Cool but fine night, showers threatening most of the day but fine and overall a good day.
Into Colchester to check out another couple of ruined abbeys. No two are ever really the same, some similarities and then two like this that are so different. Unfortunately, most of them met one of two fates, either destroyed by King Henry VIII or destroyed during the civil war. St Botolph's Abbey of which only part of the church remains, was built in 1177. Rather than the usual walls and columns of stone block and rubble filling, these columns appear to be a smaller river stone in layers separated by a red brick. Makes quite an impact in the sunlight. The front facade is of similar construction except the red bricks have been used to set out the designs of the wall. The priory was closed by King Henry VIII in 1536 and the lands given away although the church remained in use. The church was later destroyed in the civil war fighting in 1648.
The only remaining building of St John's Abbey is the gate tower. Built around 1400, the gate features decoration in flint to create patterns, This apparently reflected the wealth and importance of the Abbey. In 1538, the Abbot challenged the right of King Henry VIII to close the abbey and was executed for his troubles in 1539. The Gatehouse was damaged in the civil war of 1648.
Leaving Colchester, our next stop was in Coggeshall to take a look at their "Grand Barn". Believed to be constructed in the 13th century. The barn was altered in the 14th century and remained in use until around 1970. The original walls were wattle stakes and daub. Over the centuries, this has been replaced by hardboards. The building fell into ruin after it was no longer used but was fully restored in 1985. The roof, also restored is shingles but made with clay tiles that were manufactured by the abbey that built the barn. Inside the barn was an old wheat threshing machine from around 1910. These were driven by a steam tractor and I haven't seen on of these threshing machines since I was a young fella.
Also on display was a collection of tools formerly used by a local carpenter and wood carver early in the 20th century. Terrific collection well presented and very interesting to see.
Next it was on to Bocking, north of Braintree to check out an old pole mill. This is the second of these we have come across and just like before, we couldn't access it.
Back on the road, we headed for Cambridge and having learned a few things, in large cities, we first find a car park, park the car and walk to anything we want to see. Almost impossible to get street parking, especially free, although we have been lucky sometimes, so parking stations are the best way to go. The budget for parking has to be almost as much as the budget for coffee, especially in small towns that will charge $5.00 for up to 3 hours or $10.00 for the day, even if you only want to park for an hour.
In Cambridge we spent the early afternoon walking around the old town around Cambridge University looking at the magnificent buildings of the University colleges. One interesting building was the Taylor Library of the Corpus Christi College. In the front of the building is a clock, the stainless steel face of which is plated with 24 carat gold and the time is displayed by the uncovering of blue lights. It is an interesting piece of work, entirely mechanical with electricity only used to light the lights and wind the mechanism. The dominating features of the clock are the "Grasshopper" like sculpture on top and the pendulum below. While the pendulum drives the "grasshopper", the "grasshopper" drives the clock and keeps the pendulum in motion.
Second last stop for the day, after the drive through St Ives, was the Houghton Mill at Houghton. This mill was built in the 18th century and operated until around 1930. Owned by the National Trust, the mill has been restored and new millstones installed in 1999. Although not working today, the mill does work every Sunday using the renovated waterwheel. The flour ground at the mill is sold to assist with upkeep.
Last stop for the day was the Raptor Foundation at Huntingdon near St Ives. This also is our accommodation for tonight so we are surrounded by a large collection of Owls, Hawks, Falcons, Eagles , Kites and Buzzards and we have been warned that we may be woken by a Kookaburra in the morning. There are other animals here including meercats. We will get a better look at them all in the morning although the evening free flight display was quite good. It is used as part of the training of the younger birds.
No, we didn't find the man and his seven wives here either but we'll see how we go tomorrow.