Berkshire 1 - the Queens other castle

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November 12th 2012
Published: November 13th 2012
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Day 4. What is it about life that when something goes wrong another disaster quickly follows? Today was such a day when things didnt quite go according to plan.

Suzy is comfortable to live in despite the colder weather. However to be fair the dank, damp and miserable weather has been replaced with much crisper November weather. The sun is shining although weakly and we havent had the snow that has blighted the South West. Our first snow of the season and with the threat of more on the horizon as by the end of the month the forecasters have given warnings of temperatures dropping to minus 15. We are not winter people and yearn for a bit of sun. Since the clocks changed the mornings have become lighter but the evenings are dark by 5pm making it a long night. Still on the bright side Christmas is only six weeks away, Oxford Street and Regent Street are lit up and once Christmas is over we can look forward to the nights drawing out again. I heard it once said that gardeners dont mind the dark nights as they can spend the winter looking at seed catalogues and ordering next years seeds. They can plan what they will do in the garden and potter in the greenhouse. For motorhomers who dont overwinter in Spain it is a time of cleaning the van out, moving anything likely to suffer from the damp and cold into the house and starting to plan the holidays .

So far we have exchanged our Tesco Clubcard vouchers for £150 worth of Eurotunnel tickets. These will buy one return trip to France so that's the May holiday sorted. This year we broke our journey at the Caravan Club site at Warwick but this feels a little too close to home. We know we can travel further in Suzy and even with comfort breaks at regular intervals should be able to get from home to Folkestone in time for a late afternoon train. Guines is on the doorstep 10 or so minutes out of Calais and we can be plugged in to the electric, kettle on, swim in the swimming pool and book a meal at the restaurant before you can say Jack Robinson. Doing it this way we will be in France on the Friday morning and ready to head off.

As nice as it is to sort out next years holiday there was our trip to Windsor to consider. We had already checked our London pass booklet which told us we could go into the castle free and that we could use Great Westerns train service to travel to Windsor. Having already checked National Rail timetables it seemed it should be an easy journey from Abbey Wood via Paddington to Slough. Then a small change of train for Windsor. However great plans do sometimes go wrong and when we arrived at Abbey Wood we noticed that the board was announcing the cancellation of the Cannon Street and Charing Cross trains due to problems at London Bridge. The station platform was heaving with commuters late for work eagerly phoning their bosses to tell them of their plight. We had to re-assess our plans and change for the underground to Paddington which consisted of using three different lines to get to our destination. Eventually we did arrive at Paddington, had a coffee and a cake whilst waiting for our connection. It is fascinating to listen to commuters and today the most interesting conversation revolved around ancestry where the young lad opposite us was telling his mate that he was English/Italian/Portuguese and of Caribbean heritage. How on earth would he decide what his ancestry was? English perhaps by birth but which of his lines would he feel closest to?

We boarded the Slough train. We picked a quiet carriage but the curse of the mobile phone raised its ugly head. Opposite us sat a lady who as soon as she sat down got out her phone and dialled up her friend. She chattered non stop whilst the train was waiting in the station and continued to ignore the silent carriage sign and chatted until the guard came on to check her ticket. He told her in no uncertain terms to get out of the carriage if she wanted to use her phone. He was a bit abrupt and even suggested if she continued she could get off the train there and then. We then became the objects of his abruptness. We showed him our ticket which stated that it could be used for Zones 1 6 and offered him our London Pass as suggested in the book. He insisted our ticket was not valid and did not cover us on his train. Luckily we had the book with us and showed him the entry. He could not argue with the printed word but did comment that this time he would let us off. On disembarking at Slough we called in to the ticket office to check who was right - said guard or us and were told we were OK using it and he was wrong. We had had visions of being unceremoniously dumped off the train in the middle of nowhere or being fined . You can just imagine the headline "Old Age Pensioners thrown off train for being in possession of the wrong ticket"

Our last train of the journey was the short trip of 5 mins from Slough to Windsor. How glad we were to get there finally. It had been a long and fraught journey and with hindsight I doubt we would have bothered. The station at Windsor was impeccably neat but then when you consider Queen Victoria used it then it could not afford to be neat and tidy. Shops, cafes and restaurants lined the concourse and it was at one of these that we ate dinner - a delicious Cauliflower and Potato Soup. Warming and welcoming after such a horrible journey.

It takes about 5 minutes to walk from the station to the castle and again the town was clean, neat and tidy. The perfect weekend spot for a Royal Family wanting to get out of London. The castle stands on its own motte and bailey yet another example of a William I castle building project after he invaded Britain . He was such a busy man making Britain his own.

It has been a royal residence since medieval times and it shows in its building phases. Henry I was the first monarch to actually use the castle to live in. And then somewhere around 1300 Henry III rebuilt part of the castle and further enhanced it, It was further added to by Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I.

During the tumultuous English Civil War the Parliamentarians used the castle and it even became a prison for Charles I. What a chequered history!. Charles I's son Charles II carried out further alterations to the castle to include Baroque interiors with Rococo decorations and fused this on to the Gothic architecture. There were so many different styles to the castle - some we liked and others we were not so keen on.

The castle was neglected somewhat during the 18th century as were many of our castles and it was some time before further renovation took place under George III and George IV. The castle was extensively renovated by Queen Victoria. Since that time the only renovations that have taken place to the castle were because of the fire of 1992 which destroyed part of the building and for us the rebuilding after the fire was probably one of the most interesting features of the entire visit. .

