A week ago I was in the lovely English countryside visiting old-time pal, Alex. This was an absolutely wonderful/freezing cold experience that I found way more uplifting than the big city. There were lots of cows and everyone knows cows are hilarious. Such a good time. Not to mention Alex kept me busy tour-guiding around the area. He did a fantastic job though he'll probably deny it. He picked me up from the bus station after I arrived Friday night and drove me back to the Avon Tyrrell Activity Centre near the New Forest. Then he cooked dinner which was delish and we watched Blood Diamond, which was disappointing. By the way, the New Forest is a forest created and maintained by William I around 1079 for the private hunting of deer. Just FYI.
The Dorset coast.
Anyways, the next morning we jetted off to the Dorset coast and I saw my first castle! It was in rather poor repair but things should be looking up for Highcliffe Castle in the future. The castle itself was built between 1831 and 1835 by Lord Stuart de Rothesay who stoled most of the stuff he used to build it, most importantly, the stained glass. He actually nabbed the Jesse Window from the church of St. Vigour in Rouen. Other bits and pieces came from Germany, Switzerland and the Flemish. It was completely ravaged by a fire but assistance from Christchurch Borough Council, English Heritage and a £2.65 million grant are restoring it to its former glory.
The inscription reads:
SUAVE MARI MAGNO TURBANTIBUS OEQUORA VENTIS E TERRA MAGNUM ALTERIUS SPECTARE LABOREM
which, for those of you who don't read Latin, means:
Sweet it is, when on the great sea the winds are buffeting the waters, to look from the land on another's great struggles.
It's from the second book of Lucretius, a Roman poet and philosopher. Apropos since the castle sits on a cliff top and was a refuge for Lord Stuart from his turbulent career as a diplomat during the Napoleonic wars in Europe.
Next, Alex and I took off for Corfe Castle which dates back to the 11th century and commands a gap in the Purbeck Hills on the route between Wareham and Swanage. There is some evidence of a stronghold that predated the Norman Conquest. Edward the Conqueror was executed here in 978 and Maud de Braose and her son William were walled alive in the dungeon and subsequently starved to death here in 1210. The castle was also used as a royal treasure storehouse and was a royal prison and stronghold before being sold by Elizabeth I to Christopher Hatton (her secret lover, shhh) in the 16th century. It twice came under siege in the English Civil War and only fell when betrayed by a member of the garrison. Anyways, after the bad guys got in they undermined the entire structure using explosives after which (for the next couple hundred years) the local populace raided the place for building material. Most of the building material can still be seen in a number of nearby houses. There's one pub in the village that's older than my entire country. Imagine that.
Sheeps hanging out on the castle
After that, Alex and I visited the Jurassic Coast to check out Durdle Door. The name "Durdle" is derived from an Old English word, "thirl" meaning bore or drill. It is a natural limestone arch that is very dangerous to jump off of or try to climb.
My last day in town, Alex was a good sport and took me to Stonehenge. It was rather dreary and rainy and I thought that English Heritage could have presented the monument a little better. Moral of the story, don't go to Stonehenge unless you have a vested interest in Stonehenge. I have a vested interest in Stonehenge and I'll link you to my research paper if you'd really like. I'm just that nice.