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Archive for October 28th, 2020

I forgot to tell you about Lewes Castle!! How remiss of me. Only one of the most amazing attractions of the town..

When I first arrived in Lewes my attention was drawn to the fantastic 14th and 15th century buildings in the high street and I didn’t even notice the castle….probably also because I was sitting on the left hand side of the taxi 😉 and despite what I used to tell my daughter, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, so I missed it altogether.

And unusually for me…..as with Newhaven, I didn’t do my research prior to visiting.

On my first Saturday here, during my break, I set off to explore and whoaaa, there’s a castle.

My first glimpse of Lewes Castle

But as mentioned in a previous post, I had neither mask nor money with me 🤪🤪 Never mind, I’ll come back next week (the castle is only open on Saturday atm due to Covid-19). But of course next Saturday was raining. So no castle.

However this Saturday last, I had to visit regardless of the weather because I leave Lewes on Friday.

Saturday dawned rainy and windy but with an occasional blue sky sunshine, so off I went. They have a really good system set up. You’re greeted at the door by a lovely lady who takes all your test and trace details, you sanitise your hands, then she sends you off on a one-way system through the museum first, after which you can buy your ticket for a visit to the castle. Ergo, the museum is free to visit (I think).  And visit you must.

The museum is not large, 2 rooms downstairs and 2 rooms upstairs, but they have a most amazing set up depicting the history of the area and the many artefacts that have been found in Sussex. An intimate little museum with just enough information to read and look at without being overwhelmed. My favourite artifacts were the swords. Wowww.

I had a good read, took some photos, bought a few items from the gift shop for my grandson, paid for my entry and another lovely lady guided me across to the gate and let me in.

I love castles 🤎🤎 There’s a massive shortage of castles in South Africa and the only castle I’d had experience of before coming to the UK was Cape Town Castle which isn’t really, but is rather a fort with grand ideas masquerading as a castle. It also has a history as a prison and is still a symbol of European oppression. Although to be fair, I guess most castles here have the same sort of background.

Anyway, back to Lewes Castle…

Like many castles today, this too is just a shadow of its former glory, but its fabulous. I climbed innumerable stairs to the top, sadly not the very top of the towers, which is where I really wanted to go, but the remains of the Great Hall will have to suffice.

Dozens of stairs
The Great Hall

The views across the valley to the hills are absolutely stunning, especially beautiful with the autumn colours. From here as well the view looks back in time to the 1264 Battle of Lewes.

A good view too of what used to be the Tilting Ground, now a bowling green, and in the distance I could see the windmill I passed a few days ago on my walk to Kingston. Awesome.

The Tilting Ground

The wind was blowing a gale and howling in my ears, flicking leaves and branches here and there….just brilliant. It was wild. Yes, there’s a couple of trees growing out the side of the building and there’s a tree slap bang in the middle of what was the Great Hall…now that’s wild!!

Nature takes over…

As you can imagine with the unpleasant weather, there were not many people up there, so it was easy to explore, although there really wasn’t that much to explore. Shame about the towers – closed atm due to Covid-19. Geez, I just realised reading that sentence back, that I used the word ‘there’ 3 times 🤔🤔 English eh.

Coming back down the stairs you have fantastic views across the town and to the cliffs, and travelling from across country the castle can be seen from miles away….the position is brilliant.

Views for miles around

In the courtyard is a fantastic Russian cannon and some wooden stocks

A bit of history:

A work in progress like most castles in England, Lewes Castle, originally known as Bray Castle, follows a motte and bailey design but unusually, has two mottes and was built on and added to over a few centuries.

The first motte, known as Brack Mount was completed shortly after the 1066 Norman conquest of England.

Both of the mottes were built by William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, who also, along with his wife Gundrada, built the nearby  Priory of St. Pancras.

The mottes would originally have been surmounted by wooden palisades.

The second motte, known as the Keep, was completed in the late 11th century.
Both of which were built by William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey.

Soldiers from the King’s army, set out from the castle to engage with Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Lewes in 1264.

Towers were added to one of the shell keeps in the 13th century.

The barbican gate was added in the 14th century.

Certainly not as enormous as some of the castles I’ve visited in the last 19 years, but no less impressive, it stands guard over a gap in the South Downs overlooking the towns of Lewes and Cliffe and the River Ouse that winds it’s way between the 2 towns.

In the distance…it looks far, but it’s only about a 10 minute walk

Lewes castle has the distinction of being the 49th castle I’ve visited as part of Project 101.

I’ve compiled a short video of some of the exhibits in the museum

I can highly recommend a visit to Lewes Castle if you’re in the area. At the moment they’re only open on Saturdays, but that might change in the future.

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