Winchester, UK (Day 5: June 15, 2022)

Dan’s meetings concluded yesterday afternoon, but we decided to stay over so Dan could enjoy another day in town. We turned out the lights and closed the blackout curtains with the agreement that we’d sleep until we woke up and then take on the day. We are here to testify that blackout curtains work: we slept through breakfast and woke up at 10:30!

With empty stomachs, we walked the 3/4 of a mile into town in search of lunch. As we approached the Westgate we noticed a large, beautifully painted bunny. As we stopped to figure out why it was there today and not the pervious days we were approached by a film crew and asked if we’d care to comment on the rabbit. Dan answered their questions and then they explained that each of the 32 sculptures displayed in random locations in Winchester and nearby Southampton are part of Hares of Hampshire. Each bunny (hare) is sponsored by a business and individually designed by an artist. They hopped into the cities today and will leave on the 25th of August. Donations for the Murray Parish Trust are received by text as well generated when the bunnies are actioned off in September.

With Dan’s celebrity taken care of, we strolled on and eventually chose The Ivy for lunch primarily because the beautiful day demanded el fresco dining. We lucked into an outside table in the shade of an umbrella and enjoyed wonderful service and a fabulous meal: grilled halloumi and panna cotta for me and fish and chips and crème brulée for Dan. The ladies bathroom deserves a word: wow! Imagine over the top in the best possible way. It was difficult to decided if the hundreds of plastic flowers smothering the ceiling were more or less eye catching than the salmon and gold Asian-inspired wallpaper above the chair rail or the marble tiles below. Add a statue of a naked lady, black toilet seats, pink marble counter tops, marble floor, mood lighting, and soft music and you’ve got yourself an unforgettable bathroom!

Next up: shopping. Dan has difficulty passing up a grocery store, so more than anything he wanted to browse both Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s in the center of town. One bag of groceries per store later, we headed for our first of three sites for the day: the City Mill on the River Itchen.

Winchester’s mill is one of the oldest working watermills in the country with over a thousand years of milling history behind it. Over the centuries the other 13+ mills in town closed, went out of business, were destroyed by fire or weather, or repurposed. This small mill had innumerable ups and downs too but was spared destruction by the skin of its teeth. During WWI, for example, it was used as a laundry and then fell into disrepair again but resuscitated when it was converted into a youth hotel in the 1930s. Thanks to the efforts and charity of forward thinking folks, it has been completely reworked and, once again, produces freshly ground whole wheat flour used locally and sold in the small mill shop. We enjoyed the video and small showroom that explained the workings of the mill and then went down to water level to see the waterwheel and grinding stones. On our way up from water level we noticed a dove that had nested in a damp, cozy corner. She was sitting on two chicks and did not seem to be concerned by her conspicuous location.

We did not go inside the cathedral when we took our visitor center tours the other day, so, groceries in hand, that was our second stop for the day. We lucked into an eccentric, fun tour guide who took us around and explained all sorts of interesting things. We saw the wooden choir carved in the early 1300s; the font dating back to the 1200s that is still used for baptisms; Jane Austen’s grave and her memorial wall; the small memorial to William Walker, the diver I mentioned previously who saved the cathedral; and a wall of figures that is totally white today but used to be painted in vivid colors with jewels for eyes. We passed the stone coffin of an influential, wealthy man and noticed that four little men were carved into the stone at the feet of the deceased. We learned that the belief at the time was all souls went from earth to purgatory on their way to heaven. The more prayers coming from the living on behalf of the deceased shortened the time in purgatory. So, these four little dudes represented the priests that the deceased had left funds to in his will in payment for their fervent prayers for his quick passage through purgatory.

Winchester boasts six military museums all situated within yards of each other. I was interested in the Gurkha Museum in particular. Gurkhas, soldiers from Nepal who have been recruited into the British Army for the last 200 years, are renown for being fearless in combat, loyal, professional, and brave. The small museum was very well done and told the story of how the British gained their respect for these fearless fighters and how they have been deployed for combat and peacekeeping all over the world.

Our evening was spent packing, enjoying a light dinner on the patio, and preparing for our early pick up for our return flight tomorrow. If all goes well we should walk through our door at home about 16 hours after we wake up tomorrow morning.

With no hesitation we agreed that Winchester was well worth a visit.

… Oh Really …

Colin Firth was born in Winchester.

Dan and I chose the Gurkha Museum over the others because of our visit to Nepal in the 1970s
and our friendship with the UK’s own David Osborn who told us stories of their exploits.

Per the custom of the day, funerals were attended by men only, so even Jane Austen’s
beloved sister could not attend her funeral in the cathedral.

Fresh flowers are at Jane Austen’s grave all all times less the Easter season.
They are provided by the American chapter of the Jane Austin Society.

Jane Austen died in Winchester while seeking medical care, but
she lived and wrote all her novels in a cottage in Chawton, 16 miles from here.


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