Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Literary Tour: Day 7

Day 7: Wells, Somerset (Elizabeth Goudge)

As we head back up through the West Country it is time to hit the Elizabeth Goudge trail again. This time we are visiting the setting for my favourite of her cathedral city books: A City of Bells. Although she changes the name, the story takes place in the city of her birth, Wells in Somerset, where her father was vice-principal and then principal of the Theological College. Wells is a small city dominated by its medieval cathedral, which is a gem.

Elizabeth Goudge was privileged to grow up literally in the shadow of the cathedral. The garden of the Principal's House:

... had something in it which few gardens can boast; a cathedral for one of its walls. Beside the Cathedral, under an archway, a gate opened into a small graveyard and from there another archway led into the cloisters. Whenever I liked I could run through the green garth to the cloisters, and I often did. I liked being there alone and gazing out through the arches at the central square of green grass that seemed to breathe out cool quietness as a well does.
She also had her own private route to the beautiful moated Bishop's Palace:
On the south of our garden a low wall separated us from a peaceful curve of water, a kind of lake, with flowers growing beside it, that stretched out like a friendly arm from the main waterway of the moat. Beside it was a green watery place that was then an extension of our garden, but I think is separated from it now. It was reached through a low gate just the right size for a child. ...The path that led through this wild green place ended at a door that led into the palace gardens, and we had been given a key of the door so that Nanny and I, and any visitors who might be staying with us, could go into the palace gardens whenever we liked.
After exploring the cathedral we can enjoy a leisurely stroll round the Bishop's Palace - still the official residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells - and Vicar's Close, a street of fourteenth century houses build to accommodate cathedral clergy.

After our stroll has given us an appetite we can go back to the cathedral. Tevye and I discovered many years ago that one of the hallmarks of Anglican cathedrals is that they are a good stopping point for lunch or afternoon tea. There are not that many places where you can eat for a reasonable price in medieval surroundings. It looks as though Wells Cathedral restaurant is no exception.