Friday, 18 July 2014

Presteigne and Pembridge

I've had a lovely morning!
Brian was going up to Presteigne to buy some stock for his shop from Tony Bird, the bookseller there, and offered to take me along for the run out. It's years since I went to Presteigne - though Tony seems much the same (maybe slightly greyer, and that's probably a different dog in his shop).
So, while Brian delved into the piles of books out in the shed round the side of the shop, I went for a walk up the high street. It's a pleasant place, with a library that was open when I passed, and the Judge's Lodging museum down a side road, and lots of black and white timber framed houses. There are a couple of restaurants - the Hat Shop and the Fig Tree. I bought a loaf that was still warm from the oven at the local deli; there's a greengrocer too, and a butcher - everything you could want in a street of little, local shops.
I went into the St Michael's Hospice shop, and came out with a sparkly silver and black scarf and a round black hat that only cost me £1, as well as a selection of picture frames that I'm going to use to frame some of my embroideries.
When Brian had finished stacking up the books, we didn't want to go straight home, so we headed off to a cafe he knows in Pembridge.
Pembridge is another lovely village that I hadn't been to for years. We stopped in a free public car park round the back of one of the pubs (and there were public toilets there, too - with facilities for the disabled).
Ye Olde Steppes is close to The New Inn, and backs onto the churchyard. It has its own website at It's a lovely black and white timber framed building, with a local shop selling everything from newspapers to local cider and vegetables and even ice cream, and a beautiful tea room, like something out of a Miss Marple mystery. We sat in the bay window, looking out onto the main road over the heads of the teddy bears' picnic that was arranged on the window ledge. They have a long garden behind the shop where customers can sit out as well. They serve a variety of teas and coffees, and I was delighted to see Russian Caravan tea on the menu, which came in beautiful crockery. Brian highly recommends the sandwich made with Hereford Hop cheese, and we both had slices of home made Victoria sponge, oozing with cream and jam, afterwards.
It was fascinating to look round at the ancient timbers and work out how the building had changed over the years - behind us was a blocked medieval doorway which had once led to a long hall, long since demolished. Where it once stood is now the garden of the chapel next door, which was built in 1888 and is now an art gallery with metal sculptures filling the front lawn.
I look at old buildings from an archaeological point of view, while Brian approaches the subject from his engineering background, so between us we can deduce the history of a building pretty well, and the conversations are fascinating (if you're interested in architecture and engineering, that is!).
After our snack, we ambled round the village, taking in the medieval market hall behind the New Inn, Bishop Doppa's almshouses across from Ye Olde Steppes, and the church itself. It's got a detached bell tower, which was open today, so we went in to marvel at the great wooden frame that holds the bells (built in the seventeenth century and last restored in 1956) - after putting 10p in the slot to turn on the lights!
Inside the church, we spotted the remnants of the Norman pillar embedded in the wall near the altar, and looked at the display showing the men of the village who had died in the First World War, decorated with knitted poppies. One lad had been a midshipman on HMS Indefatigable, which was sunk in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 - out of a crew of a thousand, only two men survived.

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