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Published: July 30th 2017
We left the motel about 10am and after scoffing a Subway bacon and egg roll we headed east, our destination, the town of Battle. Fletcher has wanted to visit the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 for a while now so this was our chance. It was cloudy but fine as we drove along the A27 and there was not too much traffic.We followed the GPS instructions but decided to take a side excursiion as a pamphlet I had picked up in the foyer described Herstmonceaux Castle as being of interest. It certainly proved to be.This beautiful moated castle was built in 1441 by Sir Roger Fiennes, ancestor of Raph Fiennes. In 1946 it was bought by the Royal Greenwich Observatory and used as their headquarters. Next to it is now a Science Centre incorporating several telescope observatories with their green domes.
We spent a pleasant 40 minutes or so wandering through the grounds and gardens.At the back of the castle the gardens include a huge modern sundial and several smaller ones. There is also a Shakespeare garden planted with flowers mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. We chatted to one of the gardeners who was dead-heading the roses in
Moat around the castle
the rose garden. She said it was a never-ending job!.Along the path were a stand of chestnut trees, old and gnarled, dating from 1700. In the garden were many sculptures, some from Zimbabwe and beds of colourful wildflowers. An interesting spot to see.
After stopping briefly to take photos of the Observatory buildings we drove on. We arrived at Battle about 1pm and parked in the car park adjacent to the Battle Abbey. We strolled down the narrow main street enjoying the small shops and old buildings. We decided to stop at an Italian restaurant called Simply Italian for a quick lunch. We shared some Bruschetta, calamari and a very tasty pizza washed down with an Italian pinot grigio. Very tasty. Then we returned to Battle Abbey to purchase our tickets to see the battleground.
We bought our tickets at concession rates and entered through the Gatehouse. The abbey was built here by William the Conqueror to atone for the bloodshed he caused in the Norman Conquest of Britain. The Gatehouse of the Abbey is imposing and we walked down to the Visitor's entrance where we viewed an exhibition telling of the course of the battle. We watched
Another view of the castle
a short video which detailed the events of the fight and saw the exhibits showing the various weapons that would have been used and the armies of both sides. Then it was out onto the battlefield itself. There are a series of wooden statues at significant points and information boards detailing the events that occured at that site. These are well done and steer the visitor past the friendly sheep grazing on the meadows. We managed to get through most of it and then the rain started. We walked up the hill but could not see how to exit. We wandered around to another gate but no luck. By this time it was raining quite heavily and we saw some others heading for the gate we had originally considered. However, they climbed up and over a stile which took us back to the main enclosure. From there we walked to see the remains of the Abbey itself. William had decreed that the high altar of the church should mark the spot where Harold fell and we saw a plaque which marked that site. We also went into the ruins of the refectory and dormitories of the monks. Though the rain
abated somewhat, our time in the car park was running out so we walked back to the car. It had been a very interesting visit to such a significant site in English History.
From there we drove towards Hastings which in 1066 was the only town along it for a short time. We planned to drive along the coast to Brighton but the amount of traffic and the lateness of the hour persuaded us that it was not a good idea. Instead we drove back towards Arundel and thence to a small village of Burpham. Our friend, Peter Thompson, had recommended The George Hotel in this village as a good place to eat. We found it was very close to where we were saying although it was up a very narrow road. The pub was situated near a picturesque cricket ground and we found that it was a very popular place for locals to eat. It opened at 6pm and as we entered we found it was booked out but the maitre'd gave us a table that was booked for much later. Here we had arguably the best meal so far of the trip. We both started with a
In the gardens
crab and leek brulee which was very tasty and then Fletcher had duck while I settled for a whole brill. This is a flat fish like a plaice but smaller. We went the whole hog and had desserts as well. I had a whisky and honey creme brulee while Fletcher chose a very rich chocolate and orange tart. We were well sated by the end.
From there it was a short drive back to the hotel where we relaxed with a glass or two of wine before retiring for the night.
