Out Now!

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Chepstow Castle

There were already rumblings from the Welsh Assembly. They wanted to ban the English from Covid stricken areas from visiting Wales. As far as I can see, Boris Johnson’s strictures already ‘discouraged’ those areas affected from travelling outside of their immediate area. Likewise, within Wales, Covid stricken areas are similarly ‘discouraged’ from leaving their local area. What Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister and a man with the charisma of a dead sheep, seems to be demanding is that the English should be legally enforced from moving from one area to another, as opposed to the Welsh who will continue to suffer the milder ‘discouragement.’

But these were mere storm clouds when our beautiful daughter announced a visit from Covid-ridden London. Hmm, Mark Drakeford or daughter?

Being responsible we agreed to meet up at Chepstow on the borders of England and Wales and where the Mark Drakefords of their day had as much success at keeping out the Normans as they’re having with Covid.

But first we had lunch in an outside seating area at Una Vita, a small Italian cafĂ© reasonably close to the Castle. It wasn’t a good start, at least not for me. Not when I stared down at my plate of Lasagne the size of a small sandwich with a dollop of sauce, and two squares of bread little bigger than stamps—and one of them was mouldy. 

Never mind, Chepstow castle awaited, with a tower for each of us to keep socially distanced.  

Approaching the castle, it appears impressive but not over large. It's a bit like the Tardis in this respect, appearing larger in the inside.

Two pictures at the rear of the castle

When you consider William the Conqueror invaded in 1066 and the foundations of this castle were laid in 1067, you can appreciate the speed of Norman penetration and the importance of this particular site on the border of England Wales. It was the gateway to the rich lands of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, as well as being a possible crossing point for Welsh forays into Gloucestershire. In fact the original name of both castle and town was Striguil, (Bend in the river) which remained its name until the C14th. 

The bridge separating England from Wales, no doubt patrolled by a vaguely embarrassed policeman when the law banning the disease-ridden English from entering Wales comes into effect. 


One of its four baileys each marking a different period of its development

The river Wye flows past the castle. Winches brought up wine and other supplies from barges below.

Ooh look! Ducks

Note the  beautiful vaulted roof for what is essentially a storage room overlooking the river.

One of the inner baileys. Compare it to that first picture of the castle. The Tardis effect

Like most small boys, I loved battlements.  Imagined myself on them fighting off every kind of maurader. (I haven't changed much,)  But here,  note their solidity

And here, two baileys connected by a bridge

The Normans, of course, were highly Covid conscious

This remains the oldest castle door in Europe, dating from the 1190's perhaps earlier. It guarded the front of the castle until as late as 1962

The Great Tower, started by William fitzOsbern and developed subsequently by William Marshal, and Roger Bigod
It’s hard to imagine what it once looked like inside, but the heavy Romanesque arches and the beautifully carved windows shown below give some indication

Again, the wonderfully solid battlements and glimpses of one Bailey linking into another

Forest, limestone cliffs, and the river Wye hints at how impressive it must have looked to the Welsh

St Mary’s Priory founded by William FitzOsbern and his son (keep it in the family) Roger de Breteuil, 2nd  Earl of Hereford, in 1072.

And then a leisurely drink in the Beaufort Arms before our daughter slipped over the border


Maria Zannini said...

This is about as close to England as I'll get for the next couple of years. You make a splendid tour guide!

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks, Maria. And we’re so looking forward to hosting and guiding you for real if/when you’re able to come