In 2009 we visited Chepstow Castle which is just over the original Severn Crossing. It was a beautiful sunny day and we really enjoyed walking around and exploring the castle.
Chepstow Castle is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain.
Construction began in 1067, just after the Norman conquest by the Norman Lord William FitzOsbern.
In the 12th century the castle was used in the conquest of Gwent, the first independent Welsh kingdom to be conquered by the Normans.
By the 16th century its military importance was diminished.
The castle saw action again during the English Civil War, when it was in the front line between Royalist Monmouthshire and Parliamentarian Gloucestershire. It was held by the Royalists and besieged in both 1645 and in 1648, eventually falling to the Parliamentarian forces on 25 May 1648.
Although re-garrisoned during and after the English Civil War, by the 1700s it had fallen into decay.
It has been used for filming TV and films including the Day of the Doctor when David Tennant’s tenth Doctor was “wooing” Queen Elizabeth I.
In 1976 when they were first introduced I always wanted to ride the new British Rail HSTs. I eventually got the chance in 1979 on a school trip to York.
I guess I must have ridden them a few times in the last few decades, but over the last few years I have been a frequent passenger on the Western main line between Bristol Temple Meads and Paddington. First on my regular commute to Oxford and then on my frequent visits to our London office.
On May 18th 2019 they were withdrawn from the main line, however though many were sent off to Scotland, GWR did shorten some for use on commuter routes in and around Bristol and South Wales.
These trains are being converted so that the original slam doors are replaced with automatic sliding doors and the toilets will now be contained rather than flushing straight onto the track. They are also being painted in new GWR green,
One of the things I learnt when I visited Hastings Castle in Sussex, was that this was the site of the first Norman castle, where the building pretty much started after the initial Norman invasion. Everyone has probably heard of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, though the actual battle was some miles away, as was the initial landing of Normal soldiers.
We took the West Hill Lift to get to the castle. There are two “lifts” in Hastings, the East Hill Lift is the steepest funicular railway in the UK.
If you are interested in the history of Hastings, then Hastings Castle has a lot to offer in their video presentation on the history of the castle. The remains of the castle are only some ruins, most of which have not just fallen down, but due to a combination of sea erosion and demolition, most of the castle ground are “missing”.
The video presentation does provide a lot of context about the castle and after watching it is worthwhile to walk around the ruins as you can see them in a wider context. I found it fascinating that after the castle fell into disrepair it was pretty much buried in soil and undergrowth, and forgotten about until Victorian times.
Some of the castle material were used to build a church which comprises most of the remaining ruins.
The main walls were used to protect the castle, but most of them have either fallen into the sea, or were inadvertently (or was it deliberately) knocked down in the Victorian era.
Compared to the view form the inside of the castle, you can see the ruins from the neighbouring hill, but you don’t really get a full feel for the place.
So why is the blog title, Certainly interesting, but…. well the castle is certainly an interesting place to visit, but the price of entrance, to me seemed rather steep. At £15.80 for a family four.
I took the time to take some photographs on a visit to Oxford. I had a presentation to give at a recent meeting which was taking place in Oxford. The weather was beautiful and as it was relatively early the roads and pavements were not as crowded with tourists as they can be.
Walking in from St Clements Street by The Plain I walked down the High Street across Magdalen Bridge, taking a photograph of the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse.
There were already quite a few people waiting to hire out punts and boats.
The crenellations of Magdalen College looked impressive in the sun.
My meeting was taking place in the Oxford University Examination Schools, however Apple Maps on the iPhone took me down Merton Street to the back entrance, however I was lucky enough to be able to sneak in, and make my meeting.
I took the slightly longer route back to the car, as I wanted a quick nostalgic visit to the Covered Market. All Souls College looked rather magnificent in the sun.
Hiding behind the tree on the high street is All Saints Church which is now the Library of Lincoln College. In 1971, All Saints Church was declared redundant and the City Church moved to St Michael at the North Gate. All Saints was thus deconsecrated and offered to Lincoln College, located immediately to the north of the church. Since 1975, after conversion, the building has been Lincoln College’s library.
With any city the side street often offer interesting buildings and architecture. Oxford has a range of these side streets of which King Edward Street is just one.
Another view of Magdalen College, it is one of the wealthiest colleges in Oxford.
Looking the other way on Magdalen Bridge there were a range of punts, I expect in the summer holidays and weekends these will be heavily used.
The Plain includes a small but prominent building facing Magdalen Bridge, Victoria Fountain. The fountain is protected by a roof on stone columns. On top is a small clock tower. The fountain was a gift to the city by G. Herbert Morrell.
Though it was a quick visit to Oxford it was nice to be back.
Though there are many new buses in London, it still gives me a warm nostalgic fuzzy feeling when I see an old Routemaster still in service, usually as I walk down The Strand in London. These classic old buses epitomise London and though the new modern flash ones are more environmentally friendly, accessible, and “better” I still have a place in my heart for these old red double deckers.
