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Medieval

Ross and Moss – Day 3

Ross and Moss – Day 3

Today we go home. Originally today was forecast to be dry but cloudy instead we have another bright sunny day.

On the way back we intend to visit two churches. Both are exceptional and each one is quite different from the other.

The first church is in a tiny hamlet called Michaelchurch. The church is small and rather primitive. so what’s exceptional about this church? Well we need to go inside for that.

I’m sure that you will have heard the expression “The writing’s on the wall” well that expression applies to this church – literally!

The church is a listed building and was founded in 1056 with alterations being made in the 13th and 17th centuries. However the real interest are the 13th century wall paintings together with some writing from the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is some of the later writing which includes the ten commandments.

The earlier 13th century painting is red and white and must have originally covered the whole interior including the interior of the window alcoves.

That church was astonishing. We have never seen so many 13th century wall paintings in any one building before. Certainly worth a visit and only 5 miles north west of Ross-on-Wye.

We are now going to venture another two and a half miles slightly east of north to the village of Hoarwithy, itself only three and a half miles from Ross-on-Wye.

The grade 1 listed church here couldn’t be more of a contrast with Michaelchurch. This is a Victorian Church built around 1878 in the Italian Romanesque style which was described by Pevsner as “the most impressive Victorian church in the county”.

The church has an imposing campanile of four storeys, with an open arcaded ground floor both of which are visible in the photograph. The church is of sandstone and a north porch, on the left, is linked to the arcades of the campanile by a loggia.

The carvings along the arcade are impressive but, because they are carved from soft sandstone, some of them are weathering badly.

This next carving shows the greek characters Alpha and Omega and you can see that the part of the carving near the camera is more weathered than the part furthest from the camera.

This Logia is particularly nice partly because of its construction, including the tiled floor, and partly because of the view beyond.

Unfortunately the church was closed because of Covid-19 so we couldn’t go inside this time. Hopefully we will be able to re-visit another time.

Well that was a nice 3-day trip and it was very welcome. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – Ross-on-Wye was a lovely little town and we’d hope to go back one day and the Forest of Dean is big and there are lots of places we haven’t yet seen so we’ll want to return for another multi-day visit. Until then ….

Meadow and Medieval

Meadow and Medieval

A few years ago our friend Marie from the USA came over here and on one day we took her to Stokesay Castle near Craven Arms in Shropshire. We travelled by car and parked in the Stokesay Castle car park as that seemed to be the most obvious thing to do.

We recently decided to visit Stokesay Castle again but this time we were planning to park in the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre on the outskirts of Craven Arms and walk to Stokesay Castle. Marie will probably recognise the views of Stokesay Castle. The Discovery Centre is on the edge of Onny Meadows; a large area of very nice water meadows with numerous footpaths.

We parked and then set off from the Discovery Centre to find the path that would take us across to the other side of the River Onny. We probably would have missed it if it wasn’t for the fact that I had my smartphone in my hand which showed us our position on a map. At the point at which it showed that we had reached the start of the path there was a rather insignificant gap in the hedge and that was the path we wanted. We probably wouldn’t have recognised it otherwise.

We were now heading for the river and on the way we passed some rather nice timber framed cottages.

Then we soon arrived at the ‘White Bridge’ over the river.

I stopped on the bridge to take a photograph of the river so there are no prizes for guessing whose shadow that is.

On the other side of the river we started to climb whilst travelling parallel to the river. The path went through some nice landscapes until it was fairly high above the river and then began to drop slowly until we reached river level again.

The River Onny here is quite deep and so flows very slowly. The overall impression is that of a pond rather than a river and there were plenty of dragonflies about.

As we walked alongside the river I spotted this Reed Canary-Grass which I thought looked rather nice. It is, unsurprisingly, a waterside grass.

Where the river was very shallow at the edges we saw a lot of fry, possibly Minnow, in large shoals. Each fish was only about one inch long.

It didn’t take us very long to get to Stokesay Castle which was looking its usual splendid self. This is an English Heritage property and all visits currently have to be pre-booked because of the Covid-19 situation but entry was quite straight forward. Needless to say there are plenty of features to look at and it really is interesting. They do have a nice gift shop at the entrance and we left carrying three jars of assorted fruit preserves and a bottle of liqueur. I don’t know how that happened.

