The Road South, Days 3-5: Following the Staffordshire Hoard

Part of the reasoning behind this extended trip was to take advantage of being in the Midlands to go and see the Staffordshire Hoard, the huge collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure that was found in 2010. I studied Anglo-Saxon literature at uni and pop into the British Museum to say hello to the Sutton Hoo finds every time I’m in London, so I’ve been wanting to see this for ages. Not all of it is on display, of course, because it’s still being investigated, and it’s split between a number of sites in the Midlands, hence my route over the last few days.

The biggest part is in the Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, which I reached by a succession of country buses (bus is the way to cross the Peak District – every time you drive round a corner there’s a new stunning view to enjoy). Once there, I found out that the two crosses have gone to Durham, which is a very long way from my route, but I got to see the horse, which is actually only about an inch and a half long, and admire the garnet and filigree work on the sword fittings.

I was staying back in Hartington that night, which was an advantage, in so far as all I had to do on that very hot afternoon was sit on buses with one bag. The next day, however, I headed south, to Ashby-de-la-Zouch via Derby and Burton-Upon-Trent. I didn’t stop to sightsee much, because my bags are heavy and it was very hot again, but I did wander around the various town centres and spent a happy hour exploring Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle.

Day 5 took me another 70 miles, via two more hoard sites, Lichfield Cathedral and Tamworth Castle, a beautifully preserved Motte and Bailey Castle/Tudor Castle. I finished in Birmingham, where the final part of the hoard is kept, but here I was thwarted. I got to within about 100m of the gallery, but by then the surrounding streets were filling up with police in riot gear and there was a very nasty looking crowd between me and the gallery. Deciding discretion was the better part of valour, I retreated (Birmingham is just close enough to home that I could get there on a day trip). I found out later that it was the EDL ‘protesting’ with the help of broken bottles and lots of booze. Yet another reason to hate those racist fuckwits.

From Birmingham, I got one more bus, and arrived in Stratford-Upon-Avon just before seven. It took me another hour to find the hostel, twelve hours after I’d left the previous one. Amazing day, but my feet still hurt this morning! Pictures under the cut!

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Hartington Hall Youth Hostel in the early sun. Such a great place to stay (I was in the old coach house round the back, but it was still one of the nicer hostels I’ve stayed in).

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A random street in Derby. For some reason, I thought Derby was more modern than this, but the centre is really pretty.

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The keep at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle. You can climb to the top of this, but the appeal is being able to see the shape of old rooms – there’s a fireplace at the top if you look closely. This castle also comes complete with a secret underground passage from the keep to the kitchens!

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Lichfield Cathedral, with its three spires. It’s gloomy and Gothic inside, with some amazing medieval treasures in the chapter house.

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Tamworth Castle. Fantastic place, which is set up really well for visitors with lots of interactive displays for kids in amongst the lovely historic buildings.

IMG_2678The centre of Birmingham. About 30 seconds later, police in riot gear started running past and I retreated.

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