“You haven’t really been anywhere until you’ve come back home”
-Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic
I’m in the middle of planning an amazing trip for 2015. It’s proving to be a lot of organising and, if I’m completely honest, sometimes I’m not even sure where to start – so all help, advice and tips will be greatly received by this novice solo traveller.
I’ve had my nose in a pile of travel guides every chance I can get, soaking up as much information as possible, and reading about all the wonderful and exciting things that I’m going to get to do.
And its easy, when you’ve got your head in the clouds, to forget about all the beautiful things on your own doorstep. When I’m sat at my desk feeling glum, in an office in lovely historic Stratford-upon-Avon, its easy to dismiss the place and long for pastures new.
I grew up a few miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, in a small market town that’s all white and black buildings, country pubs, and hanging baskets. Its postcard-perfect But, in a typical teenage manner, I really couldn’t wait to leave the place when I went to university. I couldn’t wait to start a new adventure, somewhere completely different.
I moved to Manchester where I spent 8 wonderful years and then London where I spent 1 very busy and exhausting year, but ended up back in my home county in January 2014. Obviously, me being me, it wasn’t long before I was planning my next adventure, but reality bites, and anything worth doing usually requires a bit of cash, something London left me lacking. Fast forward six months later and I’m busy squirreling away my shire-earned gold.
And, although this isn’t the place I’d like to settle (usually the notion of “homesickness” puts me in mind of Manchester) it is where my family and some of my very good friends live, and its where my roots are.
It is also incredibly beautiful. It takes years of city living to realise just how lucky I was to grow up in such an idyllic place (even if it did take forever to get used to being woken up my cows mooing rather than the hustle and bustle of Westminster). Days spent catching the bus through country lanes, hanging out on the rec, playing rounders, flirting with boys down the skate park are fondly remembered (well, for the most part).
Look at the RSC, for example. How lucky am I to have one of the world’s best known theatre companies on my doorstep? With an ever-changing programme of fabulous plays from Shakespeare (modernised and traditional) to musicals like Matilda, children’s plays like Wendy and Peter Pan, and – with over 30 writers currently working to produce new material – various other one off wonders, its hard not to find something worth watching, even if Shakespeare isn’t your bag.
In 2010, the theatre reopened with a brand new look after a brief hiatus and spruce-up. The new 1000+ seat thrust stage auditorium is amazing, and really brings the audience and actors close together. Just after Christmas, I took my niece to see Wendy and Peter Pan, a wonderfully modern version of Peter Pan, which portrayed Wendy as the heroine (it was all about girls saving the boys for once – and Wendy becomes an excellent fighter of pirates).
It was magical to watch the look on my niece’s face as we witnessed fairies flying around, a pirate ship appear on stage and other world’s pop up from beneath the floorboards.
It’s also a great space to walk around in the daytime – especially if the kids need a bit of entertaining – with dress up boxes and costumes dotted around the red-stone corridors. You can also head up The Tower (kids go free in the summer holidays) and look above and over the town and the river.
There’s also a pretty fab café for the grownups with some of the most beautiful looking cakes, tasty coffee and a wonderfully scenic outside space right on the River Avon (and there’s plenty of wine and good food in the restaurant if you – like me – are partial to a tipple or six).
But – despite the over use of his quotes for business names – Stratford is more than just William Shakespeare! Its also unbelievably pretty.
There’s plenty to do along the River Avon and you’ll be sure to find something for everyone.
From row upon row of barges (including restaurants, ice cream shops as well as people’s homes complete with cute dogs in neckerchiefs!) to sprawling green lawns perfect for picnicking or playing games with the kids. There are also rowing and motorised boats that can be rented out, a quirky little ferry that the kids seem to love, historic churches, and plenty of riverside places to stop and have something to eat or drink. The Dirty Duck is a particular favourite of mine, or – if you’re looking for hearty pub fare – The Garrick Inn is situated a short walk away in the main High Street. Its Stratford’s oldest pub and well worth the visit, even just for a gander at the exterior and a swift cider.
There are a number of other great attractions nearby. If you ever find yourself in sunny Warwickshire, pop by Stratford-upon-Avon, and if none of the above float your boat, perhaps try one of the below.
- Stratford-upon-Avon Canal
- Tudor World
- Stratford-upon-Avon Mini Golf
- Victoria Spa Lodge
- Mary Arden’s Farm
- Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens
- Shakespeare’s Birthplace
- Leamington Spa
- Warwick Castle
- The Shakespeare Express
- Stratford-upon-Avon Racecourse
As for me, I’m going to enjoy my time back in my hometown. Probably with a G&T in my hand, a few more plays under my belt and far too many pub lunches consumed.
Because its true what they say, you know, there really is no place like home.