Welsh Castles

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First week of July we took an afternoon trip to Monmouth to collect a part for our camper van (a project Lawrence has a lot of fun with; a massive metal jigsaw) and we drove past a ruined castle. It was called Skenfrith, built in the 13th century. It was a sun filled day and there was no-one around and no charge to get in to look at it. We had it entirely to ourselves. We love castles and can spend hours driving to find them but this one we just stumbled across, which made it more satisfying somehow. We sat on the warm grass and ate out sandwiches, admiring the ruined keep. It was a great castle, with plenty of it still in place to imagine what it must have looked like when it was built.

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During the summer holidays we went to Brecon for a week with the family. We were so lucky with the weather and plenty of hot days for walking up all the hills. The cottage we stayed at was on a hill called Buckland and the whole area felt like the Shire, straight out of the Hobbit. One day we drove to Caerphilly Castle (see picture above) and it was very impressive. It was imposing and dramatic, with one tower leaning like it was about to tumble into the moat. However, it was the last day of ‘Cheese Festival’ and the place was packed full of people. I selfishly prefer it when castles are deserted and we can romantically imagine what it used to be like, rather than  stalls selling burgers and plastic swords. The sword fighting recreation people were hilarious though and the kids thought they were wonderful.

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This is Crickhowell castle, which was the nearest town to where our holiday cottage was. There was not much of this one left but it was still interesting to walk around. It is in a children’s playground right in the centre of the town.

My favourite castle that we visited during our trip is called Tretower Castle and Court. It was an inspiring place. I wasn’t surprised to read in the guide book that it had been a haunt of poets and musicians during the 15th century: it has a creative, artistic feeling in the curves of the stonework and shape of the windows. The grounds and surrounding landscape is peaceful and lush with trees and grazing sheep. Hills rise on each side, blocking out the rest of the world. There is no furniture in the majority of the court (a small part has been restored to look like the 1450’s and recreates the furnishings) but I really liked the emptiness of the rooms because it directed the eye to the wooden beams and medieval craftsmanship.

‘Among the early owners of Tretower Court are listed Lord Berkeley and the Earl of Pembroke, but probably the most noted link with the house is that of Henry Vaughan, the ‘Silurist’. Henry was a nephew to the owner of Tretower and never actually lived at the house, but history records that he had an intimate association with the property, inspired by the tranquillity of its surrounding environment. As a great poet and distinguished writer, whose works are highly acclaimed among the literature of 17th century England, Henry’s love of the gentle Usk valley and the hauntingly beautiful Black Mountains was captured for eternity by his words.’ Welsh Manor Houses website.

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There is a painting in the Great Hall that shows the history of the families that lived at the court. The man with the raised fist in the boat is Jasper Tudor, I think. I only read the information very briefly before I was led into a another part of this absorbing, fascinating place. I didn’t want to read, I just wanted to wander around imagining.

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I saw Eternity the other night,

Like a great ring of pure and endless light,

All calm, as it was bright,

And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years

Driv’n by the spheres

Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world

And all her train were hurl’d.

Henry Vaughan (17 April 1621 – 23 April 1695) was a Welsh author, physician and metaphysical poet.

 

…of Kings and Queens and stained glass

I recently walked around Worcester Cathedral because I had an hour to fill before my daughter’s gym class finished. I used to spend hours in there because I worked next door at Worcester Porcelain factory when I was 19.  The lunch break was only 45 mins and I would eat a sandwich in the gardens and then sit inside the Cathedral. It was very peaceful and I was quite anti-social. The factory canteen was too noisy and I wanted to sit and think. I loved the tombs of King John and Prince Arthur Tudor. There is also lots of stained glass windows portraying of all the Kings and Queens of Great Britain and the people who influenced their reigns. Part of the reason I went was to look at these because they had been one of the many things that fueled my interest in writing my queen collection.

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Here is the Prince Arthur window, with his brother Henry next to him (future King Henry VIII). Beneath them is Cardinal Wolsey and Erasmus. The other window pictured here features King Henry II and Thomas a Beckett. I am writing a poem about Henry’s walk to Canterbury cathedral at the moment. I have made him unrepentant!

It shows how long it has been since I walked around the place because I had never seen the millennium window before. It was incredibly beautiful and I really appreciated the contrast between the etched, ethereal window which was placed next to the rich, darker colours of the stained glass beside it. It allowed much more light to pass through it and the view of the cathedral behind the images was interesting. It was etched by the artist Mark Cazalet.

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Worcester Cathedral - Millenium Window

This photo was taken from Mark Cazalet’s website.

Worcester Cathedral – Millenium Window
Etched and
engraved glass
300 x 300cm, 2000

Antony R Owen’s Hiroshima poems

Here is Antony R Owen’s exhibition for Hiroshima. A collection of short poems known as Haiku featuring photography by Daniel O’Toole. They are very moving with vivid, sharp images. The poems enabled me to take the time to reflect on the tragedy during the 69th anniversary. It is almost beyond comprehension; the sun-hot burning of people, plants, animals. The worst example of human destruction. I hope it never happens again. It actually makes me feel ashamed that humans could even do something like that to other humans.

This was exhibited at The International Peace Museum, Hiroshima in 2013 and the Chapel of Unity (Coventry Cathedral) in 2012.

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