimbo, her old yellow cat, joined us for tea. Apparently the solarium one of his favorite sleeping spots.

Mrs. Cave showed us a little private sitting room with fireplace and TV (which we never turned on) just inside the solarium, breakfast room beside it. A little turn of back stairs led up to our bedroom and the bathroom was down the hall. It was like having our own apartment. She was such a "mom," always checking on us to see if there was something she could do to make our stay more comfortable. Although she is probably 80 plus years of age, she keeps busy by helping older people. She cooks and cleans for at least three people, and one of them (age 94) she calls on three times a day. This is in addition to keeping the B&B running and taking care of her husband and garden.

Mr. Cave paints, and the walls are lined with his work, which is actually quite good. He has also written two books, based in the area where they live - known by the way, as the Cotswolds. Their home is just on the edge of Stow-on-the-Wold.

Stow-on-the-Wold

We went into Stow for dinner at The Fox where we failed to understand that we were supposed to go up to the bar and order our meal. That's how its done in pubs, we later learned.