Having had a good look around we decided that it was time to leave and started to walk back to the Discovery Centre. We passed this recently harvested field and I couldn’t resist a photograph partly because those large hills on the horizon are actually clouds.

We returned on a different path which passed through this wooded area of mainly Ash trees which looked very nice in their silvery bark.

Onward through the meadows were these Tansey flowers which I haven’t seen for some time and this is probably the largest bunch that I’ve seen.

As we approached the Discovery Centre we passed through these wooden representations of Mammoth tusks. These are here because there is, in the Discovery Centre, a full sized replica of Woolly Mammoth remains which were found near Condover, Shrewsbury.

The Discovery Centre is a modern building with a low profile and a grass roof.

The interior is very pleasant with a large gift shop and a well stocked cafe where we had lunch including, of course, finishing up with ice cream ( a very good selection of flavours). This is the passageway to the cafe.

That was the end of another interesting and enjoyable little trip.

Sun, Sea & Sand – Day Three

Sun, Sea & Sand – Day Three

Today is going to be an adventure. We are going to get the bus, travel to Pembroke and look at the castle. Pembroke is a small town with a very big castle.

We caught the bus in the morning and the journey turned out to be quite interesting. The journey is about 30 minutes and the bus goes partly along the main road but also diverts through a number of small villages served by even smaller roads. The bus filled these roads from side to side and it became even more interesting in the villages where there would be parked vehicles and very tight bends. We did, however, get to Pembroke and the bus stopped virtually outside the castle.

There is an entrance charge but it is certainly worth it and, having paid ours, we went in via the Gatehouse.

This gatehouse is big enough on its own to get lost in. I have not seen another castle with so many passages and spiral stairways. One can go along a passage in this gate house and spot a spiral stairway and if one ignores it there will come a point where there is a choice of passages and whichever passage one chooses there will be another spiral stairway. It was mind boggling.

Those stairs may look a bit wonky but that’s because they are a bit wonky. Notice how shiny and worn those lower steps look. We eventually found our way out into the daylight at a high level and began to realise just how big this castle was. That strange, rather incongruous, flat topped builing tucked into the wall on the left was a self-service cafe. It is partly sunken into the ground I suppose in an attempt to make it less obvious.

There is a very large map of Wales in the bailey showing where all the castles are and one can walk about on it or sit at one of the tables on the edge to consume one’s refreshments. The large round tower is the main Keep.

There are some good views of the town to be had from up here.

We did manage to finally leave the Gatehouse and walked along the wall to the tower shown below. There is a choice here of, if I remember correctly, going into the tower and eventually coming out the other side onto that further wall or going down the steps to a small landing then going up some more steps to end up in the same place as going through the tower. One can, of course go down to the ground or come up from the ground.

We were, by this time, flagging a little and so decided to go into their little cafe for lunch and, after lunch, having had some refreshments and a rest we were ready to go again (possibly a little more slowly).

In one of the halls on the side of the castle I found a small entrance door with a spiral stairway going down and this, remember, is starting at ground level. It is called Wogan Cavern ( I don’t know why ) and I counted about 55 steps down. Here is where I ended up.

It has been used for at least the past 12,000 years. The cave was a shelter for cave dwellers during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic Periods, possibly the Bronze Age, and during the Roman occupation of Britain, shown by left-behind Paleolithic stone tools, and a Roman coin hoard.

The steps back up seemed more like 155 but I did make it back. Then, being a glutton for punishment, I decided to climb the main keep.

I got about a third of the way up and decided it may possibly be too much so discretion became the better part of valour (I gave up).

That little tower peeking out from beyond the Keep is the Dungeon Tower. I say ‘little’ but it’s only a small amount shorter than the Keep but, as I’m not very bright, I decided to climb that.

No it wasn’t easy but I did actually make it and there were some pretty good views to be had.

By this time we had worn our legs down to the knees and the stumps were beginning to get a little sore so we called it a day – well almost. We had realised that our bus back to Tenby goes through a small village called Lamphey and in that village are the ruins of a Bishops Palace so, of course, we had to break our return journey there.

It was about a 15 minute walk from the bus stop and after a while we saw this wall which gave us a clue as to where we were.

We had found the palace and went in.

Dating from the 14th century it provided the medieval prelates with the privileged lives of country gentlemen, enjoying the luxuries of private accommodation, a grand great hall, first-floor chamber, fishponds, fruit orchards, vegetable gardens and 144-acre park. It must have been a hard life.

