Britain in winter
Großbritannien verzaubert auch mitten im Winter. LORRAINE MALLINDER und LOIS HOYAL stellen Ihnen einige – nicht nur – frostige Highlights vor.
here are many things to enjoy in Britain in winter — whether you’d like to visit a grand house decorated for the festive season, to walk round a Victorian Christmas fair, to go skiing or snowboarding in the Scottish Cairngorms or to relax with a chilly story set in the English Peak District. We have chosen seven things for you to try that we think evoke the cold season in Britain. Make yourself comfortable, wrapped up warmly on the sofa, and enjoy!
Visit: the Worcester Victorian Christmas Fayre
Kick-start the festive season with a trip to this Victorian extravaganza. If you’ve ever wished that Christmas could be just as it was in the olden days, then this is the market for you. Enjoy some roasted chestnuts and mulled wine, and soak up the 19th-century festive spirit in narrow streets filled with buskers, traditional carol-singers and walkabout entertainers on stilts, exchanging jokes and juggling balls. There are more than 200 stalls here, with ladies in corset dresses and gentlemen in flat caps and capes selling arts and crafts; and there’s aromatic street food (roast hog, anyone?), much of it produced locally. On Gin Lane, a small Victorian street known for its debauched locals, you will be transported back in time to a world of street urchins, flower sellers, chimney sweeps, ladies of the night and plenty of dubious characters. This immersive installation includes local artists and performers who bring the place to life and make sure the public can also play a role. Don’t say we didn’t warn you to watch your pockets. And of course, no fayre would be complete without a carousel, its shiny horses turning round to the sound of an old-fashioned barrel organ. There’s plenty here to amuse big kids and children alike. Fans of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol will love it. While you’re in town, take the opportunity to visit Worcester Cathedral, too, which features magnificent Victorian stained glass, royal tombs and an ancient crypt.
Visit: the Somerset Levels
One of England’s most magical landscapes, the Somerset Levels are among the largest wetlands in the country, an enormous area of waterlogged fields and orchards bordered by ditches and dykes, which are known locally as “rhynes” (pronounced “reens”). Glastonbury Tor, a conical hill with the ruins of a church dating back to the Middle Ages at the top, is by far the best place from which to view the surrounding land. This region is home to pagan and early Christian legends. The socalled Isle of Avalon is said to be the last resting place of the mythical King Arthur and has captured the imagination of generations of artists and writers. To the west of Glastonbury, the Avalon Marshes, a vibrant area of pastureland, is paradise for birdwatchers. Come in midwinter to see the acrobatics of several million starlings that fly in from Scandinavia, swirling in large black clouds over the Levels, before diving into the reed beds below. Conservationists have worked hard to restore the area as a bird habitat, hand-rearing cranes that will live in the wetlands. Wiped out by hunting more than 400 years ago, these beautiful birds, known for their trumpeting calls and courtship dances, are now living wild in the area. Make sure you try some smoked eel and cider, both local specialities. Stay in Wells, the smallest city in England, nestling in the nearby Mendip Hills. Its Gothic cathedral is often described as the most poetic in England, and there is a farmers’ market on Wednesdays.
Visit: the Twelve Days of Christmas at Castle Howard
A dream location for Christmas, Castle Howard is the grandest of grand homes. Built at the end of the 17th century, it is a rich example of British baroque, complete with carved cornets and cherubs. Many Brits will recognize it from the 1980s TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, a novel by Evelyn Waugh that describes the faded glory of the English aristocracy between the wars. A trip to Castle Howard is a nostalgic festival of candles, open fires, stories, twinkling lights and tinkling pianos. Following a tour based on “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, visitors young and old journey through a series of installations designed to create a feeling of happy nostalgia. It all starts in the Great Hall, home to a gigantic Christmas tree that is decorated with thousands of baubles. Here, a wizard performs magic tricks before introducing merry St Nick himself, who appears on the scene to the
unmistakable accompaniment of “Jingle Bells”. The site includes a Santa’s grotto, gift shops, a market and a garden centre. You can also wander around some of the building’s 145 rooms. Do not leave without sampling the festive afternoon tea by a roaring fire in the elegant Grecian Hall. And take some time out for a walk in the gardens, where you can indulge your fantasies of aristocratic living between the fountains, lakes and temples. Stay in York, just 15 minutes away by car, where 2,000 years of English history are on display, including the ancient Roman walls, the JORVIK Viking Centre and the famous medieval cathedral, York Minster.
The Twelve Days of Christmas is held from 17 November to 31 December.
Visit: the Cairngorms for skiing
Skiing in Scotland has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance in recent years. The Cairngorms, close to the resort town of Aviemore, is by far the most popular spot for winter sports, with great snow conditions and 18 ½ miles of pistes for every level of ability. Whether you’re a skier or not, the ride on board the funicular to the top of Cairn Gorm, the mountain that lent its name to the complete range, is an experience in itself. There you’ll find Britain’s highest restaurant, The Ptarmigan — no better place for a warming hot chocolate, taking in a breathtaking vista of lochs, glens, forests and hills. The weather can be changeable, but there are plenty of activities for non-skiing days, including mountain biking, hiking, spa treatment and, yes, whisky tours. With six distilleries in the Cairngorms National Park, including Glenlivet and Tomintoul, you’ll be rolling down the hillsides without any need for skis. Take a trip on the Strathspey Steam Railway, in which you can survey the majestic Cairngorms from the comfort of a smart carriage, while enjoying afternoon tea or a three-course lunch. And make sure you pay a visit to Britain’s only reindeer herd, located near the bottom of Cairn Gorm. From early November onwards, a Christmas market runs during the festive season. Aviemore, less than three hours by train from Edinburgh, is an excellent base camp from which to explore the surrounding area, with plenty of gift shops, cafes and restaurants.
