Friday, 13 February 2015

A last look at Lichfield

Lichfield Cathedral with its three spires
We are finally headed away from Lichfield - and pleased to be. No offence to the town but we've been circling the block for a couple of months now and it's time to move on.
But even though we've spent a lot of time here – and I mean a lot; we did up Harry and worked on our previous boat, Star, for many weeks at Streethay Wharf – despite all that time we only visited the city's museum on our final visit. And discovered what a fascinating little city it is.
Lichfield was at the centre of things in English history since Roman times: just south of the present city was a major Roman town at the junction of two main Roman roads – Icknield Street and Watling Street. When they left, today's city slowly evolved nearby. It was virtually destroyed by the Vikings, then rebuilt with a new three-spired Gothic cathedral replacing the old Saxon one.
Market Square with statue of Samuel Johnson who was born in the city
Five hundred years later it was a significant stronghold fought over in the Civil War, being captured and re-captured by both sides. But the city reached its zenith in the 18th century. It was the home of Samuel Johnson and of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, a physician, philosopher, scientist and one of the leading figures in the Lunar Society, a group of industrialists and intellectuals many of whom were at the heart of the coming industrial revolution and the canals. Actor and theatre manager David Garrick also lived in Lichfield at the same time, as did the poet Anna Seward.
Modern times have in some ways passed it by: the old coaching roads that used to run through it are now the M6 and A38 trunk roads and the West Coast Mainline railway roars past a couple of miles away.
Even the canal remains frustrating distant: the nearest mooring demands a walk up a muddy hill to reach the road and a 20 minute trek into town. Take a tip from one who's tried every route: the simplest way is to moor in nearby Whittington (an amiable village with pubs, Co-op and P.O.) and get a bus which comes every half an hour.
One day, there may be another way. The Lichfield & Hatherton Canal is being restored and will run from Huddlesford Junction through to Lichfield and beyond. Indeed, as a tempting view of what things will be like, a section in Lichfield is now in water, and very impressive it looks too.
Boats are the only things missing - the restored L&H in Lichfield

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