Summer is here, it is reported, and a good walk is all the more enjoyable for it. Today’s article chronicles in words and pictures a short walk around the previously mentioned Southwell in Nottinghamshire, the ‘Southwell Town Trail’. I can suggest this stroll of just 2.2 miles around the pretty town as an interesting and pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a nice afternoon.
My recent visit to Southwell took in that quintessential pastime of a cup of tea at the idyllic tea room and garden in the village of Bleasby a few miles south off the road to Lowdham.
I can heartily recommend this place which comprises of an old stable block converted into a tearoom complete with the attractive gardens to an old rectory.
Bleasby Tea Room garden
Our walk began outside the ancient Minster. The first significant sight was the stately beauty of the many climbing wisteria plants draped languidly over the frontages of large imposing homes and small cottages alike.
In truth, on a walking tour such is this one there is little opportunity to gain a head of walking steam. There are too many photographic opportunities and points of interest to look at along the way. For a comparatively small place, Southwell has an incommensurate amount of points of historical interest dotted around the town. The first one on this short journey being the Bramley Tree Cottage. Behind the cottage in a private garden lies the very first Bramley apple tree planted back in the 19th century. The Bramley Seedling, originally popularised by local nurseryman, Mr. Merryweather, is surely the very best of cooking apples, having outstanding and well-renowned culinary properties.
Shortly afterwards the walk takes a pleasant diversion behind the main street’s cottages, through some shrouded woodland and up to Burgage Green with its own historic tale to tell.
The former House of Correction in Southwell only exhibits its well-preserved original gateway these days but still offers an intriguing look back to where the old prison would have stood from 1807. The Burgage itself is a green and pleasant corner just to the north of the town and almost feels like a separate little place in its sleepy and shady situation just over the hill from the main business of Southwell.
Before leaving the Burgage we find the home of arguably Southwell’s most famous (or infamous according to your point of view!) resident. It was here at Burgage Manor that one Lord Byron lived with his mother from 1804 until 1806. When people talk of Byron, Newstead is always mentioned but few relate the fact that the great romantic poet lived in the small Nottinghamshire market town for a significant period of time.
Southwell has many old inns and we pass one of them, The Wheatsheaf on the way down to the next historic point, The Saracen’s Head in the centre of town. The inn which is a focal point of Southwell is where Charles I enjoyed his last few days of freedom before being arrested by Scottish Commissioners in the Civil War. The building was originally called The King’s Head and parts of the present day inn date back to when it was first constructed in the 12th century. The Saracen’s Head was rebuilt in the 16th century and remains a fine hotel, restaurant and bar.
The Saracen’s Head
After a drink in the quiet backwater of the courtyard where horse and coaches would have once passed, we crossed the deceptively busy little road outside, over to the magnificent Southwell Minster. Words seem inappropriate to describe the huge old place of worship.
Like many churches it evolved over different eras but unlike many dates back to Norman times. Christian worship began approximately 1000 years ago on this site and is recorded from 900 years ago in the present building. A visit, especially to one of the concerts in the Minster, is the only way to really appreciate its grandeur. On a lighter note, a pleasant diversion, especially if children are present, is to play the game of locating the ‘church mice’ that are carved into various furnishings around the interior. Beware this is no easy task!
The Southwell Town Trail.