Tag Archives: tudors

Sudeley Snapshots: Farewell

29 Oct

A last visit to much-loved Sudeley.  You know now, along with me, that my time in Camelot is ending, so perhaps you can also see these images with the mix of pending nostalgia that has colored all of my last days.

IMG_20140911_152718edI like to imagine these windows with Henry VIII looking through them … or Elizabeth walking past … or unfortunate Katherine Parr with Jane Grey … Or as an example of how we strange humans create windows where there is just air, and backdrops for our passions and dreams where there is really just sunlight.

IMG_4214edFor now, the peacocks own the view.  Well, and the art-loving Dent-Brocklehurst family, of course.

IMG_4217edI love this little cupid, and look for him in the secret garden every visit.

IMG_20140911_145111edThe displays inside the Castle have been updated and extended since our first visit.  I like this windowed corner with remembrance poppies.

IMG_20140911_145434edAnd this new bust of Richard III, commissioned after his burial site was rediscovered.  I was lucky enough to take a tour of the private apartments at Sudeley a couple years ago — now, many of the rooms formerly only accessible during that tour are part of the general public tour route.  (No photos allowed in this part of the house, however, so you really must go for yourself to see!)  If you’ve never been, or haven’t been recently, I recommend a visit.

IMG_20140911_151813edThis velvet royal ‘private’ on display is too amazing not to share.  A throne, indeed.

IMG_20140911_151820edKatherine’s privy lady — her sister — looks over the Queen’s Walk to the Chapel.  I feel I’m standing next to her, in spirit, caught in contemplation forever.

IMG_4230edAnd I take one look back over the box mazes and flowers, before we go.

Day out: Kenilworth Castle

19 Oct

Kenilworth Castle. Hundreds of years of history wrapped up in one beautiful ruined package. It merits so much more time than I am going to spend on it. I’m in a hurry, you see, with too much to do, and “Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!”

You could rummage through the excellent-as-always English Heritage page for the Castle, and even download some of the research materials or guides for teachers — I did before our visit!  My kids didn’t even mind!  Mostly because I bribed them with cakes in the beautiful cafe!

Take a peek at the Tudor stables.  Inside is an interactive museum and the lovely tearoom.

Turn your back on the stables, which are part of the ancient walls surrounding Kenilworth, and begin to take in the several buildings which make up the castle.  To the right, the original Norman tower, built by Geoffrey de Clinton in the twelfth century.  In the background, the great hall built by John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III, and the manly origin of the Lancastrian dynasty.  And here’s your trivia for the day: Chaucer’s wife’s sister was John of Gaunt’s third wife.  Small world.  Small, rich world.

IMG_4059edOff to one side is the Elizabethan gatehouse, later enclosed and turned into a freestanding home.  Downstairs, where the carriages and wagons once rolled through the gatehouse, the rooms are quite large.  That large bay window in the center of the photo is where the gate used to be.  Inside the house, more interactive and interesting pieces of the history of the castle and the families who lived there.

IMG_4072edThe gardens were considered a marvel of their time.  Dudley had them designed and built as a private garden, specifically for the enjoyment of Elizabeth I on her visits.  Really, much of the work put into the castle and grounds during the 16th century were a massive and expensive effort to convince Elizabeth to marry Dudley.  The garden was lost to inattention and decay, but has been lovingly and painstakingly restored to something close to it’s original glory.

IMG_4076edAnd interior view of the Norman keep.  The original windows were all like the small slit in the lower level.  Later owners modernized the keep with large windows (and expensive panes of glass), and even added a ‘loggia’ to the entrance, in Italianate style.

IMG_4104edI love this photo for the lovely woman who is SWEEPING the ruins.  Talk about keeping things tidy.  You also get a good sense of just how fallen about the castle is now, how thick the walls were, and a bit of the scope of the facilities.  Taking this photo, I’m standing near the edge of the castle kitchens, which were the largest in Europe.  There was even a separate kitchen next to the main kitchens (which have a cauldron so large it is built into the foundation of the walls) where the foods for the high table were prepared.

IMG_4111edHere we’re standing on top of the stairs you just saw, looking back over the kitchens, part of the great hall, the old keep, and the inner courtyard.

IMG_4120edAnd here, turning around, you can look over what used to be a massive interior lake — the Great Mere created by John I in the thirteenth century.  The gate you see slightly sunk into the hill would have been a water entrance to the castle.

IMG_4125edDecorative vandalism can be found all over the castle, carved into the soft sandstone.

IMG_4129edIt’s not hard to see how the ruins at Kenilworth inspired so many romantic authors, like Sir Walter Scott.

IMG_4133edIt’s funny because it’s true:

IMG_4142edThe view from the newly scaffolded Leicester Tower (built by Dudley for Elizabeth I) is spectacular.  Here see Gaunt’s Oriel tower and great hall once again.

IMG_4158edAnd hold on tight before you look DOWN.  This view is from Elizabeth’s personal chamber, where she could watch interior entertainments to the left, and look out the window to see entertainers on the lawn.  Dudley pulled out all the stops.