There is quite a lot to see here.

We were very tired by now and we had to walk back to the bus stop so we set off for the village. We had about 15 minutes to wait until the bus arrived so I took this picture of Lamphey Church whilst we waited.

Now that is a tower and a half! The churchyard, apparently, is possibly an Iron Age enclosure comprising of a circular outer ditch surrounding a rectangular mound and the building is early medieval in origin and in existence by the late 11th century.

Then the bus arrived and we went back to end another day.

Sun, Sea and Sand – Day Two

Sun, Sea and Sand – Day Two

That is the view from our hotel room this morning and it’s a beautiful start to a beautiful day. This is the outside of our hotel,

this is the inside of our room

and this is part of the hotel’s gardens which go down to the beach.

We were on our way into the town once again but we weren’t going via the beach mainly because the tide is only now going out and I think our passage along the beach would be blocked by the sea until later. This next view is a short way along the road from the hotel. You can see that the tide is still relatively high and that lump of rock from yesterday is showing on the right.

On our way we went past yet another of Tenby’s interesting narrow lanes.

We were on our way to see the ancient medieval town walls. Not all of the wall remains but there are some remaining substantial sections of which this is one. Couldn’t really miss it could you?

These next two pictures show one of the old town gates – first from the outside and then from the inside.

This gate looks heavily fortified to me. I wonder who they were expecting. We soon found ourselves walking along yet another of those attractive narrow lanes.

We were heading for Castle Hill and, as it is a relatively large lump, we thought that it would be obvious but it was so well masked by the surrounding buildings that we had to resort to looking at the map. That put us on the right road.

Here you can see Amanda staggering up the hill. That doesn’t imply that I wasn’t staggering it’s just that I was staggering slightly faster than she was.

Well here we are at the top showing the only remaining tower of the medieval castle, the cannon trained at the French coast and a rather good view of the town.

Our next target was St. Catherine’s Island. It’s an island only at high tide but now the tide was out enough for us to walk across the beach to reach it. That tower on the left in the picture below is part of the old town walls.

One does have to pay a small entrance fee but we thought it would be worth it so we set off passing through this archway, a remnant of the old town wall, to reach the beach.

We paid our fee to a young lady on the beach at the foot of the stairway that gives access to the island and started up the steps.

Then along a short path.

At the end of that path we have to cross a small bridge over a chasm in the rock and Amanda couldn’t help bragging by stopping above the chasm to have her photograph taken.

We did get to the top and found this rather large Victorian fort built to counter a perceived threat of invasion by Napoleon.

We left the fort and St. Catherine’s Island and decided that that was the end of our day so we went back to the hotel.

Sun, Sea and Sand – Day One

Sun, Sea and Sand – Day One

We struck lucky with the weather on this trip although the first part of the first day was cloudy (no sun, sea or sand) but after that it was sun all day every day.

We left home at about 9.00 AM for a two and a half hour journey so decided to break it up by visiting a National Trust Property at about the one and a half hour mark.

We stopped at Dinefwr Park and, for those of you that don’t know, Dinefwr is pronounced “Din ever”. It consists of Newton House (a stately home), the ruins of a medieval castle (Dinefwr Castle) and lots of parkland which is home to a herd of deer.

As I mentioned above this morning was cloudy but I took the following picture anyway.

However we called in here again on our way home when the weather was better and I photographed it again. Which picture do you think is better?

Inside the house it didn’t matter what the weather was like outside so I carried on taking photographs.

Those rooms, as you might expect, look rather grand. The Dining Room in the top picture and the Sitting Room in the bottom picture. The interesting thing about this property is that nobody minds if you touch the furniture or walk on the carpets or even sit on the chairs.

I did go out to the back of the house where it overlooks the Deer Park and surprise, surprise I saw some deer. They were quite a long way away so even using my telephoto lens to its maximum this is the best that I could achieve. You should, at least, be able to see their antlers.

I took that photograph above from the small formal garden shown below which is at the back of the house. That is the only gardens they have here.

We also had a look at the castle both times we stopped here so as the weather was better on the way back these photographs are from then.

There is a reasonable amount to see in this castle ruin even extending to a few medieval spiral stairways which can be tricky to negotiate because the height of each tread can vary as can the width.