We entered the castle and found it relatively empty. November seemed a good time to visit. Half term was over and most of the visitors had left. Inside the castle is spacious. At the heart of Windsor Castle is the Middle Ward formed from the motte and bailey. We had wanted to visit the Round Tower on the top but it seemed that it was only open during the summer months. Views over Windsor and Eton would have been spectacular from the Tower. The guide we spoke to suggested we came again to visit the Round Tower but somehow this never happens - one visit
Windsor Windsor Windsor

The High Street
is enough unless you live close enough to come back.

We climbed to the Upper Ward of Windsor Castle which comprised of most of state apartments. Views from here were of over the River Thames. There were glimpses of the terraced gardens which were devoid of flowers due to the time of the year. They must look pretty during Spring and Summer. Helpful stewards showed us where to go and answered any questions we had about the castle. Inside was the Royal Dollshouse which drew much attention from the visitors and the state apartments which were designed by Wyattville in the early 19th century. The rooms were similar to any you might see in any stately home, gilded furniture, tables filled with silver, paintings of long dead ancestors and crimson and gold carpets. The best part for us was not the ancient part of the castle but the new rebuilding after the fire. Modern materials had been used to reconstruct the fabric of the building. It was interesting to see the work of the carpenters, the plasterers and the glaziers and to realise that fine workmanship was still possible. We had not lost the art of producing a fine ceiling or intricate plasterwork.

Both of us are interested in churches and church architecture. St Georges Chapel is a stunning medieval building built in the Gothic style. Again a shame - no photographs allowed. Do they do this so you will buy the guide book? The Chapel was filled with the regalia attached to the Garter Ceremonies and banners hung from the roof. The chapel has been used for royal marriages and for funerals and there are many interesting tombs in the building. We saw the tombs of Edward IV, Henry VI, Elizabeth Woodville who was Queen of England. Jane Seymour,her husband Henry VIII and the beheaded Charles I all lie in the chapel. Mad King George III lies there along with what what can only be described as minor royalty and another George , George IV of Brighton fame. More recent Kings and Queens included the infamous Edward VII who died in 1910 and his wife Alexandra. Near to the doorway is the tomb of King George V and his beautiful wife Mary of Teck, he passed away in 1936 and Mary in 1953. In a small memorial chapel lie the bodies of the Queens father George VI his wife the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth and the ashes of the Queens sister Princess Margaret. Some tombs elaborate and others simple.

On the way out is the Albert Memorial Chapel which unfortunately is roped off from the public. It looked stunning and contained the tomb of the Duke of Albany who died in 1884 and the magnificent tomb of Prince Albert Victor.

As we left the castle grounds we were accosted by an Australian guy who was undertaking a survey on our experiences of the Castle. We were surprised at just how many migrant workers there were in and around London. In every cafe, shop or tourist attraction the voices greeting us were mainly Eastern European, American or Australian.

Our trip back was less fraught, a straightforward train back to Slough, a slow stopping train to Paddington. No guard to challenge us on the validity of our ticket.

We finished the day at Firepower at the Woolwich Arsenal. Again free entry using the London Pass. By now it was chilly and it was good to get inside for a well deserved warm. The museum is located in some of the former buildings of the Royal Arsenal and they are fairly close to the railway station bearing the same name of Woolwich Arsenal. The site is now a mixture of the old ordnance buildings and an up market housing estate. It would have been interesting to find out the prices of the apartments on the site - they did look plush.

As we entered we were called over by a guide. Again those who follow our blogs know we hate guided tours and prefer to make our own way at our own speed around the attraction and the exhibits. However today the guy who came over was so enthusiastic for a volunteer that we felt obliged to follow him and to be fair he was excellent explaining the history of the guns from their humble beginnings in China to the guns of the First World War. He explained the different types of guns and discussed their range and capabilities . Himself had a particular interest in the guns of the Great War as his grandfather had been a horseman who worked with the limber. The limber is a two wheeled cart which was designed to support the trail of an artillery piece or the stock of a field carriage such as a caisson or forge. He still has the spurs his grandfather used so it was a real family history moment to see the limber and understand how it worked and to understand his grandfathers role.

My favourite gun was a ceremonial Indian gun shaped like a lion. It seems it had never been used but it was highly decorated and too pretty to be a weapon of potential destruction.

Downstairs were displays of more modern guns ranging from those used in the campaigns of the Second World War to those of more recent battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We ended the day back at Suzy - tired after all that travelling. Tomorrow our last day is going to be a long and tiring one. Our London Pass has run out so it's museum day. The British Museum and then finally over to the National Gallery. Artifacts and pictures day.

Highlights so far : How warm Suzy has been?

What excellent value the London Pass was? The tombs of Westiminster Abbey. The mosaics at St Pauls. Hampton Court.

Disappointments: Not seeing inside the Palace of Westminster. Not being able to do more with the London Pass - 3 days was not enough time to cover everything . The weather - warm would have been nice. Missing Bonfire Night . Missing All Saints church, Margaret Street. Not being able to see all of the museums and art galleries and finally not taking in a show. War Horse was on the radar but it fell off somewhere along the line.

Perhaps we will have to come again. You cannot do justice to London in 4 days.


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