On Saturday morning we packed up and left the motel about 9-30am. We drove into Arundel.On the way in we caught a glimpse of the spectacular sight of the castle and church on the hill. We arrived at the castle at 10am, opening time. After parking we walked across the road to the entrance where there were many people dressed in medieval costume playing music and waving flags. There were also three on horseback, two of whom were in full armour. We had timed our visit perfectly to conicide with the week long jousting tournament which was taking place in the castle grounds. Arundel Castle
Fletcher and the sundial
is the seat of the Duke of Norfolk who is also Earl of Surrey. The family still live in the castle and they are one of the leading Catholc families in England. We paid our entrance fee and entered through the main gates. The grounds were set up as a medieval fair with tents demonstrating many of the traditional skills such as iron work, armour making, leather work and a tent with a variety of hunting birds which you could hold on your arm for a small fee. . We walked past the Tilting Yard and up the hill past the Castle entrance to the beautiful Fitzalan Chapel. This is a mausoleum where many of the Dukes and their families have been buried over the centuries. Inside there are many plaques and tombs all telling an impressive tale of the splendour of the family. Behind this chapel are the beautiful gardens with wooden arches and marvellous fountains. In the bloom of summer the flowers with their attendant bumble bees make a very pretty sight.
It was nearly 11am so we walked back down the hill to the Tilting Field to witness the jousting competition. There are four teams competing
peacock and peahens in the rose garden
here, one from each of England, Norway, Poland and France. We watched a match between Norway and France which France won. It was quite spectacular with the knights in their armour and the lances shattering on impact. We had a running commentary from a lady on horseback and the squires judging the bouts. There was quite a crowd cheering them on. We had a hog roll which was huge and then went to the castle itself. This opened at 12 so we went to the Keep first. This is the oldest part of the castle and was first built in the 11th century. We climbed up the narrow stairs looking into some of the small rooms on the way. At the top it opened out into the tower where wooden buildingd would once have stood to house the family. There is a dungeon here. Climbing further up there is a chapel and the guard's room. The view from the top is spectacular and we could watch a demonstration of sword fighting which was being staged on the lawns below. We descended down the narrow spiral staircase and then went to the castle itself. This has a grand hall with spectacular
armour and weapns on the walls as well as portraits of the family over the centuries.Many of the rooms have been refurbished in the original style and it is obvious that this is a family home with many photographs scattered around. I was taken by the library with its caged shelves of books and reading nooks. We were able to peer into some of the bedrooms which all had four poster beds and which were spacious enough to contain lounges. Separate bathrooms stood alongside some of the rooms.
After touring the castle we went back to the car. It was now 1pm so we set out to drive to Roger and Judy May's home in Surrey which was to be our next resting place. It was not far and the GPS took us along some small country roads through woodland and pretty countryside. However, on the way we saw a sign for Bignor Roman Villa so a detour was needed. We drove into a small area where there were a couple of stone buildings. These covered the remains of a Roman Villa which was on this site. There are mosaic floors still vivid in colour and shown as they
were originally found,A large central room had under floor hypocausts for heating and along the northern side was a long hallway. The mosaics depicted traditional Roman themes such as Venus and gladiators as well as dolphins and the seasons. Outside there was a separate bath house. The cold bath was excavated and under a roof next to it was a floor depicting Medusa. The museum also housed artefacts which were dug up on site as well as the remains of two infants buried nearby. Some very interesting remnants of the Roman occupation of Britain in the first century AD.
We arrived at Roger and Judy's late afternoon. They have an apartment in a gated community surrounding an old house on an estate. There are several apartment blocks as well as houses and garages all set in a pretty landscape and well tended gardens. We were greeted by Roger and we manouevred the suitcases up the small lift and into their spacious apartment. Judy was there to greet us. It was lovely to catch up with them after 18 months and they certainly made us feel welcome.We spent the afternoon admiring the view from their balcony as well as catching
Soldier in the battlefield
up on news and relaxing.
For dinner we went to the nearby Lythe Hill Park hotel where we had a great meal looking out over a beautiful lake and lawns.Fletcher had fish and chips while I had a very tasty pork fillet. Then it was back to the apartment for a nightcap and some quizzing. Again we were made to feel right at home and enjoyed each others company.
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