Sunday, 8 June 2014

Castles and Cafes - a Day Out

My sister and her family came to stay, so yesterday we all went out in the campervan for a day out.
I'd been collecting brochures for local places of interest (bearing in mind that my sister used to be a National Trust member) and we had a good look through them before we decided on anything.
There was a 1914 Garden Fete at Hampton Court, and a bee keeping weekend at Croft Castle - but the rain at the beginning of the day put us off any events set in gardens. So we headed down to Goodrich Castle.
I'd never been there, though the re-enactment group I belong to did a show there once. We'd done a day's show somewhere else and everyone else was heading down to Goodrich so that some of the younger members of the group would have a chance to take part in a bigger battle than we usually got to do. I was dropped off in Hereford on the way because I had to get back to Hay. I had some time to wait for the bus, so I went into the Cathedral, where a service was just about to start. I was in full medieval kit, towing a wheelie suitcase and carrying a longbow - but the chap handing out hymnbooks never turned a hair! I was most impressed with him.

So yesterday we arrived at a slightly damp Goodrich for a good look round - and what a fine castle it is. The main builder of the castle was Edward I's uncle, William de Valence, and it seemed he was doing his best to model his castle on the Tower of London as much as possible.
There's an area just before visitors got to the gatehouse, the barbican - and if I'd been a guest uncertain of their welcome, waiting there in easy crossbow range, I'd have been pretty worried. It's a very well defended castle, with a deep dry moat cut into the red sandstone - which was probably also the quarry for most of the stone used to build the castle, apart from Goodrich's very own White Tower, a miniature version of the one in London. The White Tower is still quite tall, and there's a rather exciting narrow and dark spiral staircase to the top. The views are well worth the climb, but I was clinging to the rope (there's no room for a handrail) on the stairs. We were also very impressed with the medieval toilet block, and all the hand basins everywhere - and big fireplaces in guest rooms that must have been quite luxurious for the time. They must have used huge quantities of firewood.
The castle was also under siege during the Civil War, and one of the cannons, Roaring Meg, is in the courtyard, along with some smaller cannonballs that had been found in the ruins of one of the towers.
The chapel has a modern stained glass window to commemorate the Millennium, and a window to commemorate the Radar Research Squadron, the connection being that a Halifax stuffed with experimental gear crashed not far away.
Down by the carpark is the shop and cafe, full of friendly staff - but the food in the cafe was heavily cheese oriented, and my sister can't eat cheese, so we decided to go on to Ross and find a cafe there.

After a gentle stroll around the town, we ended up at Hunky Dory cafe - and just in time, as they closed not long after we got our baguettes and coffee. There were scones too - fruit, lavender and cheese - and all heart shaped.
Down at the bottom of the hill we found a wonderful second-hand showroom. It seemed quite small at the front, but it went back, and across a courtyard, and back again, room after room full of furniture and clothes and games and electronic goods and china and sports equipment and musical instruments and .... There were regrets that a fine sideboard would never fit in the back of the campervan....
St Mary's Church is worth seeing too - there are several finely carved tombs. I'd never known that the symbol of Ross is the hedgehog. There was a hedgehog trail for children, to find all the fourteen or so depictions of hedgehogs in the church.
In the porch, there's a sign saying that Herefordshire Diocese is against prejudice and discrimination, which is lovely - but I think they've got some way to go if the cakes I saw at one bakery were any indication. Each cake in the window had a different little figure on the top - a clown was one, and there were several others, but they included an African warrior with a spear and a Chinese man with a coolie hat, the sort of thing that would have been unremarkable fifty years ago, but seem somewhat out of place now.

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