Reaching out to you today with a flashback to seven months ago when I traveled to Wales with my good friend Mandy. It’s cheerful to think back now (with everything going on) to that time we traipsed about the charming Welsh countryside. Like the rest of the world, they are dealing with the coronavirus as best they can. The UK went on lock down on Friday, March 20, but a petition has been e-circulating calling for the government to enact even stricter containment procedures. The schools are set to close this Friday. Wishing all the best to Wales for a speedy recovery. Get well soon! I look forward to returning for a nice, long, virus-free visit.
Seven months ago—well before the world turned into a movie where you can’t get toilet paper (my sister found some Monday by the way, so yay!)—Mandy, Mama Tidwell, and I woke up to our final day in our darling farmhouse. I took a last hike up into the hills and can still recall how beautiful the morning sun shone down (shined? shone? shined? shone? my blog. we’ll go with shone) across the fields below. As you can see, the clouds were gathering and would continue their dramatic display throughout the day until eventually letting loose a downpour.
Although I posted pictures of our farmhouse in an earlier blog, I’ll refresh your memory here with the addition of a few new pictures.
We were sad to pack up but excited to hit the road as we headed out for our final excursion to Chepstow Castle—a sentimental favorite of Mandy’s. She happens to be a big fan of the very large knight who once took up residence there. I don’t know much about him; he’s Mandy’s boyfriend, but here’s a picture of the greatest knight in hist….
Oh, wait. That’s William Hurt. Here’s William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. The towering man had a big appetite earning him the nickname of gaste-viande or greedy gut. (Do you think anyone called him that to his face?) Much has been written about the Marshal, but here’s a list of 10 Facts from HistoryHit you might find interesting.
We arrived in Chepstow on market day, though for I all I know it’s market day every day. While Mandy and Mama grabbed us a table at a local pub near the castle, I made a quick trip up the main road to check things out. I came across a vendor selling tasty-looking pies. Tempted to buy one, I talked myself out of it because the Tidwells were waiting for me.
On my way back to the castle, I took a different path and came across an adorable bookshop where I (of course) bought two books. Having bought absolutely nothing other than food the entire trip, I figured what the heck. After a quick lunch of fish and chips—frozen, if you can believe that (shoulda bought the meat pie at the market), we headed inside Chepstow Castle.
At the time of our visit the castle organizers were setting up for an evening event, so the lower bailey was filled with white tents, hindering my photography. Drats. But that didn’t hamper my usual merry adventures. Expedition underway, I still managed to capture some stunning images to share. Talk about ‘better late than never,’ eh?
The initial construction of Chepstow dates back to 1067 during the reign of William the Conquerer. Chepstow was one of many castles hastily built during William’s reign. Below, you can see the original Great Tower from 1067 depicted in the center of the layout. The nifty two-seater lavatory (above) was added in the early to mid-thirteenth century. Very roomy and nice to be able to share with a friend.
Another handy graphic illustrating the layout of Chepstow Castle.
Chepstow Castle had stunning views from one particular balcony, showcasing its daunting defensive position along the River Wye…
and gotta love those vaulted ceilings, even in this storage cellar.
The middle bailey below was my favorite part of the castle because of its spaciousness. But the best part, not castle-related at all, was the sky above. As you can see, it was split in two with a storm approaching on one side and a beautiful blue sky on the other.
Since when would a sign like this keep me from scampering?
From the Middle Bailey, I entered gallery running alongside the Great Keep. Inside the oldest part of the castle, I had fun imagining life in the middle ages — music playing, dancing, merrymaking, singing, gossiping, whispering, eating, drinking, stabbing each other in the back, conspiring against this lord or that lord, cheating with this lord’s wife but not that lord’s wife.
Past the Great Keep and Lower Bailey, I entered the Barbican—a fierce-sounding word for watchtower. The clouds had continued to darken by the time I reached the Barbican, so I had the place to myself. I made quick footwork up and down the stairs, eager to explore every nook and cranny.
When the rain started, I made my way back toward the Gatehouse and took refuge from the downpour in Marten’s Tower. After the storm passed, I ventured out to continue my exploration of the castle’s outer walls.
After the heavy rain (you wouldn’t know it from the pictures above), the ground on the slopes of the castle was fairly soft and easily gave way. I slipped and slid my way up, falling on my hiney once and almost sliding all the way back down. Even though I figured Mandy would kill me if I broke my leg, I continued along the southern wall. It was my last opportunity for I don’t know how long to soak in the history of Wales. I was sad to leave and cherish every moment of our visit.
My final picture for the gallery … a tree.