Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day 4 Counting the Counties: Dorset and Somerset (Tue., May 28)

We awakened to more water coming of the sky- only light drizzle, but enough to make walking less attractive.  Fortunately having seen the forecast, we had put off a planned visit to the Dorchester County Museum- only a few doors from our hotel- to the morning.   We checked out and went up to the museum, and passed an enjoyable visit learning about the history of Dorset.  One of the best exhibits there was a reconstruction of the Roman conquest of the hill fort of Maiden Castle by the Roman general Vespasian.  An archeologist narrated a harrowing tale, based on Roman records and archeological evidence, of the brutal attack.   The defenders were cut down with multiple sword strokes and buried in a mass grave at the site.  They found piles of sling bullets that the defenders never got to use in the fort.

From there, we broke out the rain ponchos and walked to the other train station in Dorchester- the one we hadn't used up until now- and got a train headed northwest.   We planned to finish up in Bristol, but the trip would have taken a good chunk of the afternoon, and it continued wet, so we opted to change at Castle Cary and catch another train so we could make a stop in Taunton, the 'county town' of Somerset.  We'd also hoped to get some lunch at Castle Cary, and at first thought we were doomed- it was a very small station.  But right outside the gate, a cheerful gentleman had set up a little food cart and was selling sandwiches and panini along with hot drinks, and so we had piping hot sandwiches while we waited for the train to Taunton.  Once in Taunton, we considered trying to visit one of our planned Somerset destinations, but it was still drizzling, and the timing didn't work well for buses, so we decided instead to check out the Somerset County Museum, which proved excellent fun.
View out the window of the Somerset county museum
The Somerset folk don't think small, they started the account of their part of the country millions of years ago, and illustrated the ages with a fine collection of fossil remains.  They had a really magnificent plesiosaur, a sea creature who likely was related to sea turtles.  We progressed through the Iron Age and the Roman conquest.  We also especially admired a magnificent Roman mosaic, very large and nearly complete, illustrating a story of the Aeneid, Aeneas' conquest of Queen Dido.  The picture of Dido and Aeneas going off hunting is quite evocative- Aeneas clearly does not have his mind on hunting game!
They brought up the story to the present with video of Somerset inhabitants pursuing traditional farming and cider-making trades and talking about their love for their place in the world. 
After the museum, we headed back to the train station, to complete our travels for the day.  We arrived in Bristol, with it still drizzling, and sampled a popular British institution called Nando's for dinner- we enjoyed the spicy chicken in South African/Mozambiquian peri-peri sauce very much.

Bristol has a nice old train station too.  I didn't take a lot
of photos this day because the camera was
tucked under my rain poncho away from the wet.

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