It is possible to see Newton House, together with some lovely views, from some of the high points of the castle so it is worth the scramble.

We had some lunch here at Dinefwr then headed off to our final destination. We booked into our hotel and after sorting out our parking space (they have only 10) which we had reserved we went outside and this is the first photograph I took of Tenby from outside the hotel.

Here in Tenby at 4 o’clock we now have sea and sand but no sun yet but we set off to explore anyway. The hotel has gardens at the front that are terraced down the steeply sloping cliffs to the beach and that is where we went.

It is now 5 o’clock and look, the sun has appeared! So now, finally, we have sun, sea and sand. What a change in just an hour.

We were able to walk along the beach as the tide was out and went to have a look at that lump of rock sticking through the sand. You can see that the rock bedding is steeply inclined and, as we later discovered, that applies to most of the rock on this coast. That tiny bit of head together with a splash of red on the right-hand edge is Amanda.

We walked along the beach until we found some steps up into the town. This is a view back the way we came from town level. You can see that lump of rock that we stopped to make friends with and just to the left of it is a small cream building. Our hotel is directly above that.

It is now 5:30 PM and you may notice that the cloud is dispersing rapidly.

Now I have to ask – have you ever seen a fat seagull?

Well you have now. As you can no doubt work out it is a little cafe so we went in for some coffee and cake.

It was a nice little place and the cake was good. That’s Amanda over on the right against the wall. Having finished our refreshments we went back into the town. Want some colour? We can find you some colour!

This is just one of the many narrow lanes in Tenby. There is plenty more to see but we are calling it a day and are going back to the hotel until tomorrow.

Our trip finally comes to pass!

Our trip finally comes to pass!

Here is a “moan about weather forecasting apps” warning. I usually use two apps for weather information and, of course, they tend to contradict each other. This morning the Met Office weather app forecasts sunny intervals this morning and mostly cloudy this afternoon. The BBC weather app, however, forecasts sunny intervals all day. I think I’ll go with the BBC forecast as it’s better.

As it happened the BBC forecast was right and we had plenty of sun. We set off from home to Dore Abbey in the village of Abbeydore.

The above picture shows the parish church of Abbeydore but if you look at the picture you will see that the tower height looks about average for a parish church but if you compare it with the rest of the building you will see that the main body of the church is much higher than normal. That is because this church used to be part of Dore Abbey and is the only part of the abbey still in existance. The tower was built in 1633 but the rest of the building was built in the late 12th century.

There are some small exterior bits of the abbey remaining which are attached to the church such as the structure shown below but very little else.

Inside, because of its height, the church does look spectacular.

There are a few areas of colourful heraldic ceramic tiles like this.

There are also a few surviving wall paintings of which this is one.

We have seen all that we wanted to here so we moved on to the next location just five miles away – Grosmont Castle.

There is Amanda sneaking in without me after crossing the bridge whilst I was taking this photograph. Still she does give an idea of scale.

There isn’t a lot left in this ruin but what does exist is quite impressive. You may notice Amanda up on top of the wall near the centre of the picture. The way up is through that large dark doorway at the base of the tower.

This is the stairway one has to negotiate to get up onto the wall. It may induce a little vertigo in those of you who are that way inclined. Inside the tower isn’t so bad but once you emerge the sides are open with just that handrail to stop you falling off.

The views when you get up there are rather nice though.

It was, once again, time to move on and this time to Llanthony Priory; one of the very many abbey/priory ruins scattered about this region but pretty impressive don’t you think?.

One of the impressive things about this ruin is the landscape round about which is truly magnificent.

One of the unusual things is that there is a small hotel attached to the ruins. We weren’t staying there but we did have lunch there. When we found the Cellar Bar entrance we found ourselves at the top of some steps leading below ground and, in the bright sunlight, it looked almost too dark to see. When we got down there we found ourselves in what appeared to be a small, but bright, cellar with about 6 tables scattered about.

They had a reasonable selection of meals which turned out to be perfectly acceptable. I had Chilli Con Carne with rice and Amanda had just a bowl of chips and she said that there were plenty of chips.

After lunch it was, once again, time to move on. Finally we are now headed home via the Gospel Pass, which is the highest road pass in Wales, and I’ll give you a bit of advice. If you just want to see the Gospel Pass then go up from the Hay-on-Wye side not the Llanthony side. The road from Hay-on-Wye is narrow with passing places but not as narrow or as tricky as the road from Llantony. The Llantony road runs between banks, hedges and walls and doesn’t open out until you cross the cattle grid. The picture below was taken not long after we crossed the cattle grid and is looking back towards Llanthony.

