Monday, 24 August 2015

Tibberton post office saves the day

A view downriver from the Cathedral tower
We were going to have a day out on the bus to Droitwich today. Except there wasn't a bus.
I discovered that when I went into the village post office just to check – the online timetable is mighty confusing. Turns out there never was a bus to Droitwich and, even if there was, it wouldn't be able to get there now because the Tibberton canal bridge is closed to traffic.
Tibberton bridge parapet ws damaged by an errant truck
It was badly biffed by a large truck – "I don't know what he was doing there; following his satnav I think," the postmistress explained. "He was a foreigner," she added, knowingly, as if that explained it all. Which maybe it did. I wonder just how many canal bridges a year are getting smashed by over-large trucks – in the hands of British or foreign drivers – blindly following their satnavs? (Actually, though, it's not really shut: local car drivers just ignore the barriers and drive through!)
"Have you been to Worcester, though?," she went on. "You can get a bus to there." I explained that we'd just come from Worcester. "But did you go to the cathedral - you can go up the tower and see for miles and there's a Magna Carta exhibition too?" We hadn't, so we went and we came away well impressed.
The huge vaulted knave of the cathedral
Dominating as it does, the city's riverside, Worcester Cathedral must be one of the most beautifully positioned in the country. It's another piece of powerful Norman monumental architecture with a wide and airy aisle and a massive tower, which I set about climbing up.
Gasping for breath, with my heart thumping like Ginger Baker's drums I arrived at the top of its 235 steps (the last hundred of them especially tight and steep) and gazed out through the misty rain at what was indeed a spectacular view from the top of it. Looking back down the river, I watched a narrowboat turn into Diglis Basin and then gazed out across to the Malvern hills in the distance.
Charles II stood up here to watch Cromwell's armies slowly encircle his Royalist troops down in the fields below leading to their eventual defeat in the battle that ended the Civil War and his flight abroad.
The tomb of King John below the altar
Back down at ground level the cathedral contains a number of fine tombs but none more prestigious than that of King John, one of the great cartoon villains of English royal history. He is remembered as the King who was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 by the country's Barons who were angered by his demands for taxes and his treatment of them.The Magna Carta has become the foundation of democratic legal systems across the world – a copy of it went to America with the Pilgrim Fathers and it became a basis for the American Constitution. Indeed the Founding Fathers there saw Charles's defeat in our Civil War as the ultimate victory of parliament and democracy over the sovereign powers of a king.
But of course John is even better known as the evil king who abused his powers as monarch while his brother the noble King Richard was away fighting the Crusades and whose agent, the Sheriff of Nottingham was embroiled in perpetual antics with Robin Hood. All of which is entirely fictional and, indeed, John is nowadays regarded as a halfway decent ruler, compared with some.
King John's effigy is the oldest of an English monarch
John's tomb stands centrally in front of the high altar. The effigy on his tomb is actually the oldest royal effigy in England, dating from 1232 and, unlike medieval custom, shows a life-like image of him rather than an idealised one. It looks rather modest compared with some of the decorated and embellished tombs around the cathedral but was originally vividly painted and even covered with a golden cage. His will, in which he requested to be buried here, is also kept in the cathedral library.
More fine tombs: here the C13th Baron Beauchamp
And the entire C17th Moore family, clothiers to royalty
All in all, it was a fascinating day: a wonderful cathedral and some historical insights into the Magna Carta, the Battle of Worcester and a king who has proved to be a lot more complex a character than the evil monarch and Robin Hood's nasty opponent.
So thank you Tibberton postmistress for your recommendation.

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