• St Albans Cathedral
  • Mevagissey, Cornwall
  • UK Travel tips and news

Welcome friends, its time to put the kettle on, settle into a comfortable armchair, and enjoy the best of Britain with Britain Update. But before you do, please take the time to forward this newsletter to someone who loves Britain as much as you do.

David Ross, Publisher


St. Albans Cathedral
St Albans, Hertfordshire, England

Named for the first British Christian martyr, this former abbey church is the second-largest in England, after Winchester. The north transept stands on the traditional spot where Alban was executed in 305 for refusing to participate in a pagan sacrifice.

In 793 King Offa founded a Benedictine monastery here. That early church was rebuilt in the late 11th century using tiles from the old Roman settlement of Verulamium. Of note in the interior is the stone rood screen, perhaps the work of Henry Yevele, builder of Canterbury Cathedral, and wall paintings on the piers of the nave.

More about St Albans Cathedral ...

Nearest Hotels

Cornwall, England

Mevagissey is very much a traditional Cornish fishing village, the largest in St. Austell Bay. The name originates in the old Cornish dialect for "Meva-ag-issey", which means "the towns of Meva and Issey". Meva and Issey were two 6th century Irish missionaries who came to convert the area to Christianity.

The streets of this unspoilt town are a delightful twisting hodge-podge of whitewashed buildings lining narrow passageways.

Mevagissey is a working fishing port, though visitors can hire boats for trips around the bay.

More on Mevagissey ...

Travel Tips and News

NGS "Yellow Book" 2003 on sale
The National Gardens Scheme guide of gardens open for charity in 2003 is now available in bookshops priced £5.99, or through the website: for £7.75 including UK p&p.

Aside from the gardens gazetteer for which the Yellow Book is famous, the guide contains several interesting features, including: Celebrity garden writer Stephen Anderton reflects on the NGS, whilst garden writers and owners Erica Hunnigher and Katherine Swift share memories of their NGS open day last year. As well, Trudi Harrison lists her top ten tips for opening a seaside garden.

Jorvik Viking Festival
Vikings invade York this week and next for the annual Jorvik Viking Festival, which runs from 14 Feb - 23 Feb. This week-long Festival reflects the traditional Viking celebration of the coming of Spring, 'Jolablot'. There is always a varied programme of events for all the family, including re-enactments of landmarks in Viking history, saga telling and traditional craft demonstrations.

London Museum News
The ‘Horniman Music Gallery’ at the Horniman Museum has opened, marking the completion of the museum’s £13m centenary development. The new gallery is home to 1,600 instruments, 200 of which were donated by Frederick Horniman in 1901 as part of his gift to the people of London. The gallery also has ‘listening tables’ for visitors to hear the sounds of the instruments displayed and an area where some of the instruments can be played. Further information at

The Whitechapel Art Gallery is now open every Thursday until 9pm. This new late-night opening will include special events, talks and tours of the exhibition, as well as films and late opening of the Whitechapel Café/Bar. Further information online at

Groups of between 10-25 people can now arrange to have private guided tours by Blue Badge Guides when they visit Somerset House. A ‘Somerset House Group Facilitator’ is part of the group booking service and will meet and greet groups on arrival before the tour. This service is free of charge. Further information at

Kew Gardens Orchid Festival
From 15 Feb - 16 March The Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens (Greater London) will be transformed into a tropical habitat for the ninth annual Orchid Festival. There will be waterfalls, streams and rocky shelves along with half a million flowers of different colours, shapes and sizes. In addition, a new exhibition will study the history of the orchid and look at aspects of orchid conservation today. Kew Gardens are located in Richmond, and can be reached by London Underground service (Kew Gardens station, District Line) Website

National Trust for Scotland North America Foundation
In a previous Update, I mentioned that membership in the National Trust for Scotland offers travellers the chance to gain free entry into historic properties throughout the UK, as well as supporting the important preservation activities of the NTS throughout Scotland. What I neglected to mention is that North Americans can join a special branch of the NTS. Here's the contact information if you'd like to become involved - or if you just have an interest in Scottish heritage.

The National Trust for Scotland USA
28 State Street, Suite 1100
Boston, MA 02109

Quirky Shopping Guide to London
The new edition of the Quirky Shopping Guide for London Eastside has been published. The 44-page guide describes the myriad of small and independent shops, galleries and craft studios in this part of London. The guide is available by calling 020 7364 4458 or can be downloaded from

Thomas the Tank Engine Steams On
Two of England's steam heritage railways are preparing for their most popular events’ days starring Thomas the Tank Engine. Normally sell-out occasions run mainly by volunteers, they attract families from as far away as Japan, who come to see the colourful engines and meet characters such as the Fat Controller from the well-known children's books and TV programmes.

At the Watercress Line in Alresford, Hampshire, 50 miles south-west of London, which holds its Days Out with Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends on April 18-27 and August 9-17, highlights include: Races between steam engines Thomas and Douglas, Mischief from the Troublesome Trucks, and the return of Henry the Green Engine after a three-year overhaul. The railway can be reached by main-line train from London's Waterloo Station. Website:

At the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre near Aylesbury, an hour north-west of London, a wheelchair accessible footbridge will allow disabled people of all ages to access all parts of the 35-acre museum. The centre's Day Out With Thomas event takes place on June 13-15, July 12-13 and September 12-14.

That's all for now. Until next issue, let me remind you that laughter is contagious. Be a carrier.

David Ross, Publisher, Britain Express

Best of Britain Express Art Prints