After leaving London (see London on High Alert), my friends drove me to Redditch on a rainy Saturday morning. We found where my buddy Chris lived and said goodbye. C. and I found the B&B where I was staying, the Mount Pleasant Hotel which is in Redditch. I got checked into the B&B where the room turned out to be quite pleasant overall. A large room with a double bed and a single bed, en suite for £50 including breakfast. We dropped the luggage and headed off down the road to Warwick which, surprisingly we found without any trouble.
We didn't have too much trouble finding the Castle, there are clear signs leading through the streets and we found a space in the car park guided by one of the attendants. We bought our tickets but the first order of business was lunch for the pair of us in order to be property fortified to scale the. er. fortifications! The tickets are bought at the old stables buildings which also house the toilets, a café and a shop. On the way from the entrance, we saw a notice on the green just outside the castle gates promising an exhibit at 1:30 on "Deadly Skills"! You just can't argue with Deadly Skills!
That means we have an hour. We bought a pre-made sandwich in the cafeteria which is in a vaulted 14th C undercroft, nothing special there. The cooked food might have been better, I don't know. We first checked out the Ghost Tower but we were quite disappointed. This display was very cheesy with recorded spooky music and ghostly figures lit up behind see through curtains. I kept expecting Dorothy to appear and click the heels on her ruby slippers!
I wanted to go up on the castle walls so we headed across the esplanade to Guy's Tower, the tallest of the towers along the wall. I started up and Chris brought up the rear, warning me about the sign at the entrance. advising folk that 500-odd steps could be tiring. But it was a one-way system so you couldn't turn around and go back out once you were in. The staircase up into the first tower was a narrow stone spiral and there were others coming up behind. It wasn't 500 steps though, but by the time you finished the trail and landed back on the ground I suppose it would have been that in total. I took my time and a few brief rest stops and made it to the top of the tower.
It's now a lovely sunny day with a bit of a nice breeze, blowing a bit stronger atop the castle walls. You can see over the town of Warwick and the Avon Valley. Following a few flights of stairs down you walk along the curtain walls to the Gatehouse and Barbican guarding the castle's main entrance. Up a few flights of stairs to the top of that. There is actually a drawbridge over a dry ditch and a huge portcullis. We made our way up and down the next set of steps and walls leading into Caesar's Tower where the guard house was located, and down to the grounds again just in time to go over to a roped off area on the green to see the Deadly Skills!
Archery. The man that did the demonstration was dressed as a yeoman soldier from the medieval era complete with longbow, sword and "bollocks" knife. He was probably a better comedian than he was marksman but he put on a good show all the same. He had three sticks with little heads on them and placed them on a platform as a target by only hit one of them by the end of it all. He was pretty funny though as he explained what it was like to go to war in the 1400s and how you would train all your life from childhood on with the longbow. It looked like quite a skill to master. He asked for a volunteer from the audience and proceeded to demonstrate the various methods of hand to hand combat with his sword and knife on the hapless fellow who just stood there looking a bit white around the gills with the blades thrusting about his body.
Deadly, indeed! We were satisfied with the show and ambled back to the castle grounds to check out the dungeons next.
We were suitably creeped out by the dungeon and admired the armoury display which also had a macabre death mask of Oliver Cromwell. From there we checked out the main palace and Great Hall and chapel. Very light and airy. The recreated Victorian weekend party was ok, lots of wax figures. This place is owned by the Taussaud corporation so you see a bit of that around.
Once we emerged from the castle, Chris wanted to climb up the mound at the end of the grounds, where the original motte fort would have been built 900 years ago. Dear God there are a lot of stairs in this country! Chris goaded me good naturedly into trekking up the (ahem .) "gentle incline" and indeed it wasn't so bad walking up the sloping ramps. Again a lovely view over the valley and river from this vantage point. I have thoroughly enjoyed this Castle. There's a lot to see and do even if it's somewhat commercialized. In the summer there are jousting events on the tiltyards and they have events all year round including themed banquets.
We had a little look in the peacock garden by the conservatory and left the castle around 4:30 I think and had a look through the town of Warwick. We found an old old building called Lord Leycester's Hospital, a leaning half timbered structure with a chapel that was very old and in Elizabethan times owned by one of her favourites, Lord Leycester and turned into a hospital for old soldiers. There's a little museum in here but we were a bit tired of walking so we just went to the lovely tea room for a hot drink and tea cake to tide us over. The town of Warwick is very pretty and very old. There's a market there but it was packing up by the time we arrived. There are lots of B&B's within spitting distance of the castle so if you're thinking of visiting, you should be able to find a room as a base.
Chris cooked a Balti tonight, one of his specialties. We were planning to go see a Beatles cover band in a pub . er. somewhere between Redditch and Birmingham but when we got there the pub was closed for renovations. Rats! We ended up at a pub a few doors down from the B&B back in Redditch and drank and talked until chucking out time. We went back to the B&B to continue our discussion on . reggae music I think by that time. Chris staggered home to bed about 12:30 I guess. Tomorrow we are dropping in at Lichfield for a bit of ancestry tracing on my part and the lovely man is driving me to Manchester!