A Winchester Break
It sounds like the advertisement for Kitkat, but everyone needs a break! Strolling hand in hand by the river Itchen last weekend with my husband, I was so glad that he had arranged one for us. Terry is not famous for being spontaneous, but a few weeks earlier when the card advertising the half price break at a hotel near Winchester dropped on our doormat, he surprised me by saying, “Let’s do that!”
The last Together on a Mission week had been wonderful but surprisingly demanding, emotionally and physically (there is a lot of walking and standing about, not to mention many conversations, and the actual speaking that we both did). Added to that, we had many house guests, and the continual roller-coaster of trying to sell our house. (We have a buyer…but there are complications, lots of phone calls with agents and solicitors….keep praying…). So we were ready for a break!
It was great to head off west and take the pretty route, stopping when we felt like it. Saturday morning came with the promise of a beautiful day! Invigorated by an early morning swim (yes, Terry as well) we found our way to the beautiful historic centre of Winchester. A great statue of King Alfred stands at the foot of the main street which is lined with ancient buildings, and the massive cathedral looms nearby surrounded by colourful gardens. Incidentally, Jane Austen is buried there; and currently there is an exhibition celebrating 400 years of the King James Bible.
We wandered happily in the sunshine through the many market stalls along with crowds of shoppers buying cheeses, pies and vegetables…and other slightly odd things like pillows and duvets.
We found a nice pub for lunch slightly out of town. The girl who took our order said, “I’ll bring it out to you in the garden. I know who you are!” It turned out she belongs to the Newfrontiers church there. (This happens to us quite often.) She suggested a walk by the river, so in the afternoon we found the water meadows through which runs the river Itchen. By now the sun was hot and it was very refreshing to watch the cool clear water rushing by, and ducks floating along with their young ones paddling madly to keep up. There is a lovely, gentle feel about an English historic town in summer, the cathedral tower not far off, grey stone city walls that have stood for centuries, and the sound of bells floating across the water meadows, as people stroll about in shorts and summer dresses with icecreams, and kids in sunhats. I like it.
We were a tad late for church the next day, not having appreciated that the car park would be used by a street market. But we parked in a multi storey under a mall, and made it in, only to be placed by a friendly steward right next to John Groves the (former) pastor, and his wife Marion. No hiding then! We felt instantly at home and enjoyed the worship and John’s excellent preach.
After another lovely sunny afternoon mostly by the water’s edge, I remarked to Terry that perhaps we had better be moving as it was 5 o’clock and we didn’t know when the car park closed. It was quite a long way back and took nearly half an hour at a fairly quick pace. Panting, we arrived at the car park which was ominously quiet, and down the end of the ramp I could see a metal gate barring the entrance. Slightly panicking, we rushed to the mall entrance, relieved that it was open. We ran in and found the stairs down to the car park. An attendant swinging a bunch of keys was also going down so I asked him when the car park closed. “At 5.30”, he said. I looked at my watch. 5.25 Phew! That could have been very awkward indeed!
Congratulating ourselves on a timely escape we drove to Stockbridge, a spectacularly pretty village with a trout stream running through it, and plenty of pubs to choose from for a good meal. This is beginning to sound far too much like a travel brochure; I am not being paid by Hampshire county council. But I just want to express how pleasing it is when a few comparatively simple things come together to produce such an enjoyable and enriching experience: warm sunny weather, an old city full of ancient beauty, the bustle and colour of market stalls, clear running water, worshipping with the family of God, appetising meals in pub gardens, and enjoying it all with the one I most love.
I am a happy woman.