Monday, 17 July 2017

The Best Laid Plans....

To be honest, the plans weren't really that best laid. I had the vague notion that I might like to get the bus to Dorstone, walk out to the castle at Snodhill to look round, and come back to the Pandy at Dorstone for lunch. And, because I grew up on the Famous Five books, I made sure I was equipped with a small backpack with fruit juice and chocolate (and an unbreakable steel goblet to drink from), like a 1930s rambler.
That plan lasted until I got off the bus at Dorstone. When I went over to check the opening times at the Pandy, they don't open on a Monday lunchtime.
Hey ho - I could still walk out to Snodhill. It wasn't that far, and on the way I bought some eggs from outside Snodhill Court Farm, from an honesty box.
The entrance to the castle had gates across it, and large notices saying that this was a hard hat area and there was no public access. At the top of the hill, the castle ruins themselves were hidden under scaffolding.
I couldn't see anyone about, so I thought I might just sneak in and take a photo, and then sneak out again.
I was caught straight away, by a very nice young man who came out of the tea hut, where the workers were having their break.
The Snodhill Preservation Trust is having work done to stabilise the stonework and stop the castle from falling into further ruin. The young man gave me a leaflet, which says that Historic England did emergency work on the castle last year, and the work this year is to clear the undergrowth, restore the standing remains and to investigate the surroundings to find out more about the medieval castle.
Surprisingly little is known about the origins of the castle - it may be built among the earthworks of an Iron Age hill fort, and may even be a rare, pre-Norman castle. The first certain information is in the time of William Fitz Osbern, first Earl of Hereford, around 1070 - he built all the early castles from Wigmore to Chepstow. He granted Snodhill to Hugh l'Asne, who held it until he died in 1100, when it passed to Robert de Chandos, who had married Hugh's daughter. The de Chandos family held the castle for the next 300 years or so, and at one point during Edward II's reign the castle was stormed by Roger Mortimer.
There are rumours that the castle was besieged by the Earl of Leven in 1645, during the English Civil War - cannon balls have been found - but after that it fell out of use, and stone from the castle was used to build nearby Snodhill Court.
The tower keep is unique - it's twelve-sided - and Historic England have started an extensive survey of the castle and its surroundings, including the nearby village and park, field systems and lanes.
The Preservation Trust are looking for Friends and volunteers to help with the work. To become a Friend costs £10 a year, for which you receive a newsletter called The Turret, and invitations to events over the year. They can be contacted at:
The Friend's Secretary,
Snodhill Castle Preservation Trust,
The Green
It's a fascinating castle, and I hope it becomes better known when the work is done - I'm certainly going to be going back next year, when it should be possible to get a better look around.
Later, I was talking to Mary Fellowes at Broad Street Books, and she remembers one of the local farms taking their pigs up to the castle for the summer!
Then, instead of going back to Dorstone, I walked on along the valley to Peterchurch, where I had a very nice half of Ludlow Gold at the Nag's Head, where the landlady told me that the people working at Snodhill came to have their site meetings. Then I caught the bus back to Hay - so it was a very pleasant morning out after all.
A few nights ago, Brian and a few friends were having a drink at Kilverts, and got talking to some other people sitting outside, who turned out to be working on the castle. If you're reading this, young man from Snodhill - take no notice of Brian - he was only winding you up! Apparently he was spinning some sob story about how I'd been looking forward to the visit to the castle for months, and saved up all my pennies to get there, and was bitterly disappointed to be thrown off the site! In fact, I completely understood why I wasn't allowed any closer, and the young man couldn't have been nicer!

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