Sunday 14 October 2007

This Englishwoman's home is her castle

I haven't really blogged about the other side of my life really, the alternative side to my passion for vintage treasures, floral things and cottage gardening - well, here goes.

My heart really lies in the 13th century - honestly it does! As a child my parents took us on lovely holidays to Wales and the West Country and as everyone who grew up here knows, the weather is often pretty rubbish so instead of getting wet and cold on the beach, mum and dad took us to castles and cathedrals and enchanted us with tales of knights and ladies and for me it inspired a live times' fascination with "the olden days".

From stories about the mason who might have built a pillar we were looking at in Exeter cathedral when I was 8, I ended up studying medieval history at university, dabbling in a bit of living history re-enactment to running the 800th anniversary market charter celebrations for Leek earlier this year. The TV programme Robin of Sherwood (and ok i admit the rather lovely Michael Praed and Jason Connery) had a huge influence on me when I was a young teenager and from there I got really interested in 'bad' King John and thesedays I'm gripped by most of the issues during his reign which was only years from 1199 to 1216, which considering there's been eight centuries since then, its a bit odd to know a lot about such a short period of time but anyway, that's me.

For me its an amazing period in our history, full of adventure and daring-do and I think its a shame that so few films or tv programes are made about this time, especially when there seems to be wall-to-wall stuff about the Romans (again!) and the Tudors (oh no, not again!).

Sir Barney guards the keep staircase

As you can imagine, having two small boys I've been just waiting for the day that they get interested in knights and castles so that I can bore them rigid with the intricacies about mail shirts, how castles were built, why when knights fell off their horses they weren't really stuck helpless in the mud and all that caper and - hurrah - Barney has just adopted some of my childrens' castle books and wants to know more. So, this weekend we went to one of my favourite places having promised to take him to a 'proper' castle. (We live close to Peveril Castle in the Peak District which is very dramatic but a bit small for a little boy expecting a whopper.) Richmond in North Yorkshire is wonderful and we've enjoyed a lovely day up there before. I love it not just for the castle but it has a lovely market, gorgeous shops, beautiful river walk and the town is so pretty. I didn't have any joy treasure hunting in the charity shops but got the most lovely Christmas card of Richmond for Woody as he loves it there, but I'll wait to show it on here until Christmas.

View of the semi-circular marketplace from the top of the keep

It was the perfect day, the journey there and back was a breeze and the weather was grey but dry. Barney and I explored the keep and Woody played 'jousting' with the boys on the grass to the sound of much squealing. 'Sir' Barney and 'Sir' Archie are now fully equipped with wooden swords and shields and the castle you'll be pleased to hear is safe from dragons.

I love day trips at this time of year when you can really enjoy the fantastic colours and the atmosphere is magical. Richmond is one of my special places along with Port Isaac and Ludlow and has a very special place in my heart.


Rowan said...

I haven't been to Richmond, it sounds like a good place to try. I was at Peveril Castle on Saturday though, it was the finishing point of the walk I did up to the top of Mam Tor and then across Cow Fold to the castle. We're lucky in this country to have so many wonderful castles to visit.

Ragged Roses said...

So now we know 'the other side' of you! Thanks for sharing, it's really interesting. We're fortunate too to be able to visit so many castles around here. Our favourite is Bodiam! I think we had a glut of castles in my daughter's first year at secondary school, she had to do a project on them over a half term and it seemed like we were doing a castle a day!
Kim x

vintage twist said...

Love history myself and couldn't think of a nicer day out than a visit to a castle. Rather keen on the current BBC Robin Hood actually!

Alchamillamolly said...

Hi there - I live about 15 miles from Richmond and my mother in law lives there!! How lucky am I? Next time you go you must eat at Trotters its a little cafe just down from the Green Howards Museum. Its owned by the wife and son of the man whose garage we bought our car from! We went there a few weeks ago and I heard someone say the cheese and onion quiche is just out of the oven - so I had to have it - goodness me it was divine - mind you so is the Son!! Have you explored the area? you must go to Easby Abbey just the other side of Richmond. The kids will like it. They have great things on at the Castle in Richmond - check English Heritage site they have lots at weekends for kids. Until recently I added events to the NY Market Towns website so I knew loads of things going on in our county - then they pulled the funding for the events bit - I miss it. Gosh you were spookily near - and if I hadnt stomped off because of my hot sweats which were so unbearable Sat am (I went and sat in the garden with my little battery fan) - we would have been in Richmond market place at 11.30am. I get so cross when my family don't suffer from these sweats. They make my head sweat and my hair go flat - and its thinning and I hate it, moan , moan , moan. So we didn't go and I sorted out some more cupboards in my old workroom. Still 'cos of my mood I was ruthless and I was saying on my blog - we took six boxes of good stuff to Oxfam and didint even get a nod never mind a thank you. Right off I go to sort the washing out - night night

Anonymous said...

WE are lucky enough to have a few castles not too far from us and have spent many a happy family time at them.

pinkgreen said...

Sounds like a great time was had by one and all! It is great when you can share your passions with your children isn't it? We live near Sudeley Castle, which is great for a bit of Henry VIII history, but there's nothing quite as old and exciting as Richmond round these parts!
Cathy X

Rosie said...

I remember passing through Richmond on our way up to Barnard Castle quite a few years ago now - at the time we didn't stop to look at either the castle or the town because we had spent the morning wandering around Middleham castle and needed to get on with our journey. It looked a lovely place. Have you ever been to Castle Rising in Norfolk? It is the most wonderful castle, definitely one of my favourites:)

Perfectly Lovely said...

Hey Steph
pop over and have a peek at my blog, I have a cofession for you, Jennifer :) xx

alice c said...

So...have you read ALL the Sharon Penman books? My husband teases me and so I have to read them privately but if you are mad about all things medieval they are a must!