Friday was Himself's birthday - he turned 66, if you can believe that. It's hard to believe, because he acts like he's about 16. If that, lol.
Our rule is that the birthday person gets to pick how they want to spend their special day. He said he wanted to see Beeston Castle (at long last - we've been talking about this for ages) and since we got a break in the weather, off we went. It's only about 40 minutes from home, so it was one of those things we kept saying 'One of these days.' Birthdays are as good a time as any, ain't?
The castle stands on Beeston Crag, and it is a heckuva hill. There aren't that many hills, at least of any size, around here. We're in the midst of what's known as 'the Cheshire plain,' so major hills do stand out.
Beeston is a ruin - it wasn't in very good shape by the 17th century, and the opposing forces fought over it during the English Civil War, which more or less did it in. The last battle involving it was won by the Parliamentarians (think Cromwell and his lot) so they rendered it indefensible and abandoned it.
I found an old etching to give you an idea of what it looked like at one time.
Then there's this recent aerial shot.
In at the gatehouse (the site is managed by English Heritage, so it's free for us because we're members - I don't know what the admission would be):
Then it's off, up the hill.
Himself went back to the car to get his coat - it was breezy and surprisingly chilly, and we knew it would be even windier at the top - and I set off, as he always catches up with me quickly. So I waited on a rise and snapped a shot:
We were in some thin woods for the first part, and when we came out of the trees we could see the castle itself:
Good thing they've put the modern 'bridge' in - even so, it's not necessarily an easy climb.
You see how imposing and huge it looks from below and in front. Once you're inside, tho, the inner gatehouse looks so small - very different perspective:
The view was everything they promised - you can see thirty miles in every direction.
The guidebook said this hill had been used as a defensive site since at least the Bronze Age - they've found a number of artifacts dating to about 1000 BC, as well as items from the Iron Age. The characteristic round houses were built on the hill outside what is now the inner castle, as archaeologists have uncovered the remains where as many as a dozen once stood.
When the castle was built in the early 13th century it was intended to be a security outpost for the then Earl of Chester. Eventually it came into the hands of the monarchy, but it was never intended as a royal residence. Hence, it was left very rough and almost primitive at the peak of the crag - the inner castle grounds are very uneven and rocky.
While a small force could hold the castle just about forever, the problem was supplies. That's what happened in the Civil War: the Parliamentarian forces besieged the castle and eventually the Royalists inside were forced to surrender, or starve to death. They had plenty of water, however:
Other than the well and the views, there wasn't a lot to see. We poked around in the remnants of the towers - you can more or less tell where the walls were, but they are mostly gone - then we set off again. Looking at the 'bridge' from inside the doorway makes it look as tho it's a sheer drop!
Just inside the outer curtain wall - the stone wall surrounding the entire castle grounds - is a good walking path they've cleared. The weather was still holding, so we decided to walk around the perimeter. The man in the gatehouse thought it was about a mile, and from what my pedometer said, I think that was probably about right.
Like the path up the hill, it started off in the woods:
Every so often they have little surprises for walkers' amusement:
The deer and the horse were lifesize, and cleverly placed so you didn't see them until you rounded a bend and - by golly, there 's an animal here! After we'd seen the deer we figured it was a one-off; after we found the horse, we kept looking all through the rest of the walk. Alas, no more animals to be seen.
There was one point where the wall was much lower, and we could see an adjoining farm:
That farmyard is so neat and tidy! It's a large dairy farm; the milking parlor is to the right of the barn. You can just about see a corner of it. The house is so pretty. I'm not sure I'd want to live there, tho, facing the old castle ruins. Bet it's eerie after dark.
You can probably tell from some of the photos, but it was overcast all day. We've had a spate of rainy days, perhaps as much as two weeks' worth. Not that it rains all day, every day, but it's usually been cloudy and it's rained at least once each day. We were glad that Friday's forecast said cloudy but no rain until late afternoon.
Just as we were getting back in the car it started to sprinkle. Our timing was perfect. It poured buckets most of the way home, but the sun broke thru right as we got to the house.
I think you can just about see the faint outline of the second rainbow. How's that for the icing on the cake, lol...
So I'll leave you with a rainbow instead of a moon picture. Goodnight, Sparklers, wherever you are!