Road Trip continued…
Thursday, September 17
We were sorry to leave the East Harting cottage that was quickly becoming ‘our’ cottage after two wonderful nights, but onward we went, this time a couple hour’s drive away to Hastings where, you guessed it, the Battle of Hastings occurred on October 14, 1066. Again, we walked outside in glorious September weather. The battle field sits below an Abbey constructed by William the Conqueror a few years later as a monument to the 8,000 who died (to put the number killed in perspective 2,500 represented a typical town’s population back then).
The actual site was dotted with plaques explaining the battle and the two primary antagonists: William, the Duke of Normandy, and Harold Godwinson.
What both Max and I found interesting was seeing panels using the Bayeux Tapestry, which we saw in Normandy, to augment the text on the plaques.
In spite of the tapestry being biased towards William’s view (it was commissioned by him and his Bishop brother, Otto, as propaganda), the pictorial panels complimented the audio guide’s detailed description. I required the modern description because I definitely couldn’t interpret the woven little guys’ actions.
Having been slightly prejudiced myself towards William (de Bruses/Bruces came over from Normandy), a first cousin once removed from King Edward the Confessor, I was pleasantly surprised to see Harold Godwinson, a powerful noble, gifted politician, and brother of Edward’s wife, portrayed in a more objective manner. He was well-loved by the nobles and easily could have made a great king.
Unfortunately, Harold was impulsive, which resulted in his marching his tired troops from York (over 250 miles away) after they had just won a battle with the Norwegians on September 25. If not for that–OH, and being killed in the battle–he easily could have won, one reason being he held the better terrain – the top of the hill where the Abbey now stands – whereas the Normans occupied the bottom of the hill.
Yet, William successfully employed a tactic that initially occurred by mistake. Basically, some of his troops turned and ran causing a contingent of the enemy to follow. In doing so, the enemy’s line became broken, and the pursuers became isolated, and easily cut down as they were surrounded by the Normans. Unusual at this time, the battle lasted all day ending with William becoming the conqueror of the Anglo-Saxons.
During our stroll we noticed blackberries scattered around. Pretty soon a big clump captured our attention, and for a bit, battles and historical figures were forgotten as we succumbed to berry picking.
A quick stop-in at the abbey, noting where a guesthouse had been constructed for a possible visit from Elizabeth I, then
a cup of take-away java from an old house across the Abbey’s entrance
put us back on the road again, this time to a small village north of Dover.
Our second airbnb was also difficult to find not the least due to directions being a bit confusing (there were two gates to the place and the one to the coach house was located on a lane with no sign). However, this place, too, was lovely. And, it had a T_U_B!!! It lacked a proper kitchen but a grill served us just as well, especially since it was the first one we’d used since Max’s and my stop at Helnessund in July with Betsy. No s’mores, though :(
Friday, September 18
The next morning we headed to Dover where we had two missions: for Rudy to see Henry II’s castle, and to tour the headquarters hidden in the cliffs where Operation Dynamo (the Dunkirk rescue) was run…
and, for him to meet the family on s/v LEANDER who may have a possible crew position available.
Since this was a repeat visit for Max and me, I opted, once again, to tour the castle and associated Military museum then head for a coffee shop on the premises. And, yes, it was raining… NOT that I’m a fair-wather tourist… Okay, somewhat, yet, fresh water coming down is a heck of a lot better than that salt stuff.
Just an aside, touring with someone who’s excited about what they’re seeing opens my eyes even wider to appreciate the significance and/or beauty in which I’m immersed. I also tend to experience something new from that site. And, Dover’s repeat visit fell into this category.
Two interesting facts I picked up during this visit were: (1) during Henry II’s and subsequent kings’ castle stays, it could be one big sleep-over for guests; extra mattresses would be flopped down on the floor all over the royal bedchambers to accommodate guests; and (2) England’s army was established after Charles II (1630-85 ) was convinced by the Duke of York that professional soldiers (versus everyday residents) were necessary to defend the establishment.
After a few hours Max and Rudy returned with Rudy wanting to see one more area, the medieval tunnels; so, Max and I lounged in the returned sunshine.
We then left to meet up with Sima and Paul and their two little ones in the Dover Marina. Paul, originally from Lynn, MA, and Sima, from Turkey, had met in Boston and are on the last legs of a circumnavigation. It’s always interesting hearing other cruisers’ thoughts on passages and sailing, and this time was no different.
After an hour or so, we left for Hawkhurst and to prepare for our last day on the road.
CHARLES DARWIN’S HOME
Saturday, September 19
We had located several other sites to explore on the way back to Ipswich, one being Charles Darwin’s home, Down House in Downe, Kent.
