Sunday, 5 July 2015

Where England Began -- A Tour of History

Friday, 3rd July was our WI outing. We were on a City and Villages Tour titled "Where England Began", a historical look at early England and its monarchs. Our first stop was All Saints Church in Kingston, which was established in 1120 but was built on the site of a much earlier church where Egbert, King of Sussex, held his council in 838, thus cementing the relationship of church and state for generations to come. In the 10th century, altogether seven Saxon kings were crowned there on the Coronation Stone. That stone stands today near the Guild Hall. Kingston is very important to early English history.
Our Blue Badge guide explaining the history of the church

A building in the market square just outside the All Saints Church.
Kingston is a beautiful little town. A pretty little canal filled with swans and decorated (as was everywhere) with bright flowers.

From Kingston, our coach headed for lunch at the Ye Olde Swan in Thames Ditton, a 13th century riverside pub on the River Thames.  We had a lovely lunch in the pub, then went back on the coach to meet our boat tour. 

The traffic was horrendous all over the city, but our driver and the blue badge guide managed to get us through it and around it quite handily. Aside from the usual Friday traffic congestion, the Hampton Court Flower Show was in full swing so the roads were absolutely clogged everywhere. We still managed to drive through Runnymede Meadow, the famous site of the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago. 
Runnymede Meadow, site of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215
Now it's a lovely picnic spot and there were many people enjoying it in the hot summer sun. We also passed the Sandown Park race track, Windsor Castle, and a few other notable places. 

We finally managed, about an hour late, to get to our tour boat. The effort was definitely worth it as the river tour was absolutely delightful. It was about an hour long and we had just a gentle breeze and saw so many wonderful sights along the way. We managed to get through two locks on the river, which was quite exciting, especially for us first-timers.

Away we went on our little tour boat.

A glimpse of Windsor Castle as we sailed past.
All along the river, people were swimming, sunning, picnicking, boating, rowing, and just enjoying themselves as we were.
Our first lock: Boveney Lock
We reached our destination, Maidenhead, about 6pm, sailing past the lovely railway bridge, the Maidenhead Rowing Club and many beautiful homes and hotels along the way. 
Maidenhead Railway Bridge, designed by I. K. Brunel in 1838, opened in 1839 
I think some of us would have been content to sail all the way back to Whitstable! By the time we got back on the coach, negotiated the traffic on the infamous M25 and other motorways, we arrived back home about 9pm, tired but having had such a wonderful day out and lots of history to think about! 

And the bonus is that, for our photography group, this month's theme is "water"!

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