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Last year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, the bloke and I headed out to Brimham Rocks. Everyone else had the same idea, and the rocks were busy with families enjoying themselves and participating in an Easter Egg hunt. This would have been an amazing place to run around if I was a kid again; this would have been right up my street. I could not help to feel a little jealous of all of the children enjoying such a wonderful place with large rocks to hide amongst and climb on/around.

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We spent a long weekend around Harrogate, and I previously posted my visit to Harrogate, afternoon tea at Betty's Tea Rooms, Mother Shipton's Petrifying Well, Knaresborough, and Knaresborough Castle.

I explored Brimham Rocks for a couple of hours, enjoying the views from some of the rocks and climbing my way around/between others. The rocks cover a large area of ground, and there is a small museum and shop on location that explains how the stones were formed. It also explained that the rocks were visited during the Victorian days and people from Harrogate would come to Brimham Rocks for the day as an excursion. It was marketed to resemble the landscape of far-away lands, such as America.

Photographs from my visit to Brimham Rocks can be seen below.

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Have you ever been to Brimham Rocks?

Knaresborough is a town in Yorkshire located near Harrogate and on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Knaresborough is built around a limestone gorge (complete with the River Nidd at the bottom of the gorge). The recognisable viaduct, a railway bridge, is built on the banks of the gorge over the river. Stunning views can be enjoyed from the stairs to the top where the old town is and from the castle. Mother Shipton's Cave and Petrifying Well (the first recorded tourist attraction) is located in Knaresborough, and it's also home to Knaresborough Castle. I visited both attractions, starting in the morning with Mother Shipton's and finishing the afternoon off at Knaresborough Castle.

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The town of Knaresborough has a High Street and a market square, and it has one of the oldest chemist shops in the UK. Historic buildings are also located along the river. St. John's Parish Church is one of these. Visitors can also hire/rent a rowboat on the river.

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Another one of the historical buildings along the river is The Old Manor House. The Old Manor House was a hunting lodge built for King John in the early 1200s around an old oak tree. Oliver Cromwell would have come here to sign some documents after Royalists were defeated nearby. Over 400 years ago, King James I had a mulberry planted inside the courtyard, and it still grows and flowers each year.

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The Nidd Gorge is the lowland where the river runs through Knaresborough. The sandstone and limestone rock was carved out by the river over 16,000 years ago. 'Nidd' is probably the Celtic word for 'hidden' or 'covered' as the river disappears underground further upstream. Knaresborough was settled very early, and it was mentioned in the 1086 Doomsday Book. 

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Mills were built on the river to pump water to the town, create paper, and to create textiles in the industrial age.

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The viaduct is the most famous symbol of the town today. It was built in the mid-1800s. The bridge constructed just before had actually collapsed into the river just before its opening. 

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Further along the river are a set of stairs that ascend to the top of the gorge where the main streets of Knaresborough are located. The stairs go past Knaresborough Castle, and the views on the way up and from the castle are amazing.

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After reaching the top, we had a wander through the town to browse a few shops and the Market Square. 

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We also had lunch. Before visiting the town, I looked online for a few recommendations. One of the recommendations was McQueen's cafe, located on the High Street toward the station. The cafe do cooked meals and lunches with soup and sandwich, and they do pastries and coffees too. I opted for the soup and sandwich, which was really yummy. The bloke had a steak pie with mashed peas and chips. I also had a scone (which came with butter, as I assume they prefer that 'up north'), and this was also tasty.

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I found Knaresborough to be a charming village, and it's packed with things to do and see.

Afternoon at Knaresborough Castle

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Knaresborough Castle (located in Yorkshire and not far from Harrogate) probably started construction in 1066, and it was extended in the 1200s by King John. He used it as a hunting base when he wanted to hunt in the Forest of Knaresborough. The ruined structure seen today actually dates from the 1300s, and this was built by King Edward II. Upon his death, it went to Queen Phillipa, and she spent a lot of time here. Some of her possessions are in the museum next to the castle.

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The castle is currently owned by the Queen. It was under Royalist control during the Civil War, but it had to surrender to Cromwell in the 1640s. Cromwell planned to destroy it, but it was saved because the townspeople of Knaresborough asked for it to be kept to be used as a prison. I'm glad this happened because so many castles were completely destroyed by Cromwell.

The ruins, courthouse next door (which doubles as the museum), and underground tunnels can be visited.

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When entering the castle from the Market Place and High Street of Knaresborough, we were welcomed by the old gated entrance to the castle. On the ground in front of the gate are historical moments in the history of the castle, from the first fortification built around 1066 to its extension in the 1200s, to Queen Phillipa living here in the 1300s after King Edward II passed away, and to its partial destruction and surrender in the Civil War.

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From the gates, the castle grounds can be walked across. It's just flat grassland now, and the two structures are the courthouse and the ruin of the castle. The ruin is called "King's Tower" and makes up only a small part of the historic castle. It was a fortified residential area. Part of this tower can be climbed to visit the garderobe, and a dungeon is below.

