That Tudor Hunting Lodge in Epping Forest

While I may not have done as much exploring over the Christmas break as I would have liked, I still managed to have a little afternoon trip within Greater London. Last week I hopped on a train at Liverpool Street Station with Chingford as my stop. Destination: Epping Forest, and more specifically, Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge.

The walk from the station was a lot shorter than I thought it would be, and pretty quickly you get the feeling of being ‘out in the country’

Oh god, Epping Forest

The Forest (with a capital F) and the lodge, and indeed the whole lot are run by the City of London Corporation. I may not be in the City, but do I ever really leave it? There’s City crests a plenty. Here’s the entrance to The View visitor centre.

The View Visitor Centre, Epping Forest

And immediately next door is the building I’m here for, complete with 16th century guy waiting for the rest of his family outside. On hunting days, the lodge would have been covered with banners such as these.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Calling it Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge is a bit erroneous though. The name didn’t crop up until the Victorians. It was at this time that a story surfaced of Elizabeth coming here to celebrate the victory over the Spanish Armada by riding her horse up the inside staircase. There’s no actual evidence that ever happened, or anything really substantial to say she was indeed ever here. There’s a chance she was. One of her favourites, the Earl of Leicester, owned nearby Wanstead Park so it’s possible she was in the area and maybe stopped by for a visit.

The timber-framed lodge was built for King Henry VIII in 1543 and originally called The Great Standynge (Standing) as it was the first one in England to have three floors. By this time the King was, how shall we say, far past his hunting prime but still wanted to shoot at some animals. When the lodge was first built the upper floors were completely open. Henry and his party would perch up at the top, and animals would be rounded up and fire off some rounds, a bit like a shooting gallery game.

Inside, the ground floor is a large kitchen which would have prepared all the food required for a hunting feast. The hearth remains and contains quite a bit of original brickwork.

Tudor kitchen hearth, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Tudo kitchen, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

The large central beam in the kitchen has some interesting markings on it. These would have been made by rush lights places in front of it to provide lights for the kitchen workers. The flames would have burnt the grooves into the wood.

Marks in a wooden beam made by rush lights, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Before you head up the stairs, there’s a odd shaped bit of timber. In the bit that is cut out, there would have originally been an oven for baking bread.

The cut out bit is where a bread oven would have been, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Heading up the stairs that Henry VIII may or may not have been able to manage, and a warning about taking care on the stairs.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

A bit 'Tudor', Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

Lots of timber frame, roughly 90% of which is original. Not too shabby. The lodge would have been flat packed – the timbers were all pre-made and assembled on site. In the main entrance, there are some carpenter marks (that I didn’t get a photo of as it was too dark) that helped them put it all together. How very modern.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

The top floor where all the hunting was done from, with a rather nice timber frame roof. The curved pieces in the middle were made to resemble antlers.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

The floor below had a few of these markings called apotropaic marks. You can just about make this one out, it looks a bit like a flower in a circle. These were put near windows and chimneys to ward off evil spirits from entering.

Apotropaion mark, Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

It may not be very big, but it is definitely worth a visit. This year they are starting to do 30 minute guided tours of the lodge, as well as some guided tours of Epping Forest.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

For some more photos, head on over to Flickr.

A Holiday Most Welsh – Part 1

Big, busy projects at work this summer meant that we all had to book our holidays much more in advance than I’m used to. I usually come up with something I want to do, then book the time off. This was just all arse-backwards for me. And what with being busy with work, finding a new place to live, and finishing up the City Guides course (which I passed, hurrah!), I didn’t really dedicate much time to actually thinking of something to do. Let alone planning and booking it.

Seeing as there is still lots of the U.K. that I am yet to see, m’colleague suggested that I give Wales a look. He’s been and he knows me, so his advice was pretty sound. With only about a week before my week of holiday, I finally hunkered down and had a look at my options.

Lots of pretty, scenic stuff in the north. However, public transport,  trains, weren’t so great. Also, knowing me I’d get bored of just non-stop nature no matter how lovely it is. I started looking at South Wales instead. Lots of options train-wise, a couple of cities to check out and for ticking the green scenery box I could get to the Brecon Beacons easily enough.

In one fell swoop (or actually it may have been two), I booked my train from Paddington to Cardiff, two nights in Cardiff, a night in Swansea and a night in Abergavenny. Cardiff gives me a ‘new city to explore’ fix as well as lots of social and industrial heritage, Swansea was something on the coast and again some industrial heritage and Abergavenny would get me up to the hills with a bus connection to Brecon town on the other side of Brecon Beacons to check out.

