Day 22, Tuesday December 31, 2019
The end of a decade. It feels slightly surreal. The news is full of the bushfire tragedy at home with entire communities under siege and destroyed. It’s the worst possible way to both end and begin a new decade – let’s hope the whole of 2020 isn’t like this. And yet the Sydney fireworks are still proceeding. Seriously?
Tumba is now under emergency too with the fire impacting Batlow and Paddy’s River. The 75th anniversary Rodeo has been cancelled. According to Facebook, family have relocated to Wagga for the duration. I’m also worried about Becca in Conjola and hope they came back to Sydney.
Here on the other side of the world we feel so removed yet everyone, upon hearing our accents, wants to know about the fires. The breadth and extent is unimaginable to them.
And so to our day. While we had blue skies yesterday, today was mostly grey and bitterly cold.
This morning we drove 70km down to Lacock, a town in Wiltshire past Malmesbury but sort of parallel-ish to Bath. The town has been used as a location for Agatha Raisin, Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey, Wolf Hall, and Harry Potter – it’s amazingly well preserved with much of it managed by the National Trust.
For all this, it could easily have gone the way of Bourton-on-the-Water with tacky gift shops and bad scones. Instead it’s really relatively unspoiled – there are even stalls where sweets and jams are sold under an honesty system.
Lacock Abbey was founded in the 13th century as a nunnery and remained as such until the 16th century and the suppression of Roman Catholic institutions. Following this it became a private residence with the house built over the old cloisters.
During the 19th century, it was the home of William Henry Fox Talbot who, in 1835, who was arguably the inventor of the photographic negative. There’s a museum dedicated to him attached to the abbey which we had a look through.
The abbey, and particularly the cloisters, are now more famous as a film location.
While many of the rooms in the abbey were closed for cleaning when we visited, the cloisters and the grounds were open – although the weather had turned seriously manky.
I loved looking through the greenhouse and seeing the snowdrops peeking out through the fallen leaves.
Seeing in the new year
We stopped in at The Red Lion at 11am to toast happy new year to New Zealand and watch the fireworks from Auckland on the telly in the bar.
Then we wandered around the village some more. I bought some leather gloves and two books at the National Trust shop – how very me…
…before heading up to The George for lunch and to toast happy new year to Sydney at 1pm; followed of course, by happy new year to Queensland an hour later.
The George had been featured in a segment on the Aussie lifestyle show Better Homes and Gardens so upon hearing our accents the landlord told us about how lovely Jo Griggs (the show’s host) and Karen Martini (the show’s chef) were to him. Cute.
After lunch we stopped in at Cirencester for a look. Cirencester is the largest town in The Cotswolds and has plenty of history and Roman artefacts to keep anyone interested in that sort of thing happy. The first reference to the town was in 150AD.
It was, however, after 3pm so getting dark and I really felt as though I needed some downtime so we left H&J to it and went home to do faff all for a couple of hours.
H&J came over for drinks and nibbles to celebrate the new year and our lovely host dropped by with a bottle of red. H’s cold is getting worse and like the dirty stop-outs we are, we’d called it quits by 9pm and didn’t see the new year in…well, not the UK one anyway!
This was an excerpt from my travel diary. You can access other posts in this series here.