A day out in Winchester

Well, its off to Winchester for a cheap day out. We have a giftcard for lunch, valid tickets for a visit to the Cathedral and  the park and ride is only £2.50 after 10am.

Our lunch  is courtesy of Sheena and Stuart Brennan who, a couple of Christmas’s ago, gave us a giftcard for Rick Stein’s restaurant chain which luckily has a branch in Winchester.

The bus journey from the park and ride took about 15 minutes. Our lunch table was reserved for 2pm so we had an hour to kill. Having visited the cathedral last August, our tickets gave us unlimited access for 12 months. I really begrudge giving money to any church so it was time to use those tickets again and get more of my money’s worth.

The cathedral is a marvel of medieval architecture and craftmanship, as well as 19th and 20th century maintenance. There has been a cathedral on this site in Winchester since the year 640. The current cathedral dates from the 11th century has the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. Ah, the treasures on your own doorstep. God no longer lives here as he was evicted during reformation back in the 16th century, but there are still traces of him around the building.

A view along the nave of the magnificent Winchester Cathedral

Visiting on a Monday was a good idea as there were relatively few visitors. Here is a photo of the nave looking towards the altar and choir. Note the tall vaulted roof. The aisle is replete with old gravestones and grave covers many dating from the 17th century.

Here is a gallery of the photos we took during our visit:

Once we had  the cultural stuff out of the way, we headed off to the Rick Stein restaurant for lunch. As it was ‘Rick’s place’ (not that one) we really had to choose fish and both started with the Amritsari fish starter which was white fish with a delicate spicy batter..truly melt in the mouth! For mains, Fiona chose the prawn dish, a mild prawn masala. I chose the hake. Again, both were delicious.

Many thanks to Sheena and Stuart for the giftcard.

Empty plates and soon to be empty glasses. Follow this with ice cream and lemon posset and wander around the cathedral again to walk off the alcohol before heading back to the P&R and the drive home.

All in all, an excellent day out.

English wines? Why not?

For my 60th birthday Louise gave me a ‘Vineyard Tour and Tasting with lunch for two‘ voucher that I could use at any one of a number of vineyards in the south of England. We looked at the map and decided to use it at the Carr Taylor vineyard which is found a few miles north of Hastings in East Sussex. I booked the visit for the 12th July and then searched for a place to stay nearby for a couple of nights as we intended to stay in the ‘van and use our bikes to get to the vineyard. We chose the Meadow View campsite as it seemed to be closest to the vineyard, and we reserved our space for the 2 nights.

Our drive to East Sussex was uneventful; it was dual carriageway for most of the way. The last 12 miles or so to the campsite was not so easy; our satnav took us cross country along some very narrow and steep roads. Thankfully the oncoming traffic was fairly light and gave way to let us pass.

Parked up and ready for the tour of the vineyard

The weather had been scorching for the previous couple of weeks. A change was forecast. It started raining shortly after we arrived at the campsite and it rained very heavily all night. This was a worry for our cycle ride. Thankfully, the rain stopped by about 6am.

Hmmm…the bike ride was a little harder than anticipated. The terrain around Sedlescombe/Westfield is very hilly and not brilliantly signposted. One wrong turn and we ended up cycling about 4 miles further than intended. Somehow, we managed to arrive on time.

The tour of the Carr Taylor vineyard itself was well worth the visit. The tour group was about 20 strong, the guide was very knowledgeable, explaining how the vines were planted, which varieties were grown and why, and he had heaps of interesting information about how a vineyard and wine producer works throughout the seasons.

The wine tasting was an eye opener for me. I had only tasted English wine once, and that was enough. My experience was limited to tasting an English red wine from a local vineyard. Carr Taylor doesn’t produce red wines, the reason being that we don’t get enough sunshine in England to ripen the grapes, so they stick to white and rose wines, and to fruit wines including apples, elderberry and others.

The tour lasted for a couple of hours but the time passed quickly as our guide was very  entertaining. It concluded with a wine tasting- then lunch with a glass of still white wine.The tasting comprised  sparkling brut white and sparkling rose, followed by still white and still rose and then a selection of their fruit wines. Carr Taylor is planted with mostly German sounding grape varieties as well as some Pinot and Chardonnay Their white and rose wines, and the fruit wines, are really very good, so good in fact that we bought a bottle of rose and two bottles of apple.

Tucking into the buffet lunch complete with stilton, pate and local wine.

The cloud had disappeared by now and it was starting to warm up a bit. We had decided to buy a couple of bottles of the local produce and were discussing with the tour guide how to get it back to the ‘van when he mentioned that the vineyard operates a ‘BritStop’ camp site on the premises. So, we could have parked in their campsite/carpark just yards away from the tour start point! Oh, yes, and we discovered there had been a Groupon offer at the campsite…missed that, too! Oh well, at least the vineyard tour was a gift!

These three beauties will go into the wine fridge for a while, but they won’t have to wait too long before being opened.

So, we loaded 3 bottles into the pannier bag and attached it to my bike, then it was back to the van for an afternoon relaxing in what was left of the summer sunshine. 

Very tasty home made chilli accompanied by French cider for dinner. The chilli had been in the van freezer since the beginning of June so was ready to be eaten.