I have visited Shakespeare’s Stratford Upon Avon on many occasions but on my most recent visit I opted to join a Stratford Town Walk, the Award-winning guided walking tours of the Bards hometown. The guide for my walk was Joan, who I met by the yellow sign, next to the Swan fountain on Waterside, right in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, opposite the junction with Sheep Street.
Founded fifteen years ago, Joan is one of a team of enthusiastic, dedicated and professional guides who lead groups of walkers around Stratford Upon Avon every day of the year, including Christmas Day, whatever the weather!
Our group of fourteen walkers, excitedly retraced the footsteps of William Shakespeare from his birthplace on Henley Street to his last resting place in the splendid Holy Trinity Church, along the historic streets of ancient Stratford. It was like walking through the pages of history with plenty of fascinating snippets of historical interest provided to the group from our guide, Joan.
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking
We were shown the Stratford public library, which must be one of the most beautiful libraries in the country. Now a grade II Listed building, the building was saved from demolition after a successful conservation campaign led by Marie Corelli, a best-selling novelist of the late nineteenth century. Corelli moved to Stratford and donated money to worthy causes helping to preserve much of the towns heritage, becoming one of the first true conservationists.
William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, was born in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 on St. George’s day (23rd April) and died on the same day in 1616.
Next door to the splendid Garrick Inn, arguably the oldest public House in Stratford, is Harvard House, built in 1596 it is one of the oldest buildings in Stratford Upon Avon. On the 4th July the Stars and Stripes is hung from the protruding flag pole to celebrate American Independence Day. The house is open every July 4th, Heritage Weekend and Thanksgiving. The house is owned by Harvard University!
Shrieve’s House on Sheep Street is thought to be the oldest lived-in house in Stratford upon Avon. The house was once owned by William Rogers, the real-life person who inspired Shakespeare’s comic Falstaff character. Now ‘Falstaff’s House’ has been transformed into an award-winning Tudor World Museum.
The Guild Chapel, on the opposite corner to the Tudor style Falcon Hotel was a fascinating place. We were given the opportunity to sit down and rest our feet for a couple of minutes whilst we admired the intriguing medieval wall painting including one which was called, Doom. It reminded me of the hellish scenes from the work of Hieronymus Bosch`s, The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The wall paintings were defaced and lime washed in the 16th Century following the Reformation, on orders given to John Shakespeare, the father of the playwright. Hidden for hundreds of years, they are now said to be amongst the finest medieval wall paintings to have survived in all of Europe.
We also paused briefly outside Shakespeare`s Schoolrooms and heard stories of the long school day that William and his school chums would have endured, including beatings!
After a short stroll from Hall’s Croft we came to the magnificent Holy Trinity Church where for a small additional fee we saw a plaque showing where William Shakespeare is buried in the Chancel and were told a story about why there is a ‘curse’ on his grave. Apparently, bones were often dug up and burnt, hence the word bonfire, but William had placed a curse on his grave to help discourage anyone from trying to dig up his remains! We were also told about the twelve trees lining the path to the church, which represents the twelve disciples with one tree standing back from the others, Judas Iscariot of course! The twelve on the other side represents the twelve tribes of Israel.
From Holy Trinity Church we strolled back along the picturesque River Avon to the Royal Shakespeare Theatres. It was here that Joan pointed out the towns collection of donated lamp posts including fixtures from Edinburgh, Glamorgan and Israel, the latter depicting Bottom with his ass’s ears and Topol from Fiddler on the Roof, overlooked by a small owl from The owl and the pussycat by Edward Lear, perched on top of the lamp post.
Joan made the two hour walk both informative, interesting and entertaining. She had a great knowledge of the town and the works of Shakespeare. I would fully recommend a Shakespeare Walk if you are new to the town. If you are planning on staying for a few days in Stratford try and do the walk early so that you get a flavour of the town`s history.
You will be given several vouchers which can be used at various places around the town. At £6 for the guided walk you can very easily get most of that back by using your vouchers. There are a maximum thirty walkers so get there early to be sure of your place on the walk. Remember to dress for the weather!
I would fully recommend any visit to Stratford Upon Avon should include a Stratford Town Walk.
More Information about Shakespeare Town Walk:
Private walks and tours can be arranged for Groups and Schools. These are designed to meet the needs of the group and advice can be given on how to make the best use of your visit. For example, an ideal tour may consist of a walk around the town, a visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, followed by a relaxing river cruise.
The highly acclaimed Stratford Town Ghost Walk, Ghost Cruise and Floating Ghost Walk are entertainment with a difference. Explore tales of ghosts, witches, murder and mayhem with entertainment. The guides are professional magicians, actors or entertainers
Stratford Town Walk is a member of Shakespeare’s England, the official Destination Management Organisation for Stratford upon Avon, Warwick, Kenilworth, Royal Leamington Spa and the wider Warwickshire region
If you visit Stratford Upon Avon and go on the Stratford Walk as a result of reading this review, please mention The Travel Locker.
TELEPHONE – 07855760377 or 01789292478 (between 9am and 6pm), or
EMAIL – firstname.lastname@example.org
TWITTER – @StratfordWalks
FACEBOOK – Stratford Town Walk
Winner Stratford upon Avon Award – Best Town Tour
Winner Travel & Hospitality Award – Excellence in Service in Warwickshire
Winner Luxury Travel Guide Award – Walking Tour Operator of the Year
Winner Luxury Travel Guide Award – Unique Experience of the Year
Winner Pride of Stratford Award – Tourism Initiative of the Year
Winner Godiva Award – Best Visitor Attraction
Certificate of Excellence – Tripadvisor