Days: 453 (21 September 2015)
Total distance travelled: 120,372.5 kilometres (74,765.5 miles)
During the summer of 2013 we’d splurged on the food front, an expensive excursion (the dining experience would be expensive, not the train trip) out to the rural hamlet of Bray saw us indulge in an amazing degustation menu at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.
Fast forward to the Autumn of 2015, and the purse strings are pulled well and truly tighter, but we’re not ones to let that inhibit our food desires, so what to do?
For a long while now, we’ve been a fan of the River Cottage franchise, pioneered by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and more recently launched closer to home (there is now an Australian version) with Paul West.
The River Cottage farms were just a little too far afield for us this time, but it turns out there’s a River Cottage Canteen (one of their dining establishments) not so far from London in Winchester!
But Winchester wasn’t all about the food, despite that being the primary reason for our visit.
Another city to develop from a Roman settlement (we seem to be developing a bit of a theme in regards this), it is also home to a most famous cathedral and some other amusing history as well.
Another short train ride from London, although unlike our Saint Albans excursion the previous day, the skies were very dull, and we were there.
Our first stop was the Great Hall, essentially all that really remains of the once grand Winchester Castle.
It is also famous for being the home to King Arthurs Round Table!
For a long while, many people did indeed believe that the grand piece that hangs from the walls of the hall was it, however carbon dating has put to bed that dream, instead confirming that it is most likely a piece commissioned (or at least painted for), Henry the VIIIth.
Whatever the true story, it’s a pretty impressive piece!
It is however the city’s cathedral that bears the burden of great fame, as one of the largest gothic cathedrals in all of Europe.
Apparently it’s nave is the longest, whilst it also possesses the greatest overall length, but it is for a couple of other pieces of history, one slightly quirky, that appealed to me more than its grandeur as a religious icon.
For those fans of English writing, the cathedral is in fact the final resting place for one of the nations most famous literary names, Jane Austen. This her tomb place since her death almost two hundred years ago…
But she and the cathedral was almost lost.
Nearly one hundred years later, the cathedral was floundering under its immense weight and due to waterlogged foundations.
Cue William Walker (not the American filibuster who once ruled Nicaragua).
William Walker the diver.
You think you have a shit job?
Try working under the cathedral, diving six hours a day, for six years, in cold, total darkness!
For his work in packing the foundations with concrete and stone (basically saving the joint from collapse), he was inducted into the Royal Victorian Order.
What that meant for William who’d had no social life for six years… who knows?
The wet and the cold meant only one thing.
We were well and truly ready to get indoors, shed our wet layers and enjoy some good food.
Welcome to the River Cottage Canteen!
With their mantra of fresh, seasonal and sustainable produce, we were curious to see what offerings would be available, and after a perusal of the menu, we all quickly spied a few items we’d happily tuck into.
Drinks were ordered, or mental shortlists were trimmed down, and before long we were tucking into some deliciously fresh and tasty fare.
Best of all, we were indoors, dry and happy, whilst out, the weather was cold, wet and almost wintry!
Our lunch was delicious, and we couldn’t help ourselves but indulge in dessert.
It proved a brilliant way to cap off a pretty good excursion on a dull and dreary day…
* Our train fare from London (Waterloo station) to Winchester cost £15.00 per person return.
* Entrance into the ‘Great Hall’ was FREE (donations gladly accepted).
* To enter Winchester Cathedral, there was a fairly hefty £7.50 price tag!