Friday, October 03, 2008

The definitive guide to castle ruins in England and Wales

Well OK, maybe not definitive, but I can tell you about the ones we saw today.

First things first though, the name of the village we stayed in last night was Weston-on-Bury. We we a bit surprised to say the least when neither of us could remember where we were.

We left after a hearty breakfast of baked beans, eggs, toast and coffee and headed into the Forest of Dean. We were very impressed to find that it was, in fact, a forest. Quite different from the balding patches of scrub and earth usually called a 'woods'. This was lush and green with narrow winding roads - just like at home!

Our first stop - via a rather round-about string of little lanes - was Goodrich. A 12th century fortified castle ruin. An absolutely stunning ruin made better by the gorgeous sunshine. We climbed the spiral stairs up to the top of one of the corner towers and the view incredible. It was extremely windy so didn't manage to stay up there long to really observe, but enjoyed it none-the-less.

Next stop was Skenfrith, and again we didn't manage a direct route. But we did get there to find it was an impressive ruin. Perhaps not quite as spectacular as Goodrich.

Just along the road a bit further was a 12th century church. It had a very unusual top - being built from wood. It was in a lovely quiet little village at the end of a road so peaceful and calm.

A 'Cope' hung under a curtain that was made in the mid 1400's. It never ceases to amaze me that something of this age can survive.

'A cope is a garment like a cape and is still worn by Bishops and senior clergy in some churches. In the medieval period it was used in processions and special occasions. A cope has a semi-circular shape with a remnant of the hood still visible in the design.' (excerpt from

Getting too tired now so will try to update more later... yawn...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blenheim Palace et al

Today we went to Blenheim Palace, a place we've both been intending to see since we have been in the UK.

Upon arrival we're faced with a massive, imposing, yellow stone building with the most incredible, ornate gates.

Inside the Palace and it went down hill a bit as we were herded through a 35 minute 'production' of make believe goings ons in order to educate us of the Palace's history. Obviously set up to baby sit those without enough get-up-and-go to enjoy a wander through a building alone.

The next part was the State rooms which were also very disappointing -especially after seeing Basildon yesterday. The room in which Winston Churchill was born was very drab, the whole place was in a completely different league to the likes of Basildon. A smaller more personal property tends to feel warmer and more 'loved'. Blenheim felt like it was simply out to make money at the expense of personality.

It was a different story once out in the grounds. They were beautiful. We walked beside the lake to the 'Cascade' - a man made waterfall. I think it was made by Capability Brown - what
didn't that man do?

We walked back along the lake and saw herons flying, fishermen fishing and lots of bird life that I'm not clever enough to know.

Unfortunately we have just missed out on the colour of autumn this trip. In some spots the trees are just beginning to show a tinge of colour. Another few weeks and the area will be in full autumnal colour.

The formal gardens complete with fountain and ponds were lovely and not too many people about because of the cold winds.

We left Blenheim Palace and headed west until a sign came into view announcing an Historic Wool Church. Curious... It turns out this area (Northleach in Gloucestershire) was known for it's wool production so all very sensible. There were some very old 'brasses' of some of the locals from the 15th and 16th centuries. And a very pretty churchyard and village.

We've stopped somewhere tonight in a quaint old pub, the real issue being is we have no idea exactly where we are. We know we were on the road heading towards Chepstow...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On the road again!

Mum and I decided to hire a car today and take off for a bit of a look around. We have no idea where we intend to end up except that tomorrow we will go to Blenheim Palace.

Mum is awaiting news on a job that will possibly mean she has to go to work, but if that doesn't happen we will return to London on Sunday.

Today we headed out of London about 1pm and drove to Reading where we stopped at the worlds most boring cafe for some lunch. We then did our favourite trick of taking back roads and seeing where we ended up. But we did want to go to Basildon Park on the way so after some lovely country lanes and a bit of back tracking, we made it there before closing.

It was a pretty house set in big wooded fields and a nice garden in progress in the grounds. The room stewards were all so passionate about their allocated room it became a battle of time to get around the place before it closed. A balance of listening and being interested while also trying to get out of the room before being bored to death by the details of the carpet of this particular room.

Back into the car and some more country lanes until we went over a series of bridges that took us over the Thames. The light was stunning with the sun not far off setting so we stopped and took a few photos.

Some more rural roads and we made it to Oxford where accommodation, it seemed, was at a premium. We eventually got ourselves a room and had some dinner in a local pub and are now settled in for the evening with a box of chocolates, a computer each and too many photos to sort!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Today was the annual Pearlie King and Queen harvest parade.

Mum and I went to see what it was all about and were very pleasantly surprised by the afternoon of sunshine, dancing, humour and more 'pearls' then you could poke a stick at.

There were dozens of Pearlie Kings and Queens along with a few Princes and Princesses. One of whom was only 5 weeks old! Very cute in her pearl (in this case actually buttons) dress and hat! Another little girl was only 2 and dressed beautifully along with her mum.

Also several Mayors of various locations - London, Essex and Sussex - all in their robes and Mayoral chains. Some Morris dancers, a few marching bands (of differing levels of enthusiasm...) and some little may pole dancers who were joined at one point by the Mayors and Pearlies. A lively and amusing moment!There were donkeys with carts carrying harvest goods and big dogs towing little carts with harvest goods amongst other things - a puppy was being carried in one cart.