IMG_4160edOne of my favorite things to see was all the jackdaws.  They are a cackling, sociable sort of crow who love rocky ruins like this.  Their call sings “England” to me.  (Click on “audio” to give a listen: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/j/jackdaw/)

IMG_4162edIt was easy to spend hours wandering the grounds.

IMG_4177edIf you could only see one castle in England, should this be it?  I’m not sure, but … maybe.  There’s a bit of almost everything here, architecture from the Norman conquest to today, cultural history, fascinating personalities, human drama, literary inspirations, wild examples of humans shaping and reshaping their environment, and, of course, fairly tasty cakes and tea.

A midsummer madness

22 Jun

Midsummer.  The longest day of the year.  The one day in England where I can rejoice from the first twinkle of light to the very last, knowing I am as safe from the days of darkness as I will be all year. And what did fair befall me today, but the most worthy, most perfect summer’s day.

And where could we go, but where we have been so happily before?  One of my favorite places in England, Shakespeare Country.  (See previous posts: Day out: Mary Arden Farm, Uncertain glory of a summer day, Snapshot: pigs!, Respite, Day out: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, That in season grows.  Heck, I even used a photo of the cottage as an example of my fantasy home when we were first house hunting.)


The cottage was looking extremely well.IMG_3451edPresided over by the King and Queen of Summer.


That eye-catching crescent moon still orbits the garden.IMG_3480ed

And the garden is in full summer bloom.IMG_3481ed

No, really.  It was the most incredible day, ever, of all time.IMG_3483ed

A want to be a rose — this rose — in this garden — and bloom forever.  But even on this day, we had to move along.  We left Anne Hathaway’s Cottage for Mary Arden’s Farm, just a few minutes up the road and this year hosting a series of midsummer celebration events.  We’ve been here so many times, it is fun to see what small changes happen between each visit, and what stays the same.IMG_3502ed

Millie the Owl still swoops over heads and grabs mice corpses from her human.IMG_3505ed

Those cute piglets?  Have grown and GROWN.IMG_3529ed

A warm day.  I love the ducks’ sinewy necks curling into their water stone.IMG_3511ed

A view over the vegetable garden, toward Palmer’s farmhouse.IMG_3513ed

We’ve been at this door before.  Enter.IMG_3514ed

The kitchen, mostly cleaned, after the midday feast.IMG_3517ed

The table, cleared, and main bedchamber beyond.IMG_3519ed

The cold cellar.IMG_3521ed

The table set in the masters chamber.IMG_3523ed

Upstairs, view across the floor through the first three rooms.  Check out that hobbit door.IMG_3524ed

Adult bed with child’s trundle.

The last room on the top floor, where lesser beings sleep and work.IMG_3536ed

On this day, storytelling and fairies in the Rickyard.IMG_3545ed

Followed by music and dancing. (“Now we’re horses!  Now we’re horses!” Called out the lead dancer.)IMG_3540ed

And perfectly groomed paths through the fields — with hand sanitizers — for long, quiet, anti-bacterial walks.IMG_3546edMidsummer madness.  On this longest day of the year, it seems that time stretches out. I had seen more sun before 11am today than I would see in a full day in mid-December.  Heck, in December, the sun hardly seems to peer gloomily over the world before 10am.  I would build a Stonehenge, myself, if I thought that would guarantee a day like this at least once a year.  For today, I’m content enough to wake at 4am, and refuse to sleep until the stars come out near midnight.


Sudeley Snapshots: St. Mary’s Chapel

7 Oct

In the intermittent but ongoing Sudeley Snapshot series, I present to you: St. Mary’s Chapel in the spring.


Viewed from the Queen’s garden.  (Here’s a close up of those purple blooms.)IMG_6780e

From the front, with random stranger.  On a side note, I think I’ve done pretty well these past few years to capture photos without random strangers in frame.  How have I managed to do that?IMG_6781e

The white roses in bloom, for the white queen.IMG_6783e

The interior was decorated for a wedding.  Fragrant.IMG_6785e

The altar was stunning.IMG_6786e

I’ve mentioned before — this side chapel memorial to Katherine Parr is an eerie mix of sentimental and Edgar Allan Poe.IMG_6788eAnd a final peek of the church from the secret garden.


8 Jun

A quick Sudeley Snapshot as I slowly work on more blog posts (it’ll happen!).  Lovely purple alium blossoms in the Queens Garden this weekend:

purple alliumThe white roses for which the garden is famed are not yet blooming — our terrible winter strikes again — but do you see the busy bee who photobombed the blossoms?



20 May

Ah, hello again, dear blog.  I haven’t been in the mood for you, recently.  Still not, much.  So here are a very few photos from a quick trip up to the Shakespeare Houses in between my visits back to the US.  I needed a ‘normal’ family outing to somewhere beautiful in our corner of England, and we found it.


The newest wicker sculpture at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.  (See earlier sculptures here.)


And peeking at it again, over beds of tulips.


