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.

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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.

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Into the funicular railway tunnel.

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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.

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As if this wasn't enough...
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...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.

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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.

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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.

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A-meri-caaa.

Loads more photos are over on Flickr.

Cathedral Checklist: Rochester

Ages ago I made a list of all the major cathedrals in England with every good intention of getting around to seeing all of them. I managed to check a few off the list since living here but I should probably put a bit more effort in to it. Especially now that it’s easier to get to other parts of the country now that I’m in London.

A few weekends ago I took the 45 minute-ish train ride from my house down to the Kent coast to have a look around Rochester. It has a Norman cathedral and castle, score!

The cathedral is the second oldest in England after Canterbury, though the nave is the oldest in the land; building work began on it in 1083.

Rochester Cathedral

You’ll have to forgive the quality of the external shots. Silly me forgot to charge my camera battery before heading out to take photos, d’oh!

Inside the cathedral is an interesting mix of styles. One end is very much a Norman cathedral and the other is gothic. Where the two meet up is pretty easy to spot:

Norman Arches, 1.5 Gothic Arches

There was a church on the site long before the Norman conquest, going back to 640, but it was in a poor state after invasions from the Mercians and the Danes (bloody Vikings!).

The first thing that struck me about the nave was the flat, wooden ceiling. Compared to other cathedrals (even Norman ones), the ceiling seems a bit plain. However, the dark wood does make it a bit striking.

Rochester Cathedral

I think the thing I liked the most about the place (after that sudden change in style) was the wall tiles in the choir and floor tiles in the apse.

Heraldic

Neat Tile Work

More Tiles

There was also a bit of a Medieval wall painting at the end of the choir. Would be interesting to know if there were paintings like this throughout the cathedral at some point.

Medieval Decor

One last thing I got a shot of before my camera konked out was of the Pilgrim Steps. The cathedral used to be a pilgrimage destination back when that was all the craze. The shrines and relics were so popular that offerings left at one of the tombs was able to fund the building of the choir and the completion of the cathedral. The stone steps leading up to the tombs are so worn out they are now covered with wooden planks.

The Pilgrim Steps

There’s a decent timeline of Rochester Cathedral at its official website. More of my photos of it and of Rochester in general are over on Flickr.