It was sunny, I had a little more time until the train, so I decided to walk from Whitehall to Paddington.
Usually I am rushing so catch the underground, so it was nice to have an extra 30 minutes, so I could walk from the conference venue in Whitehall to Paddington station.
It was cold, but the sun was out and walking in the sun was very pleasant.
Some of the buildings are incredible on Whitehall, but then again it was once a Palace.
I left 61 Whitehall and crossed the road to Horse Guards Parade. Outside Horse Guards were two horse mounted guards getting harassed by tourists who were taking selfies of themselves with the horses in the background.
To think it wasn’t that long ago the tourists would merely take photographs of the guards or would stand next to them as a relative took the photo. The selfie phenomena has changed all that as everyone holds their phone at arm’s length and attempts to get themselves and their family and the horse into the photo. It’s difficult, but much much easier than trying to do that with a 35mm film camera which had no screen to preview the image!
I have walked through Horse Guards a few times and though I am sure I noticed the Turkish Gun before, this was the first time I went up close to get a picture.
The gun was made by Murad, son of Abdullah in 1524. It was captured in Egypt by the British Army in 1801. Now it sits outside Horse Guards the home of the British Army.
Next to Horse Guards is a huge incongruous building that can only be described as a bunker. Compared to the Georgian magnificence of Whitehall this bunker is a very crude and brutal.
Looking up online on the train I found out this was the Admiralty Citadel. It is London’s most visible military citadel, and is located just behind the Admiralty building on Horse Guards Parade. It was constructed in 1940–1941 as a bomb-proof operations centre for the Admiralty. Winston Churchill called it in his memoirs as a “vast monstrosity which weighs upon the Horse Guards Parade”.
What is interesting that it was built with the plan that in the event of a successful German invasion, it was intended that the building would become a fortress, with loopholed firing positions provided to fend off attackers.
I did think about walking through St James’ Park, but in the end walked down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace.
Passing by Clarence House there were two guardsmen, who appeared to be playing a marching up and down the road game, not sure what they were trying to do, but no one was watching except me and a couple of Americans. Maybe they were stretching their legs after standing for too long in their sentry boxes.
I was then in front of Buckingham Palace. I was reminded by how effective the CGI was in the Netflix series The Crown. Their recreation of the 1950s Buckingham Palace is very accurate. It was only after watching this video that I realised how much the series was using computer graphics to recreate 1950s London and other locations.
After passing by the palace I entered Green Park and walked up to Hyde Park Corner. Now I have to admit I did think about catching the tube for the final stretch, but no decided to walk through Hyde Park.
I realised I had never seen the Serpentine before, now I have.
Though I have visited Glastonbury quite a few times over the years I have been living down in Somerset, I had never climbed the Tor. So during the October half term last year we decided to do just that, go to Glastonbury and climb the Tor. There is plenty of cheap parking in the town itself and there are a range of esoteric shops that also deserve exploring (after you have climbed the Tor). As you might expect there are a fair number of teashops too.
Our first attempt was on the wrong path, there were roadworks in the town which had made it challenging to find the right way up, but after avoiding the field full of cows, we found the less muddy path and walked up. Taking the time to turn around now and again to appreciate the view of the town. As we climbed it got windier and colder, so though it can be warm in the town, we were glad we had our winter coats, hats and gloves.
Glastonbury Tor is a distinct prominent hill amongst the Somerset Levels and can be seen from a quite a distance.
It is topped by the roofless St Michael’s Tower. There was originally a wooden church, however that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1275. A stone replacement, the Church of St Michael built on the site in the 14th century and over the centuries has been restored and partially rebuilt several times. Now just the roofless tower remains
The hill and the tower are now managed by the National Trust. Mythically the Tor was thought to be the Isle of Avalon, a legendary island featured in the Arthurian legend. When the surrounding land was swamp, the Tor was essentially an island.
It was back in 1190, that Avalon became associated with Glastonbury, when monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the bones of Arthur and Guinevere.
It was very windy when we got to the top, but even so the tower provided little protection from the strong winds.
The views though were incredible and it was amazing to see so much of the Somerset levels. Across to the West you can see the Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station and in the distance to the South West you can see the Quantock Hills.
Much of this would have been swamps and wetland, but over the centuries it has been drained so it can be used for farming.
The Tor itself is sandstone and was formed when the surrounding softer materials were eroded away.
Walking down from the Tor, I was pleased we had made the effort to climb the hill and to see those magnificent views.
Canopy & Stars at Crane 29 is a unique treehouse built around one of the cargo cranes outside M Shed. The treehouse will grace Bristol’s skyline from June until September 2017.
I don’t know if you can really call it a treehouse as it’s not built in a tree, but it certainly looks very nice (see more pictures here).
To register for the ballot to stay in the treehouse, visit www.canopyandstars.co.uk/crane29. A night’s stay costs either £185 for a weekday or £250 for a weekend, with the final ballot open until July 3. All profits from Canopy & Stars at Crane 29 will go to Friends of the Earth.