Do not blink

Rose Cottage is in a small valley, the Forest of Dean rising to the west. Naturally I had to wait for the morning to realise this. The cottage appears to be one of a collection belonging to the main house. There are also chickens. Very friendly chickens who, apparently, like to be stroked. All morning they have gathered by the patio door waiting for us to pay them some attention.

And it had been raining. Non-stop. According to the BBC, the rain wouldn’t stop until around midday and the sun come out. This would probably last about four hours before we return to the rain. We will have to be ready for this brief window so we can go out and find some butter.

Newnham-by-Severn is a lovely little elongated, mostly Georgian town not far from the cottage. It was a very important town many moons ago. Many ships were built there because of both its proximity to the river and to the Forest of Dean. Lots of kings visited – William II, Henry I, Henry II, Edward II, etc, etc. In fact Henry II left to war with Ireland from Newnham with his mighty ships of war. There were glass makers for a time during the reign of Charles I.

In fact there was a lot of industry surrounding the little town because of the river. Mules and packhorses would bring down great loads of stuff – cloth, coal, timber, cider, hides, etc – for shipment out into the rest of the world. Oddly though, it wasn’t until 1807 that someone thought to build a quay. Most visitors have commented on the charm of Newnham, except for the Reverend Francis Witts who thought it “…a dull little town.” I’d like to add my words of praise for it. Especially the Victorian dry cleaners.

We parked the car about midway along the steep high street and walked up to the church. St Peter’s is perched high, overlooking the river and the town. It affords a splendid view along the Severn in both directions. Nice spot to be buried though a pity you’d have to be underground. There’s a rather haunting angel in the churchyard which is almost reminiscent of the scary angels in the Dr Who episode called ‘Blink’. Made me shiver. And NOT blink.

Originally the church was built down by the water but when it was in danger of being washed away, someone had the good idea of building on the top of the hill. This was in the 14th century and some of the old material was reused in the new church. The new site was given to the people of Newnham by Humphrey de Bohun on the proviso that the people paid four pence each year to the See of Rome so a mass would be said for his soul. This went on for ages, and, although the money had long since ceased being paid, his name was still being read out during the requiem for All Saints in the 1970s.

St Peter’s was another of those churches used for shelter during the Civil War. This time the Royalists held up in it. There was a big to-do when the Parliamentarians turned up and a fight ensued. And then came Tipper. He was a servant who claimed to be a deft hand with gunpowder. He was put to task by Sir John Wintour, his master. There was an earth shattering explosion and it, to quote a contemporary account, “…blew many out of the church and sorely singed the greater number, but killed none.” The name of Sir John Wintour pops up all the time around these parts. Tipper, however, does not.

Most of the old church has been rebuilt. It fell into disrepair in the nineteenth century and, in 1874 the townsfolk decided to restore it. Typical Victorians, they went mad and by 1875 it was reopened to great celebration. Sadly it was then completely gutted by fire in 1881. Once more they all rallied together and rebuilt it. Sounds like a Monty Python sketch.

It’s a nice bright and airy church on the inside with movable pews. I know, because a couple were moving the pews while we visited. I have to assume they are going to have a bit of a square dance there later. After moving the chairs, the female half of the couple started playing on the piano. The three high points of interest in the church are the painted barrel ceiling in the chancel, the reredos and the lovely memorial to the Barling Family. The memorial looks hauntingly Pre-Raphaelite and is a mosaic and alabaster representation of St George.

We wandered out of St Peters and started back down the high street, towards the small shop we’d spotted near the town clock. Oddly a lot of the buildings are called ‘The Old -‘. They each have a little sign by the front door which proudly proclaims it the ‘Old Police Station’ or the ‘Old Bank’. These are all now houses, with enticing windows. Mirinda can never resist an enticing window. I wonder if you’re looked down on if your house isn’t an ‘Old’ anything.

The shop was about to close so we purchased everything in it and headed for the Ship Inn for lunch. One thing about the shop; it had a haunted cash register. Everything was fine, as the woman entered each price until she reached £1.45. Each time she put the number in and pressed the total key, the machine squealed like it had been stabbed. She tried it a few times and then with a skill borne of many such strange things, entered £1 and then 45 pence, separately. It worked. She smiled at me as if to say, stupid cash register doesn’t like certain numbers.

Lunch in the Ship Inn was lovely, contrary to what the sign outside seems to imply (see photo above). Sadly we’ll not be able to see Mr Entertainment – Chris – on Wednesday as his fans have booked him out. Still, we had, what we didn’t realise, was going to be the only tasty meal of the week: A lovely roast, pints of beer, a wee dram. We then watched the sky blacken as the afternoon pressed on towards 4pm. It was time to drive back to Rose Cottage while we could still see. And see was what we did do! There was the brown house beyond the hedge! Yay!

Bloody rain. It spattered down as we dozed the rest of the day away.

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