It rained on Saturday, the first time since I was here that I had to use an umbrella. So I decided to visit the Somerset County Museum in Taunton. Given my experience in driving into Exeter, I decided to try the Park and Ride. Turned out great. There is a nice free parking lot on the road into town, the bus was there waiting, took me right downtown. The driver directed me to the museum, which was only two blocks away, and had NO parking.
It is a great museum. There are three floors of the history of the area, with large print booklets with all the labels. The ground floor was all fossils and prehistoric artifacts, which I found fascinating. The exhibits began with rocks which came from a time when England was on the equator as part of the vast continent of Pangea 270 million years ago. (Had to come home and google the earth history. Puts a different perspective on climate change.) In the course of the exhibit they explained the formation of coal here and the history of mining.
At the very back of the hall is a beautiful intact Roman mosaic from a local villa. The showpiece, of course. On the next floor were hoards of Roman coins and artifacts. This was where I had been starting the history of the area. Well, further back with Stonehenge, of coure. The final floor was from the Saxons to the present, with pieces from castles and churches, which echoed what I have seen.
On the way back to the bus, I had a gourmet hamburger at the brasserie under the castle gate. (The museum is in the castle.) This is one of the Michelin restaurants in Taunton. The food scene in England has definitely changed. Then I had to ask around a bit to find where to catch the return bus. I always forget that part.
Today I went to Dorset, mostly on the trail of Thomas Hardy locations. But first I cut across country on narrow roads through little villages, heading for Milton Abbey, which is now a private school, but they had a holiday week, so it was open for visitors. They had advertised a tea shop online. It is more the student hang out. I was the only customer and had a latte and a BLT. Then I toured the lovely Gothic church and met a family who had been married there about 15 years ago when he was a teacher there.
Then I went to Hardy’s home, which he built, near Dorchester. I hadn’t known that he was an architect. It is now a National Trust property and they have kept it very homey, with tea and biscuits in the kitchen and chairs in the garden. Hardy lived there from about 1890 to 1925. He was very far-sighted and put in a water reclamation scheme. While digging in the garden, they discovered that the house was located in the center of a stone circle which predates Stonehenge. (Well, archeologists dated this after Hardy’s death) I like to think he knew this on some level when he chose the site.
Back for more rugby, Australia v. Argentina, which was the exact opposite of the previous semi, all wild plays and passion, with Australia winning. Now I am sorry I won’t be here for the classic final.
Tomorrow I go to Cornwall for two days to investigate my Celtic roots at the tip of the island.