Watch: Jane Eyre
A lone figure stumbles desperately across the empty moors, through heavy rain, emotionally and physically at breaking point. It’s a dramatic start to the film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s wonderful Gothic classic, Jane Eyre.
I made myself comfortable on the sofa to enjoy the atmospheric cinematography of the isolated, windy heaths of the Peak District and the cold, dark weather. Even chillier are the relationships that young Jane experiences. After her parents have died, she goes to live with her nasty and heartless aunt, who sends her off to school, where an equally hard-hearted pastor tries to keep her friendless.
Jane’s life, told in retrospect, now flashes back to her role as a governess at Thornfield Hall in the Peak District, where she teaches a young French girl, Adele, the ward of Edward Rochester, the master of the house.
British veteran Dame Judi Dench plays the housekeeper of Thornfield Hall, Mrs Fairfax. Mia Wasikowska is the modest, yet clever Jane. Her gentleness and goodness contrast sharply with the passionate, intensely brooding romantic hero, Mr Rochester, played by Michael Fassbender.
It is no surprise that gentle Jane soon falls for the moody hero and agrees to marry him, despite the class difference. Then, on their wedding day, a scandalous secret comes to light: Rochester is already married. His wife, Bertha, is a psychotic woman, who is locked away in another part of the building. Jane runs away, unable to give up her moral integrity. We are now back in the film’s first scene.
St John Rivers, a religious man, gives Jane refuge and proposes to her. But she realizes that she cannot live a loveless marriage, and in her mind, she hears Rochester’s voice calling to her.
Jane returns to Edward, only to find him blinded and maimed by a fire started by Bertha, who has killed herself. “It’s a dream?” asks Rochester. “Awaken then,” Jane softly replies.
“Awaken” is just one of the tracks from the film’s soundtrack. The soaring strings transport the restrained passion that runs as an undercurrent throughout the film. All in all, this is a must-see.
Watch: The Man Who Invented Christmas
This biographical film deals with the life of 31-year-old Charles Dickens and his writing of A Christmas Carol, the most famous Christmas story of all time. After success with his earlier novels, Dickens has fallen on “hard(ish) times”. (His tenth novel was Hard Times — excuse the deliberate pun.) He has been spending far too much money, his fifth child is on the way and his last three books have been flops. Dickens is under pressure to write a new work — and fast — to improve his finances. Despite being rejected by his publishers, he promises to have a new book written, printed and published by Christmas — only six weeks away.
After initial writer’s block, the characters from A Christmas Carol start to come to life and interact with Dickens. The writer overcomes his inner Scrooge and revisits the ghosts of his Christmas past, before forgiving his father and delivering a bestseller on time.
The film provides interesting insights into the author’s life. Many people, for instance, don’t know that, as a boy, he was abandoned by his family and forced to work in a “blacking” (shoe polish) factory. His father was sent to a debtors’ prison.
Dan Stevens provides a lovely portrayal of Dickens. With his sparkling blue eyes and quirky energy, he is much like a young Gene Wilder. The Man Who Invented Christmas is a charming film to warm the chilliest of hearts on a cold winter’s evening.
Read: Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn
This tale is also ideal reading in the middle of winter. It tells the story of a dark king who lived through dark times. Henry Tudor, born in Pembroke, Wales, in 1457,
became the founder of the famous Tudor dynasty, having defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485. His victory ended the Wars of the Roses between the House of York and the House of Lancaster, which had divided Britain for 30 years.
Henry VII’S rule remained exposed to danger, however. It was undermined by plots, and there were enemies and pretenders hiding round every corner. Henry was forced to use cruel tactics and spies to stay in power.
One source of stability was his marriage to Elizabeth of York. The marriage also allowed Henry to unite the white rose of the House of York and the red rose of the House of Lancaster.
Henry’s reign is remembered for the king’s strong foreign policy. His firstborn son and heir, Arthur, was married to Catherine of Aragon, allying Britain with Spain. Henry’s daughter Margaret married James IV of Scotland, thereby guaranteeing peace with Scotland. And Henry managed to form an alliance with Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor.
The king’s life, however, was full of tragedy. His son Arthur died of the “sweating sickness” at the age of 15, and soon afterwards, Henry’s wife, Elizabeth, died in childbirth. The child died a day later.
What also comes to light through this book is Henry’s controlling and parsimonious nature. He was always trying to gain more money through heavy taxes.
Some readers might find it irritating not to know what is the product of Penn’s imagination and what is historical fact. Nevertheless, the detailed and colourful anecdotes succeed in bringing the figure of the king to life.
Not just starlings: a flock of young cranes about to take flight on the Somerset Levels on a winter’s day