By train to Exeter, first class. One of those rare occasions when I found first class tickets cheaper than standard, and what a difference it made to our journey. In fact the carriage we were in seemed brand new…the leather seats were sumptuous, it was all nice and quiet and refined, and free coffee and pastries were welcome. I never want to travel second class again! The train journey itself is a picturesque one crossing several rivers and estuaries, lovely countryside and Powderham Castle (which we must visit soon). We arrived at Exeter St David’s and did the 20 minute walk into the city centre, past some nice houses, parts of
the medieval town wall and a pleasant park. We then booked the one hour tour around the cathedral (2 for 1 with our rail journey…welcome because it was £7.50 each otherwise). A fascinating tour around a simply marvellous Gothic interior, one of the finest in Europe. It is most famous perhaps for its two Norman towers and impressive west front carvings but also for the fact that it has the longest unbroken stretch of Gothic vaulting in the world. The bosses were magnificently painted and it was truly awe-inspiring to see a full reproduction of one at ground level…..a full two tons in weight, and each one acting as the keystone. We were impressed too with the Minstrels’ Gallery, the 15 Century Astronomical Clock, the complete set of Misercords (with a very interesting side-story of the one carved as an elephant), and the highly decorated tombs, bosses and corbels. Great for me in particular was to see the chantry chapel of Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter who was one of the founders of my school Manchester Grammar School. I was delighted to see, on seemingly every inch of spare space, carvings of the owl which I used to proudly (I think) wear on my school cap. This reflected Hugh’s sense of humour as he was ribbed for his North Country accent when he referred to himself as ‘ Ugh Owldom’. We wandered around more of the city seeing different pieces of the town wall (apparently 70% survives), and for the first time Exeter Castle which is quite impressive. Much to see in future visits….