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Castles and more castles

12 May, 2007

On the last day of our first holiday, we did a meandering drive home stopping by various castles.

Nic had got thoroughly sick of driving and, although we had not put my name down as second driver, I took over (Shhh! – Nic). Nic is good at country lanes and twisty roads. I am the highway hoon. Cornwall was full of little twisty lanes, with the hedges right up close either side. And maniac locals who liked to go at significantly faster speed than whatever the limit was. We forgot to do any research about English road rules, so we did not actually know what the black circle signs with a slash through the middle meant. I decided it meant: no speed limit, just do what is sensible. For the locals, this meant ridiculously fast; for us, ploddingly slow. By the time I took over the wheel, we were mostly on wide roads with plenty of other cars whizzing past us. Always competitive, I started driving much too fast. Thankfully, I can be sensible sometimes. I realised that 70-80 miles per hour (approximately 110kms/hr – 130kms/hr) was quite fast enough. I’m pretty sure that was the uppermost speed I did, except for when overtaking ‘lorries’ (trucks).

We learned when we got home that the black circle with a slash through meant: do the National Limit. The National Limit is 70 miles per hour on dual carriageways and 60 on single carriageways. Very few people drive at the National Limit.

First stop for a leg stretch was Launceston, which is in the Tamar Valley, somewhere near the Tamar River. Some farmer from England who was convicted of something or other was sent out to Australia and named much of Tasmania after his home in England. He was also governor for a while, which is how he got to go around naming places after other places (Or something like that).

Launceston castle belongs to Prince Charles, as he is Duke of Cornwall and Prince of Wales. He probably has other titles too (But probably doesn’t visit Launceston castle all that much). Historically, Launceston castle was strategically very important due to its position – the major entrance point for the south of England into the centre – and its control of very fertile lands. Politically, the person who held Launceston castle, and hence Cornwall, could take over the throne and such a coup was attempted a number of times. I suggest you all go read John Farnam’s The Very Bloody History of Britain.

The castle is your typical motte and bailey style, recognisable by the high built hill (motte) and the circular building atop (the bailey). We considered storming the sides of the castle but it was wet, and overgrown with weeds. I trust invaders (or defenders of the crown, depending on the way the political wind was blowing) in the past were more intrepid, and less law-abiding.


Launceston Castle

Launceston Castle: Take note of the motte and bailey style.
I think you’ll be seeing it a lot in our pictures

After a thorough investigation of the castle, which had extensive views of the surrounding farmland, we drove onto Okehampton, where we intended to have lunch. Sadly, parking inspectors and our leisurely tour of Okehampton castle forced us to drive onto the next town for more Cornish pasties.

Okehampton castle is set in beautiful surrounds and beside a poetically picturesque creek. We accepted the offer of a cheesy audio tour and were handed little handheld radios. The audio tour pretended that we were being hosted by the lady of the castle, while the lord was away on business, in the height of the castle’s glory (14th century). It was very informative, and lots of fun.

Okehampton Castle

Okehampton Castle – note the motte and bailey style.

Okehampton Silhouette

Silhouette of Okehampton Castle – its former glory evident in the extensive ruins.

After our audio-guided tour, we walked alongside the creek past rows of quaint cottages and allotment gardens back to the hire car (a Ford Focus for the car fanatics). Okehampton is a lovely town, with many beautiful old buildings and a busy ‘country village’ atmosphere.

On either side of the roads of Hampshire (the county in which we live) and its surrounding counties are fields of rapeseed: expanses of bright yellow. Glimpses of yellow follow us all the way home.

Rapeseed Field

Rapeseed Field: taken while Oanh was hooning along the motorway.

Self Portrait at Launceston

Proof of Life – and a good holiday.

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