Thursday, 19 February 2015

Bodiam Castle to Beachy Head. Granny Battleaxe on parade!

Busy Busy. Last weekend I couldn't help with the WI Cardi Gras event (part of Fat Tuesday) because we went to a neighbour's wedding. Wedding was at the Durbar Hall in the Museum - what a lovely place for it. Cardi Gras went well too - they raised plenty of money. 
   On Monday we took grand daughter Eve to Bodiam Castle. Philosopher and I had never been properly. We visited briefly back in 2008 when we made our first exploratory visit to Hastings. We stayed in the lovely Swan House in the Old Town, and I remember we got thoroughly lost trying to find Bodiam, goodness knows how, driving up and down what seemed endless narrow tunnel-like lanes with trees arching over from high banks. We were surprised that the countryside inland from Hastings was so pretty, wooded and undeveloped.
    I think we had fallen into the way of thinking shared by many of our Brummie friends, that the South-East is covered in new-build estates of executive homes interspersed with shiny hi-tech business parks and out-of-town retail emporia. (Sounds like the current HBC vision for Hastings and St Leonard's, methinks. Well, dream on.)
Bodiam Castle
    On that earlier visit we just walked round the outside of the castle, but on Monday we did the full thing.
    There were folk in medieval get-up offering meaningfully educational activities. I think a couple of them came to the WI and did a hilarious talk on medieval women's undergarments. Is that right, or am I getting muddled? 
    However, Eve has the attention-span of a flea so we just hurtled round the place at break-neck speed. There were lots of little rooms and nooks and crannies for her to rush in and out of, and a lung-bursting climb up a steep spiral staircase to the top of one of the towers.
Fine view from the tower
Eve pauses to try a medieval 'bed'
     Bodiam is everyone's idea of a classic romantic castle, standing in the middle of its moat. It seems pretty intact from the outside, but of course inside it is mostly ruins. Historically, it is not actually that interesting. It was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, ostensibly to defend the area against French invasion, but actually it was a medieval vanity project for its wealthy builder, and its authentic-looking but ornamental fortifications were never used. Partially dismantled after the Civil War, the castle spent most of its life as an ivy-clad  'picturesque ruin', before being bought and partially restored by Lord Curzon in 1916, and then given to the National Trust in 1925.
Bodiam as picturesque ruin, painting from 1906

Arty view from an arrow slit

Romantic.....
    Tuesday was a glorious sunny day, so we went up to Beachy Head. Eve always enjoys that, and it is also one of our favourite places. I wrote in a previous blog post about supernatural stuff that the atmosphere up there, and the wide open space, has a strangely calming effect.  The sky was blue and clear, the sea was blue and calm. We even heard skylarks. Eve likes being able to see both Brighton, where she was born, and Hastings, where we had come from.
    After a walk, we went for lunch at the Beachy Head pub. I had a 25% off voucher from the WI - whoo hoo! I've said before that the place is well run. Yesterday was another good example. I ordered food and the guy at the bar said it would be a wait of at least 30 minutes. I reported this, groaning inwardly, to Philosopher and Eve. Eve doesn't do waiting. However, well before she had finished looking through all the photos on my iphone, the food arrived - in less than 20 minutes. Customer delight factor? Check. Most places would have said the food would come in 20 minutes and then it would take 35.

Glorious sun - and space
Bit near the edge there, dear...


Good view of the lighthouse, and a reminder that for some, Beachy Head is not the place for a nice day out.....

Heading to the pub for lunch
     Wednesday was even more warm and sunny. Grandpa went to do his stint at the Jerwood Gallery so me and Eve did hairdressers and clothes shopping. Much hanging about in the sweaty depths of H&M and New Look when I wanted to be out in the sun. I see two new shoe shops are opening in Priory Meadow. I hope this is not overkill. Still, when all the shops in Priory Meadow are occupied, only then will I start to believe hyped-up Tory blather that recovery is on the way. Hastings has a very long way to go.
      Then we had an actual picnic on the beach. Lots of people were sitting around in tee-shirts, but I couldn't see anyone actually take to the water. I do still half-wish Battleaxe was one of those intrepid, lean and leathery women who would strip to their cozzies in front of the astonished crowd, stride briskly into the sea and then knife out through the waves with a perfect crawl. Paff.
      It's Thursday today, so we are driving up to Birmingham to take Eve back, and then staying a couple of nights.