Winchester, UK (Day 3: June 13, 2022)

Chalk today up as ideal!

After another proper English breakfast, Dan headed to his day-long meeting and I headed to my objective for the day: the Hospital of Saint Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. By the way, in this context hospital refers to (free) hospitality, not medical care.

I had read that the grounds are renowned for “the tranquility of the setting and the beauty of its architecture,” and I agree wholeheartedly. The hospital is one of England’s oldest continuing almshouses, and surprise of surprises, with a capacity of a mere 25, they have vacancies. I would have guessed they’d have a waiting list. Each elderly resident, or brother, is allocated his own self-contained flat which dates back to the fifteenth century. All flats are on the ground or first floor and typically have a sitting room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.

One of Winchester’s enormously wealthy bishops founded the hospital in 1132 to house 13 poor, feeble men and to feed one hundred men. The original 13 residents became the Brothers of St Cross. In this case brothers refers to friendship; they were not and are not monks, so St. Cross is not a monastery but a secular foundation. Medieval St. Cross was endowed with land, mills, and farms, providing food and drink for a large number of people which must account in part for its beautiful setting today. Interesting tidbit: although right on the river, the water was unfit to drink (think waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid). Bring on the ale and beer!

The compound, built of stone (with lots of flint), is comprised of two quadrangles with a well maintained green space in the center. There are residences on two sides, a large medieval kitchen (not in use today), a meeting room, beautiful church that looks more like a miniature cathedral than a typical almshouse chapel, an ancient graveyard, and a large, eye poppingly gorgeous garden with ponds and countless blooming plants. I was the only visitor, so I strolled around and slowly took it all in, stopped at the small gift shop, and then enjoyed tea and a date bar at the 14th-century Brethren’s Hall designed to seat the brothers and the 100 poor men. The weather being ideal, I chose a small table in the courtyard rather than in the hall.

The most direct route from the hotel to the hospital was down the main road. Not picturesque or terribly interesting, but I chose it this morning for its efficiency. I took the long, beautiful way home, though, which is a well-marked trail that follows the River Itchen back to town. The trail was well maintained and popular, especially with dog walkers who had their happy dogs off leash. There were loads of birds, a few cows, ducks and ducklings, and a swan pair. The trail had the narrow, clearwater river on one side and green space and sports fields on the other. The stroll was straight out of a Jane Austin novel. Some lucky residents have homes along the river and have built private little bridges that access the trail.

I popped into a few shops in the city center and then headed back to the hotel to relax before dinner with Dan’s group. They included me and the other plus one for a delicious dinner at a steakhouse in town. By the time we walked to and from I had clocked seven and a quarter miles! Time to call it quits.

… Good News for American Travelers …

It’s official: Americans are no longer required to get a covid 19 test before reentering the U.S.
We are now free to cancel the tests we have scheduled at Heathrow the morning of our flight home.

Although masks are not required in transportation hubs or on aircraft,
Dan and I, both vaccinated and double boosted, still wore ours in the airports on both ends of the trip.
As Matt would say, ”Safety first, Mom.”


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