I won’t go on and on about this man and his family but, if you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely well-worth a visit. Be warned, allow at least two to three hours because the exhibits throughout the home and the gardens are fascinating and very informative.
The home on the ground floor (1st floor to us) had rooms furnished the way the Darwins had lived in them, including his study, sitting room, and fabulous dining room. I say fabulous because of the huge table, comfy chairs, and sunlight streaming in floor-to-almost-ceiling windows. We left this site full of Darwin’s personality and accomplishments. Unfortunately, you weren’t allowed to take photos indoors, so the following are pulled from the Internet only to provide a sense of the home.
The upstairs rooms were filled with displays on his HMS BEAGLE voyage (he suffered from seasickness, poor guy), his discoveries, and his family life. As we traipsed from one room to the next, I realized just how large this home was (he and his wife had added a separate wing, much needed, no doubt with all those kids).
Some interesting bits:
- His family didn’t think he’d amount to much. Both he and his wife (whose father was the famous founder of Wedgewood china) came from wealthy families, which meant he had plenty of resources and time to indulge his curiosity about nature.
- He was a very affectionate family man, unusual for the Victorian times, and, subsequently, well-loved by his wife and children (they had ten with seven surviving childhood).
- He achieved his discoveries using very simple instruments.
- He was a famous hypochondriac possibly begun when he was bitten by a Benchuga bug from his time aboard HMS BEAGLE (1831-36), which left him debilitated at times. There was also a small foot-tub in his study where Darwin would soak his feet to help alleviate his eczema.
- He was agnostic while his wife was very religious.
- He weighed everyone who visited him as well as his relatives. Why, I don’t know, but I do know I wouldn’t want to visit after one of our pasta passages.
- He and Alfred Russell Wallace, who also devleloped a theory of evolution similar to Darwin’s, actually became lifelong friends. Wallace shared his idea of evolution in a letter to Darwin. Alarmed to learn someone else was working on a similar theory, Darwin hurried to finally publish his “Origins of Species” in 1859. However, in 1858 both of these naturalists’ ideas were presented to the Linnean Society in London, the world’s oldest active biological society ; yet, not much was made of their theories of evolution. (On a side note, Darwin along with three friends persuaded Prime Minister Gladstone to put forth a proposal to Parliament to grant Wallce a much needed pension of £200 a year.)
After touring the greenhouse and gardens
we headed to our last stop of our Road Trip:
LULLINGSTONE ROMAN VILLA
This surprise site is one of the best examples of an English Roman villa. Constructed in roughly 100 c.e. and renovated over the next two hundred years, the foundation and associated mosaics are housed in a museum with simple wall exhibits explaining the history and layout of the house.
One of the most significant features of this site was a room deemed a house-church with artwork representing some of the earliest evidence of Christianity . Interestingly, underneath was a hidden room dedicated to the pagan gods and goddesses and only accessible via a ladder.
The museum descriptions were pretty simplistic (geared towards children), which only meant I was in my element when we hit the gift shop. What’s that saying? When in a Roman gift shop, do as Romans would do?
After five full days of touring this part of England, we were happy to be heading back to JUANONA.
But, wait! A mini-road trip occurred the next day (Sunday, September 20) when we piled into our road warrior vehicle and headed to…
Another beautiful day and another repeat visit for Max and me, resulting in Rudy heading into the museum housing artifacts and displays from this early medieval burial site (assumed to be the burial site of Raedwald, the Ruler of East Anglia (560-620 c.e.). But, before the three of us figured out who was going to do what, we had to check in at the ticket office.
Remember when I mentioned how miraculously entrance fees disappeared when with Rudy, e.g., Warkworth Castle at the beginning of his visit? Well, we approached the young man at the counter saying we’d like to purchase a ticket for Rudy who was an adult. The young man asked if we were going in, and we said, no, since we had visited earlier and now wanted our nephew to see it. However, when the transaction was completed and we were exiting the building, Rudy exclaimed he had received not one but three tickets (in the form of stickers) for the price of one child. Hmmm… as I said, there’s something about Rudy!
Max and enjoyed the sunshine as Rudy toured the small museum for the next hour or so. He seemed entranced by the history, enough so we went looking for him and found him asking questions of one of the staff. We finished the visit by walking up the path and through the field to the actual burial sites where we spotted humongous mushrooms whose necks were bent/broken due to the weight of the caps.
And, where, once again, Max proved why he’s married to such a goofball as I.
NOW, we had completed our Road Trips and were ready to stay on JUANONA doing boat errands and R&Ring prior to heading for Rudy’s last tour of his voyage,