Northumberland 3 - Warksworth Castle - the Lion and the Percys/hand sanitation everywhere /Toast and Jam for breakfast

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September 9th 2020
Published: September 10th 2020
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Gabby the motorhome was still parked up at the Old Farmhouse . We had had a relatively peaceful night . We never heard the pub goers coming nor going . We left Gabbys heating on low overnight . The nights are starting to get a nip to them. We woke to a cosy van . We were in no hurry to leave . The pub landlord was in no hurry to move us on . He even mentioned breakfast in the pub but sadly the chef was not available. The rain pitter pattered on the roof . Not that level of thumping you get that sounds like the demented drummer of a heavy metal band . More the sort of rain that makes you drift back into sleep . We ate slowly . The inverter came up trumps . Toast and Jam . Just another of those small pleasures you get when everything in a van works . The lithium battery was certainly making life even more enjoyable . We had only a short journey ahead of us to Warksworth Castle . And we were happy . House sold . New house offer put in . What could go wrong ? Had I been at home I would have ripped off another days thought . It turned out to be something from the Dalai Lama -"Our purpose in our lives is to be happy". Why would you not be happy ? No more searching for a buyer . No more trips trying to find the right house to buy and a few days break away from home.

Walksworth Castle had been a late addition to the itinerary. We passed the Angel of the North and found ourselves on a massive grass parking area in the tiny village of Walksworth. We had looked at Google EArth before arriving so knew what to expect . There were not many about at this time of the morning . We could have parked anywhere . Our tickets were for 11 am so we had plenty of time to spare . Time to put the kettle on and brew a cuppa and eat a piece of chocolate cake . All this wine and cake will nothing for our weight . As we sat the rain subsided and more visitors turned up. Slowly the car park started to fill up. It is September and the kids are back at school . We wondered where everyone was coming from . I walked over to ask the attendant if we needed to pay parking fees . No she said - free to English Heritage or Cadw members . And as a bonus we could go in early .

The castle was impressive. We got out of Gabby and put our coats on . Although the rain had stopped it felt breezy. We were greeted again and showed our tickets. It is difficult now getting into places . Having to book in advance and print tickets off is a pain . With everything so organised it is impossible to see somewhere and just pop in. How I wish we could get back to normal . Hand sanitisers were everywhere and everyone without fail used them . Everyone seemed to keep 2 metres apart apart from when it went wrong inside . Walk on the right . Give way to those coming down the steps. Wear masks in the keep and inside any structure. We knew exactly what to do . Follow the one way system . Have you noticed though that people dont stick to the right nor do they wait for you to pass ? We saw folks congregating and holding everyone up. They even went the wrong way round .

The castle occupies a loop of the river Coquet which is less than a mile for Englands North East Coast . When the castle was founded is uncertain: traditionally its construction has been ascribed to Prince Henry of Scotland who was also Earl of Northumbria in the mid-12th century, Equally it could have been built by Henry II of England when he took control of England's northern counties. It was an heavily fortified castle understandable being not far from the borders of Scotland . During the English Civil War the owners supported parliament but despite this the castle was damaged during the conflict. The last Percy earl died in 1670. In the mid-18th century the castle found its way into the hands of a Hugh Smithson who married the indirec Percy heiress . He adopted the surname "Percy" and founded the dynasty of the Dukes of Northumberland through whom possession of the castle descended. Later in the late 19th century, the dukes refurbished Warkworth Castle and commissioned the architect Anthony Salvin to restore the keep. The 8th Duke gave the castle to the Office of Works in 1922 - upkeep must have been too costly and in 1984 it was given to the care of English Heritage . We were not issued with the usual paper guide due to Covid and chose not to use an audio guide . There was information though given at various stopping points along our route .

The castle inside continued to impress as much as it did outside. If this was the quality of castles along our route we would be well impressed .We had just entered through the Gatehouse which stood in the centre of the south curtain wall and mostly dates from the 13th century. It was originally accessed via a drawbridge but that had long gone together with the portcullis . Inside was an area of grass where folks congregated . We avoided them and headed for the west range . Dating from around 1480. There was the remains of ruined hall where all the household gathered to eat. The Earls quarters contained private chambers.

The Lion Tower was impressive . Internally, it was split into two aisles of differing width. Two halls were inside and were heated by open hearths, two of which survive from the earlier hall. They reminded us of castles in France with their massive fire places . Necessary to heat the massive rooms . Skeletal remains of windows opened out to the elements and in some place rainwater had soaked down the walls . Leaving green marks on the stonework . There was an high end , a withdrawing room and a low end for the servants . It must have looked wonderful with the walls covered in tapestries . None of which survive. The Lion Tower was the entrance to the north end of the great hall. Above the archway through the tower were displayed heraldic items, symbolic of the Percy earls' power. The lion at the bottom was the emblem of the earls. He did not look much like a lion as was much damaged. He reminded us more of a docile dog . Above the lion were the ancient arms of the family and the arms of the Lucy family, whose property the Percys had inherited in the 1380s. There was pantry larder, and kitchen. Immediately north of the kitchen was a postern tower. Built around 1200, its upper floors were later reused for accommodation. We seemed to be walking forever . We concluded that this was certainly one of the best castles we had seen for quite some while . Being Welsh we see castles all the time.

We continued to the Little Stair Tower and the Montagu Tower . Some you could climb. Others blocked off for safety. There were stables or at least the remains of stables and the Grey Mares Tail Tower . As an introduction to the castles of Northumbria we picked a good one .

We stayed a while longer on the grassy car park eating our lunch . Our next stop was only a few miles up the road . We were in no hurry to get there . We are on holiday after all .


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