Yesterday I was up early and getting ready to catch the train from my local station to Derby. I was the only person on the little platform and when the disembodied announcement came over the hidden tannoy that the train was approaching the station it made me jump. I was happy trundling along on the little train going through tunnels and passing rivers and streams, trees turning russett and golden and fields full of pheasants rushing, helter skelter as the train passed by. We arrived on time in Derby and I had a short wait to catch my next train to Leicester. This train was a modern, sleek affair which filled the whole of the platform as it came in from Sheffield on its way to London, St Pancras. In contrast to the first train which was full of people with rucksacks and bicycles and groups of friends going shopping this train was full of people talking loudly on mobile phones, listening to I-pods or tapping away on laptops. I felt an interloper in this busy, workday environment overhearing discussions about business I'm sure I shouldn't have been overhearing. In twenty minutes I was in Leicester and my friend who had travelled up from Peterborough was waiting for me. We'd been planning this meeting for some time and now the day was here and what a lovely day it was too.
We were soon at the top of New Walk, one of my favourite parts of Leicester as I have lots of memories of it. I used to walk up and down here from the Museum Studies Department of Leicester University when I was studying for the Museum's Diploma, about 20 years ago. I spent two lots of three week sessions lodging in a house with other students further up New Walk opposite the De Montfort Hall; but we were headed down New Walk because coffee was needed after our journey and where better to find it than the New Walk Museum.
Over morning coffee we caught up on news about our families and of mutual friends, we looked around the Museum - some parts of it were closed for refurbishment - but the Egyptian Mummies were still there. I spent the first five years of my life in Leicester before we moved to Derbyshire. We lived just north of New Walk by the Royal Infirmary and the Granby Halls; the streets we lived in have long gone - the area now the hospital car park - but the Museum is still there. My mother told me that the two things I loved most in the museum were the giraffe (long since moved to Wollaton Hall in Nottingham) because it was so tall, and the mummies.
We'd spent ages chatting over coffee, wandering around the museum and making purchases from the shop. Our aim was to visit the Newarke Houses Museum so we set off down into the centre of the City. We passed the Cathedral and couldn't resist popping in to have a look.
It was beautiful inside.........
.....and out. The building next door to it is The Guildhall, unfortunately closed on Thursdays, the modern building on the other side of the road is the Radio Leicester building.
It won't surprise you to know that I couldn't resist taking this photo of the memorial to Richard III in the chancel.
After a lunch of carrot and corriander soup with french bread we ventured towards Newarke Houses. After losing our bearings and getting lost in the nightmare of roadworks around St Nicholas Circle and The Magazine ( the fifteenth century gatehouse to Leicester Castle) and with lots of kindly intended but not always accurate directions from passers by we arrived at our goal. We got there via the Church of St Mary de Castro, one of the oldest churches in Leicester, and through the archway into the castle grounds towards The Great Hall. The lovely Norman door into the church was at the side of the archway.
The church was built as a chapel for Leicester Castle which stood in this area. Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales was married here to Philippa Roet, sister-in-law of John of Gaunt, who owned the castle. We wandered past the Great Hall of the castle which now has a Georgian frontage. Apparently inside is the original timbered framed hall but it is rarely opened to the public. This led under another archway which I think must be a part of the old castle.
Just around the corner was the Newarke Houses Museum - the house on the right of the picture below is the oldest of the two houses which was the Chantry House for the church of St Mary de Castro which means 'St Mary beside the Castle' - seen in the background.
The main entrance to the Museum is below. There were some wonderful displays in here about the history of Leicester, street scenes, room settings, the Royal Leicestershire Regiment and even a WWI trench. We spent ages looking around.
All to soon it was time to head back towards the station to catch our trains home. We had a cup of afternoon tea in Fenwick's Department Store on our way back to New Walk. At the station we waited for our trains on the same platform, mine came in first, my friend's ten minutes after. We said our goodbyes and set off on our way home. We'd had a lovely day, seen some wonderful things, had a good old chat and the sun shone all the time. What more could you ask for?