Monday, 21 May 2018

Stratford-upon-Avon - #3 Shakespeare's New Place

Hi there everyone 😀

After a glorious and very full weekend I did feel a bit for Martin this morning, as he got up at the crack of dawn for another week's work.

Whilst I have had a very busy morning, starting to try and get straight and on top of some householdy jobs, I am very grateful for the luxury of being able to take my time and just potter along at my own pace.

I still have plenty to tell you about our short break to Stratford a week or so ago and today we are on to New Place, the house that, sadly, is no longer there.  There is, however, the most fabulous of sculpture gardens.

We started off our morning with breakfast at a spot that has become a firm favourite ... The Four Teas. It's a really quirky 40s themed tea room, where we have stopped for lunch a couple of times on previous visits.
There is lots of 40s and war time memorabilia around and it always feels very chilled out, with the sounds of Vera Lynn and Glen Miller playing in the background.
After enjoying Monty's breakfast we were ready for another day of exploring ...
It was just a short walk to New Place, the home where Shakespeare lived for 19 years. Sadly the house itself was demolished over 250 years ago, by the new owner, who was tired of Shakespeare tourists and high taxes. We’d walked past here a number of times when visiting last year and had seen tantalising glimpses of the gardens and sculptures within ... both through the gate and the hedges that surround the garden.

It was another glorious day and we were really excited about finally getting to discover what lay behind the high yew hedges ... We were not disappointed.

From the minute we walked through the threshold, which is sited where Shakespeare's front door used to be, we were literally in awe at what we could see in all directions. There was so much to take in. 

Whilst it is recommended to start your visit with a talk at the 'talks table', where you can find out more about why the house is no longer here and some of the meaning behind the sculptures, we were far too excited to look around to wait for a talk, so just went our own way picking up bits and pieces from the information boards and listening to other peoples' conversations.

All of the sculptures have their own tale to tell and all are inspired by Shakespeare, his works and the times in which he lived.

The first thing that caught our eye was The King's Ship, representing a 16th century galleon tossed on the high seas of The Tempest ...
The house next door is a beautiful red brick building and was built around 1530. It is now home to exhibitions about the archaeology of the site and how the house would have looked back in the day. It also has a viewing platform with some good photo opportunities to be had.
Having been immediately drawn to The King's Ship, we retraced our steps a bit to have a look at the globe, which is based on a 1600 map, with the axis running straight through Stratford-upon-Avon ...
I was then really drawn to the play pennants and sonnet ribbons ...

... Especially this one, which brought back not so fond memories of 'O' Level English Lit ...
It's funny how some things stay with you. I will never forget the opening lines ...
"In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you ..."
We then wandered past The Armillary Sphere ...
... to my favourite sculpture of them all. His Mind's Eye was just spectacular. It's made of bronze and every aspect of it has its own specific meaning. The hawthorn is bending under the weight of Shakespeare's imagination ...
From here we explored the Knot Garden, where we were really taken with the anemones, which were just beautiful ...
There isn't much else in flower in the Knot Garden at the moment but one of the gardeners told us that it looks pretty amazing at the height of summer when planted with summer bedding ... maybe we will need a return visit.
From the Knot Garden we could see a glimpse of the Great Garden through the gateway and made our way through ...
The Great Garden holds the Greg Wyatt Sculpture Trail, which is a series of sculptures inspired by some of Shakespeare's best known plays. All of the sculptures are very tactile and hold a mass of intricate features. The closer you look, the more you definitely see. We took loads of photos, from all angles. Here are a few of my favourites, though I must confess I didn't make a note of which plays they all represent ... I will leave that to your own imagination ...
You can get an idea of the scale of the sculptures in this picture and, yes, that is Martin taking photos, not just a random stranger ...
There are lots of places to sit, relax and take in the beauty of the garden, which really does wrap right around you. Even though you are in the midst of the town, with traffic and construction noise all around, the garden still felt surprisingly peaceful and it was easy to concentrate on the warmth of the sun and the singing of the birds ...
There was also a very charming outdoor refreshment option, should the need arise ...
As well as all of the sculptures this is a really lovely garden. Our visit was quite early in the season and, whilst there was plenty of colour to be seen, it's clear that there is so much to come. It will look even more amazing with the allium, peonies and lupins in full bloom ...
There is nothing for it, we are just going to have to make another visit. June and July are shaping up to be very busy re-visiting gardens 😁😁😁

There was just the exhibition rooms and the viewing platform left for us to look at to finish off our visit and it's very apt that you can see the RSC theatre across the gardens ...
So, that was it for New Place. We are so pleased that we got to visit and see what lie behind the tall yew hedges. It was a real treat. Time to find somewhere for lunch before heading to our next port of call, which was the place where it really did all begin  ... Shakespeare's birthplace, but I'll save that for my next post 😀

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