Feeling a bit beyond the backpacking/hosteling scene, but yet not really one for hotels, I booked up 3 nice bed and breakfasteses.

Packed and ready to rock. Though not pictured is my electronics-laden shoulder bag.
Packed and ready to rock. Though not pictured is my electronics-laden shoulder bag.

On Sunday the last day of June I was up-and-at-them to Paddington to catch my train. It seems I’m always at Paddington when it’s very quiet there, so I have this false sense that it’s a quiet station that doesn’t have many trains coming and going at any one time.  I grab some food and my seat on the train.

A couple hours on the flat tracks of Brunel’s Great Western Railway and I was at the very 1930s Cardiff Central station.

Cardiff Central Rail Station
First station here was built in 1850. This one is from 1932.

Now I did get as far as booking trains and rooms, but didn’t really do much on the itinerary side of things. For each place I just had a list of things that may look interesting and figured I’d just generally  have a good mooch around. To do that though, I wanted to loose my rucksack and get checked into my first place. I now know there were loads of better ways to get to my B&B rather than the way my tired, coughing butt took, but c’est la vie. I took my time and got there just at 2pm – bang on check in time. Figured I’d take the gamble. Alas! The chaps who run the place were out but I was able to leave my bag with a friend of theirs who was also staying. I can’t tell you how odd that felt (maybe as a Londoner?) just just leave my bag there, but all was good.

Freed up (but proper camera-less, d’oh!), I walked back into the city centre. Cardiff is well known (so they say) for it’s Victorian shopping arcades. There were quiet a few and they all were really lovely pieces of work. I believe this one was the Royal Arcade:

Cardiff Shopping Arcade
So bright.

This arcade is home to what claims to be the world’s oldest record store; Spillers. They opened here in 1894 so that claim has some weight to it I reckon. There was also the poshest Oxfam Book Shop I’ve never been in. There was another 2nd had book shop here as well that had pretty straight-forward advertising…

You have my attention
You have my attention

I walked around for a bit and stumbled upon one of the places I had wanted to see – that being the Story of Cardiff exhibit. I actually found it by it being in the same building as the Tourist Info Centre. Always hit those up for a map that won’t drain your phone battery.

The Cardiff Story is exactly what it sounds like – a decent sized exhibit on the history of Cardiff. It goes back to the Roman settlement and fortifications, then the Norman invasion and the building of Cardiff Castle, the subsequent battles and additions to the castle until Cardiff hits its boom time with the industrial revolution.

Cardiff was built on the back of coal and would become the largest coal shipping port in the world in the early 20th century. In 1913 107 tonnes of the stuff was shipped out of Cardiff from various coal mines in south Wales.

There did seem to be a big divide in the city between the old, middle class city and the docks in Cardiff Bay, or Tiger Bay as the area was called (this was because the water was so rough, it was said landing in Cardiff was like fighting a tiger). It’s a bit of a hike down from the city center. The guide on a walking tour I did said that the railway line was always the ‘border’ if you like between ‘nice Cardiff’ and ‘rough working Cardiff’. I could definitely see how that would have been the case.

The Cardiff 'border'. Also, brains.
The Cardiff ‘border’. Also, brains.

It was really one family and one member of that family who was responsible for the building up of Cardiff; John Crichton-Stuart also known as the 2nd Marquess of Bute (as in the Isle of Bute up in Scotland). The family owned large chunks of land in south Wales that just so happened to be full of some of the finest steam coal in the world. Between coal and iron, this part of Wales would be completely transformed from farms to a large industrial sites.

Coal ships at Cardiff Docks (Wikipedia photo)

In part 2! More on Cardiff docks and Cardiff Castle a.k.a. More Butes.

Usual Commute, aka Found Old Documents

I was going through all my old Google Docs this morning and found something called ‘Commuting’. I opened it up and it’s a recollection of the commute I had to work in the morning when living in my first flat in Cambridge three years ago.

Even with the vague description of people, I can remember them all very well. I can’t recall the day though as they were all pretty much like this one…

7:37 according to the microwave. Better leave the house. Don’t want to chance it with the 7:55 bus.

Bus stop. Am usually the only one waiting for the 7:45 bus.

Hop on bus, top deck. The usual gang is here.

There’s one of the dark haired guy with glasses who always reads. There’s two of them and they look similar except one has a light coat and alights a few stops before the one in the dark coat. Have never seen them both on the bus though. Curious.

The middle aged Asian man who I always imagine is some sort of doctor.

No sign of the white haired man who alights at the rail station as well.

Stop in front of Round Church. Will the girl with the pony tail board today? Doesn’t look like it. The couple in the high visibility jackets alight as always.

