Sunday, January 29, 2012

Salisbury Sunday

Having learnt my lesson by being exhausted going out for a ride in the forest on Saturday morning with a workmate who whizzed round the trails using the big ring, while I spun my only chainring furiously - Sunday was set aside for a day off the bike & going for a little drive to do something touristy while I still had both arms.  It was a cool, gloomy day - but one of the advantages of surviving a long Canadian winter is that anything above freezing point is warm - for my trip half an hour north to Salisbury.

The famous cathedral (tallest spire in the country) dominates the still-nicely-sized city & it wasn't long before I spotted that curious English sight of someone standing in a river in the middle of the city trying to coerce tiny fish on to a hook.

It was a lot sunnier when I came here with Mum forty odd months ago.  But the cathedral is no less impressive.
I had hoped to fill in the some of the day at a museum or two before a quick wander around the cathedral.  Inexplicably, the main museum was closed so I was wandering around the cloister & over all sorts of gravestones well before I expected.
This stone is a lot newer than most & is only of any significance in that it was unveiled just as I was taking my first breaths half a world away in New Zealand - not sure how I spotted that.

I was pleased to discover that there was a tour you could take that was basically climbing a few stairs (332) up to the top of the tower/base of the spire.  I was even more pleased to find that there was a single spot left on it - I couldn't leave that empty, so promptly took it.  I still had plenty of time to wander around the nave & appreciate the oldest working mechanical clock in the world, the general incredibleness of the masonry in a building over seven hundred years old & the best surviving copy of the Magna Carta (in the Chapter House) - the new font is very neat too, but I didn't get a good picture.

After the opening spiel from our good humoured, but very proper, guide we set off up the first of five progressively narrower spiral staircases.  In the picture three above we climbed up the left front corner halfway, then walked across the end of the nave to the right corner before another flight of stairs.

We were then up in the roof space of the nave.  It was neat to see the crude, but solid, structural pieces holding up this huge building.  The top side of the nave ceiling wasn't nearly as attractive to the eye; we could see some of the two acres worth of lead sheeting through the oak-work that still forms the roof after all this time.  We walked towards the centre of the cathedral, ducking out to a tiny balcony to check out the view of the Close & look towards Old Sarum (where Salisbury originally was on top of a hill, before they decided they were sick of no easily accessible water supply) over modern (it's a relative term) Salisbury.

Inside the tower there was the bell ringing mechanism - even if the bells were further above.  The bells used to be rung manually & when the mechanism went in they decided it was too big & cumbersome to get up to the bells, so just ran some ropes up.  The framework below had to be put in by Christopher Wren to stop the after-thought tower (it went up in the 1300s) slowly heading towards collapse.

Up even more rickety spiral staircases we managed to get pretty close to all the bells - thankfully not quite at the right time.  It was pretty noisy on the floors immediately below & then above when they did ring out on the quarter-hours.

Finally we were at the top of the tower looking up in to the huge spire.  The scaffolding that was left after construction was almost as impressive - nothing like the scaffolding I've seen around the many plants I've worked in.
There was just enough room for the thirteen of us out on the balcony so we could look up along the face of the spire & out over the city.
You can just see the top of the tallest spire in England - 123 metres

Looking down along the roof under which we walked

Another interesting unplanned & unexpected outing - the Tower Tour is well worth the extra few quid if you have the time.

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