Wednesday, August 30, 2006
A Step Back in Time
A month or so ago I spent a long weekend in Wales doing a course called 'Food,Farming and Clothes of the Common Man in 1620'. It appealed to me for two reasons - firstly it largely took place on the restored 17th century farm which was used in the television series 'Tales From the Green Valley'. Secondly many of my ancestors were 'ag labs' and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to gain an insight into their daily lives. It was pure serendipity that I even found out about it as it was a locally run course and not widely advertised. The people who own and are working on the long term project of restoring the farm don't want it's location to become known as it would ruin the entire ethos of the place. The group doing the restoration are mostly re-enactors of the Civil War period (the English Civil War not the American one) and it is a long-term labour of love. I e-mailed Stuart Peachey(above with Gilly), who was one of the people involved in the Green Valley programmes, about some booklets which he has published on cottage gardens, farming and the lives of working people. I mentioned how much I had enjoyed the programme and he told me about the course. I think it was because I had shown a real interest in the subject rather than having written a sort of fan mail thing. I left home at 5.45am on the Friday morning in an effort to be down past Birmingham and onto the M4 before the rush hour traffic got going so I was in Chepstow where we were based by 10am. Since I didn't actually need to be there until late afternoon I had chance to look around the town which was quite a pleasant little place, as I wandered down towards the River Wye I discovered that Chepstow has a castle - rather a well preserved one as far as the outer walls are concerned. I love anything like that so in I went and spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering round. The photo below is of the lower bailey. The castle dates back to the 11th century, in fact the building was started the year after the Battle of Hastings and it is mentioned in the Domesday Book. There is a link here http://www.striguil.co.uk/chepstow/chepstow_castle.htm if anyone is interested. It was a beautiful afternoon and the various parts had good information boards but part of the enjoyment was the sense of history and the wonderful views from the walls especially in the upper bailey. Something else that I loved was this door which is an original one from the 11th century - indoors in a small museum now to preserve it . Think of all the people who have walked through that door - the maidservants, menservants, ladies in rich gowns of all periods,men at arms,Royalist soldiers and the great men who lived there over the centuries - William Fitzosbern, the Earl of Hereford, Walter Fitz Richard, the Earl of Worcester who held Chepstow for the King and Sir Nicholas Kemeys who died defending the castle for the Royalist cause. So much romance and tragedy in one ancient door.
It doesn't look that big in the photo but I was on a gallery looking down and it's actually huge and was once the main entrance to the castle I think. This seems to have turned into an essay on Chepstow Castle, so just one more photo of one of the arrow slit windows high up in the upper bailey and looking out over the River Wye and the Welsh countryside.
I'll continue the story of the weekend in another post later tonight or in the morning.