Up Hills Road. Stop in front of St. Paul’s church. Young girl in a school uniform at the front of the bus leaves, lady with the short hair arrives to take her place as always.

Station Road. Time to get up, hit the stop bell and make my way down to the lower deck. Lots of time to kill this morning. It’s just gone 8.

Queuing for a ticket. Today we have a queue for each ticket machine. Other days we seem to just have the one queue. All depends on the people who start them.

Pop into M&S Food for a pain du chocolate and a juice. Take a quick look around to confirm that I don’t need anything else. The super friendly Chinese lady is on the till. Hey they have a stock of small bags again. That’s ok though, I don’t need one.

Through the barriers and onto the platform. It’s early enough that people aren’t dashing for the 8:15 to King’s Cross. The first four coaches are already waiting at the far end of platform 1. There’s a collection of people waiting for the last four coaches to arrive at this end of the platform.

8:18 time for the guy to go running down the platform with his bike to either just make the 8:18 to Liverpool Street or just miss it. Why doesn’t he just leave a few minutes earlier? The mind boggles.

Girl with the yellow bag.

Train stops in Shelford. Girl with the Shelfridges bag standing at the barricade lights a cigarette.

And there it stops. I didn’t even get to the bit with the three or four people with their bikes that always alighted at Great Chesterford as well. Wonder if they still get the same train, or if they noticed that the girl with the headphones stopped getting the train just over a year ago.

A Jaunt Around 1066 Country

Despite me having very little interest in owning a a car again, they can be handy to have sometimes. Thankfully I have a very good friend with a car. We packed up last Monday and headed south for the bank holiday to have a look around Hastings, Battle abbey and battleground and Bodiam Castle.

We got into Hastings just in time for the cafes to start opening for breakfast. Once one that did ‘American Pancakes’ was spotted we were sold. It was amazing. Proper pancakes, maple syrup and bacon. You better believe I put syrup on that bacon as well.


After breakfast we took a stroll around the town and water front. We went up the funicular railway to the top of castle hill where there unfortunately isn’t much of a castle left.

Into the funicular railway tunnel.


Looking to the East Hill.

The original plan was to take the East Hill railway back down, but instead we ended up meandering down the hill and stumbling upon a bakery churning out amazing brownies and the biggest collection of ramshackle antique shops I’ve seen this side of the Atlantic. I lost it a bit upon seeing a bin of boxed Atari games, an Atari 800 computer and a NES. I opened the cartridge door on the NES, saw Super Mario Bros. and smiled.


As if this wasn't enough...
...there was more when you got outside.

After much deliberation over picking up a chaise lounge or not, we made our way back to the car and set out for Battle.

There was a medieval fair going on at Battle Abbey on the day as well. It just turned out to be a bit of a market infront of the abbey with vendors in fancy dress. Ah well. I was suprised at how close the abbey was to the high street. It’s actually on the high street.


Like most religious houses, it was stripped of all decoration and given to one of Henry VIII’s mates as a house. Now what buildings that are left intact are part of Battle Abbey School.  The high alter of the abbey was placed supposedly where King Harold fell during the battle. There is now a plaque there to mark the spot.

Battle Abbey

Battle Abbey

There’s a walking path around the battlefield as well. There’s a short one that just skirts it, but the long path isn’t really all that long. It takes in some nice scenery though woods and a lilly pond.  It was hard to walk through it and not picture all the carnage that happened there a nearly a thousand years ago. You really have to hand it to the English though; they put up a good fight despite having spent the previous several weeks marching to, from and engaging in battles.




By this point we were feeling a bit beat, but decided to press on to Bodiam castle even if it was just to walk around the outside. It was well worth it.

When castles are pictured in fairy tales and the like, this is the sort of place that is described; square, towers and a moat. It was built in 1385 by permission of Richard II to defend the area against the French during the 100 Years War. During the English Civil war the owner of the castle at the time, a Royalist, had to sell it off to pay fees brought against him by Parliament.  The castle was stripped and left to ruin.  Since then it has belonged to several different aristocrat types until donated to the National Trust in 1925.

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle

There were some activities happening around Bodiam as well for the bank holiday and one of them was have-a-go archery. Now usually this is just for kids and I get all excited for nothing. However this setup was for kids and adults, score! I had my first try at archery. I hit the target once and had slightly sore fingers but liked it so much that I’ve signed myself up to a intro lesson next Saturday morning. It won’t be ye olde wooden long bows like at Bodiam but should still be fun, hopefully.

Oh and on our way back to London we were behind this thing while in a mini-traffic jam.


Loads more photos are over on Flickr.