The views from up here are really spectacular.

We came down into Hay-on-Wye and, after a quick stop for coffee, we went home.

That trip was a circular route of around 90 miles which we thought, afterward, was a bit too long for a day trip but we arrived home unscathed but tired.

Lynn – Day 3

Lynn – Day 3

Another day, another sunny morning.

Today we are going further north to the coast at Hunstanton known colloquially as 'Sunny Hunny'. It's about 40 years since I was there last and we are going once again to look at the cliffs. It was a straightforward, uneventful journey and we reached the old lighthouse in about 30 minutes. We went into the obvious, very large car park to find that the charges were approximately £1.80 per hour with a small reduction for longer stays. We turned round and left.

We drove along the road past the car park entrance and found space further down to park in the road at £0.00 per hour unrestricted. No contest really.

We were now going to walk back the way we came, along the top of the cliffs, until we can access the beach. A short way after leaving the car we came across the only remaining part of St. Edmund's Chapel built in 1272.

Hunstanton has long been associated with Sir Edmund who, as King of East Anglia, led a small army against the invading Vikings, was captured and, after refusing to give up his Christian faith, was tied to a tree and shot by Danish archers. Legend has it that when St Edmund first came from Saxony in AD855 he landed near Hunstanton cliffs.

Then of course there's the old lighthouse.

There has been a Lighthouse here since 1665 which was built of wood with an iron basket of burning coals as a light. Hunstanton had the world's first parabolic reflector, built here in 1776, and the current lighthouse was built in 1840. There is no access inside as it is now a private residence.

We went on past the lighthouse down towards the beach as the cliffs became lower and lower. We could see a large expanse of beach and, further out to sea, a bank of mist touching the water.

Having reached the beach we reversed our direction so that we were now walking back along the beach, instead of the cliff top, in the direction of our parked car. The cliff here comprises three layers of which the bottom layer is Carstone. This is a type of sandstone and shows a distinct pattern of raised, rounded blocks here when eroded by the sea.

The cliffs themselves are the striped cliffs I mentioned in the Prologue and you should be able to see three distinct colour bands. The youngest rock at the top is bog standard white chalk laid down during the Upper Cretaceous then below that is what is known as Red Chalk laid down during the Lower Cretaceous. Both of these layers are limestone. At the base is the Carstone which is brown in colour and which we saw protruding above the beach as rounded blocks in the previous picture.

For those of you who prefer to work in years these sediments are around the 100 million year mark – a teensy bit older than I am.

We walked a little further on until we found some steps and a path to take us back to the top of the cliffs. You can probably see that these cliffs are subject to significant erosion.

After that final look at the cliffs we found a nice little cafe at the top of the cliffs overlooking the sea where we had lunch. After lunch we walked back to the car and headed back to King's Lynn.

About 5 miles this side of King's Lynn is a small village called Castle Rising where we expected to find, as you've probably guessed, a Norman castle. What we didn't expect to find was an imposing Norman church.


On the other side of the church is the old market cross dating from the 15th century which we thought was in a rather nice setting.

The church itself had a rather spendid, and typical, Norman doorway.

Opposite the church was the Tudor Trinity Hospital founded by the Earl of Northampton in 1614 and although the roof is now tiled the original roof was thatched. The term 'hospital' in Tudor times was applied to almshouses.

The inhabitants, known as 'Sisters', were expected to be "of an honest life and conversation, religious, grave and discrete, able to read, a single woman, 56 years of age at least, no common beggar, harlot, scold, drunkard, or haunter of taverns" and had to attend chapel every day.

Finally we got round to seeing what we came here to see – the 12th century castle.


I'm standing on the high earthwork bank which completely surrounds the castle with a very, very deep ditch on the outer edge. That's Amanda teetering on the edge in the second picture.


The main stairway into the castle is quite impressive and it was meant to look that way to impress visitors.

The rest of the castle, however, is accessed via the more traditional medieval spiral stairways and passages.


When we came to leave we realised that we were the only people in the castle. An interesting experence.

It's worth a visit if you're ever that way.

The end of another day and tomorrow we go home – but …..