llywela: peacock in front of Cardiff Castle Keep (Castell Caerdydd)
[personal profile] llywela

Who needs Wonder Woman when you can have Wonder-Layla! Look at that face, that is the face of a baby who knows that she is magnificent. Just turning 21 months, she's as tall as a three-year-old and growing ever more conversational by the day, forming new sentences all the time and taking great delight in learning new words, the bigger the better. 'Tambourine', 'bandicoot', 'octopus', 'xylophone', 'humongous' - say a big word within earshot, and she'll have a stab at saying it. She can count up to ten, as well (except for seven, she always skips seven. And then gives herself a round of applause at ten). She laughs all the time, loves reading books and going for walks and playing with toy cars (and balls, and building blocks, and animals, and just about anything, really), and her favourite cartoons are Bing and Peter Rabbit, which she tends to get very emotionally involved with. She's nervous when Peter Rabbit is chased by the fox or farmer, and upset when Bing Bunny is upset...with empathy like that, this child has a bright fandom future ahead of her! She might even grow some real hair, someday.

On a different note, the fella and I continued our current theme of castles by paying a visit on Saturday to Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire - a much shorter journey than to Powis the other week!


So, this is Chepstow Castle, which sits atop a cliff at the edge of the River Wye, right on the border between Wales and England. It is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain, dating to 1067 - having conquered England the previous year, William had to consolidate that victory by guarding his borders, and the Welsh border was a particular problem for him!

This is what the castle looks like from the opposite bank

By Andy Dingley - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Image borrowed from online because the spot where it was taken from is private land, so I didn't get a shot myself. Although the very nice lady who lives in the house where the road ends did give me a tour of her fabulous garden, which I am now very jealous of!

These are the gates as you go into the castle

Not, perhaps, the most original feature of the castle - but fun!

Go through the gates, and you find yourself in the lower bailey, which is a real mishmash of different phases of development - this picture taken from up on the battlement wall, looking across to the curtain wall and tower of the middle bailey, with the original 11th century Great Tower beyond


Also just about visible in the picture above: the Cadw dragon Dwynwen and her newly hatched babies, Dylan and Cariad!

Look at them - aren't they fabulous!

I should explain. Cadw is is the historic environment service of the Welsh Government and part of the Tourism and Culture group, working to protect the historic buildings and structures, the landscapes and heritage sites of Wales, so that the public can visit them, understand their significance and enjoy their experiences. Chepstow is just one of a long list of castles and other historical sites under the protection of Cadw. And the dragons - the dragons are one of the newer advertising tools they've dreamt up. It all started with Dewi the dragon, who lives at Caerphilly Castle in South Wales but occasionally does tours of other Cadw sites. Then Dwynwen arrived at Caernarfon Castle in North Wales. This spring, Dwynwen joined Dewi at Caerphilly, where they hatched two babies, Dylan and Cariad. Dwynwen is now taking the two babies on a tour of Cadw sites on the way back to Caernarfon. Chepstow is just the first leg of that journey - and we were only just in time to see them there, as they are due to move onto the next leg as of Monday!

Dominating the lower bailey is Marten's Tower, originally built as 'the mural tower to end all mural towers': a 13th century addition to a castle that by then had already seen significant structural changes in the couple of centuries since it was built.


When it was first built, this tower contained a suite of grand private rooms on three floors, accommodation fit for a king. There isn't a lot left, although the pigeons seem very much at home


But here and there you can still make out glimpses of how beautiful it must have been when first constructed - in what was once the private chapel, you can still make out finely carved stone flowers around the window jamb, and the aumbry where communion vessels were stored, traces of plaster on the walls

The room doesn't have a floor anymore, though - those windows you can see here? That's the room below


The Marten Tower had three entrances, all of which had a portcullis, so the tower could be isolated from the rest of the castle - with sightlines like this on any invaders who made it into the courtyard below, it must have been highly defensible in its day!


A couple of the arrow-slit windows have been restored, to show what they would have looked like in their heyday


Must have taken some skill to fire an arrow through there!

Looking back at Marten's Tower from the battlement wall


Going down?


Not a lot left of the private apartments behind the gatehouse

Looking across from the back of the gatehouse toward the tower of the middle bailey and the Great Tower beyond, you can clearly see various phases of development written in the walls


The 11th century Great Tower is built right onto the cliff face - great for defence, and also great for trade - at high tide, ships could tie up below to have their cargo winched in directly


Nature reclaims - here's a snapdragon growing out of a stone wall


And some more stone walls being slowly reclaimed as wildlife havens


Inside the Great Tower


This is the oldest part of the castle, first constructed around 1067 as a smaller, two storey structure, with two later phases of development adding another storey, as well as the decorative arcading we can still see traces of today. The round-arched niches at what was originally the uppermost level still retain traces of criss-cross pattern made in different colour plaster - this is the oldest surviving secular decoration in Britain


Also in the Great Tower, the remains of a pair of ornate arches with Purbeck marble shafts, mouldings and carved decoration - these were inserted in the 1230s


View across the River Wye to England beyond - in this picture, you can just make out a body of water close to the river bank. This was once a quarry where bricks were made, but then once upon a time the river burst its banks and flooded the quarry, which has remained a lake ever since!


I dunno who this chap is supposed to be - William Marshal, perhaps - but I'm a bit worried about his horse's missing leg!


The Barbican Gatehouse


Looking back toward the Marshal's Tower and the upper bailey from the barbican gatehouse


Most of the inner rooms in the Marshal's Tower were demolished in the 17th century to make a continuous wallwalk, but in what is believed to have once been the countess's private sitting room, you can still make out traces of plaster around a finely carved window


The Wye at low tide - picture taken in Wales, but across the other side of the river, that's England! As borders go, this one is pretty damp


Outside the castle, the town seems to go in for quite poetic street decoration!


Bridging Wales and England


Crossing the border - no passport, needed!


Chepstow Castle from the English end of the bridge


The Gloucester Hole - stories about its origins vary, but it is believed to be a natural cave that was enlarged in the 19th century and fitted with a crane at its entrance to unload large ships that could moor there in the deep water of high tide but could not easily dock at the shallower wharves on the Chepstow side of the river. Just below and to the side of the cave, you can just about make out in this picture a Union Jack painted on the cliff face - this dates back to 1935, painted by salmon fishermen to mark the silver Jubilee of King George V.


And thus ends our tour of Chepstow!

Date: 2017-06-11 11:10 pm (UTC)
primsong: (rainbow)
From: [personal profile] primsong
What a wonderful tour, thank you for taking the time to put this up - I quite enjoyed this!

Date: 2017-06-12 08:57 am (UTC)
lost_spook: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
Aw, amazing pics, and Wonder Layla is clearly the most Wonder-full!

Some of them are really atmospheric - like prompts for ghost stories.

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