And one of the newest residents at Mary Arden’s Farm, a Tamworth piglet with CURLY RED HAIR!

IMG_5807Hello, I am the most adorable piglet on earth, and I will cheer you up.

Day out: walking tour of Oxford

9 Apr

I’ve had some bad luck in previous visits to Oxford.  Flooding, restaurants out of cheese … but not this day.  This day was perfect.


We drove in to one of the low-fee parking areas outside of Oxford, and rode the bus in to the center of town.  It dropped us just down the street from the visitors centre, so we grabbed a coffee at a nearby Costas and waited here for the free Footprints walking tour of Oxford.IMG_4887

We started with a quick stroll past Balliol and Trinity Colleges, and stopped to admire the original Blackwell bookshop, with its miles of underground shelving.  Not visible from the street, fyi.  IMG_4886

Here’s the Sheldonian theatre, site of student matriculation and graduation.  So, in your years at Oxford, you might spend two hours here in total.  IMG_4892

Someone was rehearsing for a concert during our tour this day, so the guide had some awesomely dramatic background music to his lively chatter.IMG_4890

Right across from the theater is the Divinity School, which may be gorgeous on its own but was also the location of the hospital scenes in Harry Potter … so that makes it even cooler.  Masses of incredible history is great, but Harry Potter is greater.  We all know this.


A walk around the corner to the courtyard of the Bodleian Library.  The guide lowered his voice and warned us to ‘shush‘.  I think the exterior design here looks like nothing so much as stacks of books on relentlessly tidy shelves — what do you think?IMG_4897

The doors off this courtyard all identify different areas of study.

And this tower.  Well.  Why have one column when you can have doubles.  And why use one pediment style when you can use them all.  Not exactly modest, this library.IMG_4895

Wander off a bit and see the Bridge of Sighs.  Possibly named because it looks like the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.  Or so named because it doesn’t really look like it at all, and everyone is sighing in frustration at the name.

The Radcliffe Camera.  Basically the best reading room in the world.  Also, the exterior used to be decorated with prostitutes.  That’s student life for you.IMG_4903

One of those iconic Oxford views.  I unashamedly stuck my hand through the gates to get this shot — free tour group wanderers were not welcome this day.  This is All Souls, the postgraduate research college.  All Terry Pratchett books become instantly funnier once you know more about All Souls.  Now, where did I put my Mallard?IMG_4909

And to another side of Radcliffe Camera, The University Church of St Mary the Virgin.  IMG_4913

Around the corner by the church, check out the lamp-post credited with inspiring CS Lewis to place a lamp-post just inside the border of Narnia — and the golden fauns to greet us.IMG_4915

One of the oldest pubs in Oxford, dating from the thirteenth century, where the host was once famous for slicing off men’s ties and giving them a free beer in exchange.  (Ladies were out of luck, one guesses.)IMG_4916

Zip on around to the expansive grounds of Christ Church.  In the background, there, is the Great Hall, which inspired the Great Hall in Hogwarts — I’ll send you back again to our visit to the Harry Potter Studio.  Because reality and history is great, like I said, but Harry Potter is better.IMG_4923

The beautiful Meadow building.  I will not lie to you.  I went home this day and looked up lifelong learning courses at Oxford.  I was ready to sign up.  I’ve been to colleges and universities up and down and side to side the US, but … Oxford.  The only place better would be Hogwarts.  Obviously.IMG_4935

A scene I liked outside Merton College.  Also, it smelled delicious right here.IMG_4936

If you are a fan of the Inspector Morse series, this scene needs no explanation.  If you are not, this scene also requires no explanation.IMG_4938

We took a turn up the former Grope Alley.  Thankfully gropeless, today.IMG_4940

And ended with our guide, fearless feet shown here, declaiming the dying words of the burning Cramner, who dripped his final bits of flesh at this spot in 1556.  Sort of like this, but with more charm.IMG_4942

And then we had lunch!  A happily cheese-rich lunch which restored our energy and recharged our vitality so that we could climb to the top of St. Mary’s tower (remember St. Mary’s from our walking tour?) and see Oxford from above.IMG_4948

Neo-palladian is fun to say.IMG_4950

Oh that golden Cotswold stone.IMG_4949

Still in shock at the sun of the day.IMG_4953

My friend on top of the tower and his handy eagle.IMG_4954

The High Street.IMG_4963

Part of Oriel College in the foreground.IMG_4975

And all the way around the corner again, with Radcliffe Camera peeking out to the right.  The Narnia lamp-post is directly below us.  Sort of.IMG_4981

One more farewell to the stunning view.IMG_4995

Don’t let the sun dazzle you on the way down…

Our walking tour took two hours and was worth every penny.  (Did I mention it was free?)  We tipped our guide, who certainly danced for his supper, and thanked him kindly.  We took a general walking tour, but topic-oriented tours are also available, from this or other tour operators — or you can download your own walking tour.  Or if you don’t happen to be in driving distance of Oxford, check out this stunning online virtual tour.

Dear Oxford, I love you.  Can I please live and study with you, somehow?  Like, forever?