"" Writer's Wanderings: Sandwich, England

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sandwich, England

Spending the afternoon in Sandwich sounds almost like an overindulgent lunch but Sandwich, England, was quite a unique and interesting town. Of course who can mention Sandwich without thinking of the Earl, John Montagu, who claimed to be the originator of the modern day lunchtime staple? He was something of a rascal and it is said that the reason the sandwich came to be was that he didn’t want to leave the gaming table and so took his sustenance by putting a piece of meat between two slices of bread and eating with one hand while playing with the other.

Our trip to Sandwich on the bus was made even more pleasant by a lovely English lady who sat behind us and introduced herself when she figured out we were from the States. What gave us away? The map? An accent? Did we look like colonists? She said she had lived in the States as a girl and then came back to England. When Bob asked how long she’d been living in England she replied, “Too d**n long!” Ah, a proper English lady—one with a sense of humor.

Our proper English lady suggested we not take the train back to Dover but rather take another bus route that went through beautiful countryside—a bit long but we would see wonderful wild flowers and quaint villages. She was right.

But back to Sandwich. It is a town that was once the major port of England but now sits two miles inland. Blame those refugees from the Netherlands that settled the area in the late 16th century. They introduced dykes and drainage and made an area to farm. The town has narrow streets and some very old structures that give you a real sense of the medieval era when it was flourishing.

We stopped at the visitor center which is right next to the little bus stop in the middle of town. (Be aware that the bus driver may not announce this stop. Ask to be informed.) A pamphlet was available with a walking tour and with that in hand, we set out.

Part of the walk was along a beautiful riverbank with lots of ducks and swans. It was called the Ropewalk and was where they once made rope for the ships. They needed a long stretch of area for “walking out” the rope.

One of the more picturesque buildings we passed was an old hospital, St. Thomas, named for St Thomas Becket. In 1392, it accommodated 12 poor persons.

St. Peter’s church still rings a curfew bell at 8 p.m., an old medieval practice. Another church, St. Clement’s was the site for the election or rather appointment of a mayor by Common Consent. Any mayor refusing the appointment had his house demolished. The practice was ended in 1683.

While walking through the cemetary of one church, we fell in behind some lads on their way home from school. One of the great things I have discovered as we travel is that kids are kids no matter where in the world you are. These fellows had fun hiding behind grave markers and jumping out at each other.

It was a nice afternoon of strolling through history with a break for cream tea at a little tea house in a garden area. While the place was very nice, the cream tea was disappointing. The scones were a bit old and the clotted cream didn’t have the sweet taste I remembered from our last trip. Still, it was fun to sit and sip and watch the folks stream in for their afternoon tea. Sometimes I wish we’d thrown something else into the Boston Harbor and kept the tradition.

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