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This arch is the remains of a room, and it is though this was a waiting area for people who wanted to visit with the king.

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We had a quick visit of the tower. The dungeon area had stone balls on display, and these could have been catapulted at enemies or placed on the tower chutes to roll down to crush people. We also saw pieces of stone with carved letters on them.

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The garderrobe could also be visited. Clothes would have been stored here to keep the moths away. The garderobes could be breached by sending up a small boy up the chute to open the door. The garderobes also had to be cleaned every now and then, and someone was paid to do it. 

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The grounds of the castle were beautiful and planted with spring flowers. From here, a wonderful view over the River Nidd can be enjoyed.

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The eastern sallyport (underground tunnels) can be visited on a guided tour for a small cost, and I believe that tours run roughly each hour. There's also a western sallyport, but these cannot be visited. The tunnels are located in the castle grounds, and a tunnel descends through the earth and exits on the outside of the walls and into the moat. We were told that the tunnels was built so that a quick escape could be made on horseback, although I am not sure if there would really have been enough room for this. The exit on the other side of the castle walls was not suspecting because this was a dirty place where the waste and rotting items would be discarded. 

In addition to quick escapes, the sallyports could also be used for men to leave in the night to attack unsuspecting enemies.

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The museum located in the courthouse was well worth a visit and covered a variety of topics and showed many items on display. One exhibit was the interior of how the courthouse looked in Tudor times. This is also the oldest part of the building, and the courthouse dates to 1600s.

Information about local famous residents, such as Guy Fawkes, 'Blind Jack', and Mother Shipton, could also be read. Queen Phillipa's belongings, such as a chest, can also be seen. 

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Knaresborough Castle and the museum are well worth a visit for the fascinating information and displays.

Last Easter, the bloke and I went to Harrogate, Yorkshire (England) to enjoy a long and much-needed weekend break. I was not expecting good weather because the weather is usually not good when you want it to be. However, despite this first day in Harrogate, we did have great weather. Our first day was a wet one driving up to Harrogate. When we arrived, the weather was gloomy with showers, but we did not let this put us off making the most of it. 

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We stayed at Old Swan Hotel, a classic hotel with a lot of history. I'll go into more later.

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Harrogate's claim to fame is that it was a fashionable Victorian town and known for its spas and sulphur springs, which were thought to heal a variety of problems. The Royal Pump Room was the strongest sulphur spring in Britain in 1626. It was built in the mid-1800s, and water was dispensed by the same lady (Queen of the Wells) until her death in 1843. Today, it is the Harrogate Museum, which opened in 1953, and the sulphur spring was still open for use then.

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Thw town of Knaresborough (up the road from Harrogate) was a larger town built around a castle and river. In 1571, the well with medicinal powers was discovered at Harrogate, and the small community grew. More wells were discovered and opened. The healing powers of the wells drew people in to treat a variety of problems, such as scurvy, epilepsy, ulcers, sores, and skin conditions.

As visitors increased and the rich visited the town during Victorian times, hotels, ballrooms, and luxury shops were built.

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The first well, 'The Tewit Well', was founded in 1571. Many additional wells were discovered after this across Harrogate, and there were around a dozen of these. The common wells had to be extended and more treatment rooms included on them to separate the men from the women and to cater for different illnesses. I learned a lot of important facts about these wells and the history of Harrogate in the Harrogate Museum. Below is a model of how it would have looked in the mid-1800s.

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The Harrogate Museum also has an amazing Egyptian collection that is worth a visit. (Photographs are not permitted, but this was interesting.) In addition, the old sulphur well can be seen from above, and there's also a section dedicated to war heroes.

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After our wander around the museum, we went to our reservation at 'Betty's Tea Rooms' in Harrogate. I previously covered my visit to Betty's Tea Rooms in a post published last year. By now, it had started to rain, so there was a queue for the cafe. I was glad that I had booked it in advance.

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After the afternoon tea, we continued to have a wander around the town. We saw the statue of Cupid & Psyche. The statue was carved in the mid-1800s for the spa, but they were put into storage and forgotten about when the gardens at the spa were removed. They were only re-discovered about fifteen years ago.

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The gardens of Harrogate are beautiful, but they are more beautiful in the sun.

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Before calling it a day, we wandered around the Harrogate Valley Gardens. We were nearly half the way around the gardens when it started to rain harder. I still managed to photograph the gardens. I remember visiting ten years ago at Easter, and I remember the flowers being out in bloom a lot more. I was also lucky with the weather then.

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The Wishing Well in the park at Harrogate was designed to look like the familair wells. This wishing well takes coins, which are donated to charity.

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We saw some ducks in the stream that ran through the lower part of the gardens. Of course, it was weather for ducks.

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The path around the gardens was named 'Elgar Walk' after an Edward Elgar who took regular walks here between 1912 to 1927. The walk received the name in 1989.

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We headed back to the Old Swan Hotel. This infamous hotel was constructed in the 1800s for the wealthy visitors attending the spas. In the 1920s, it became famous for another reason. Crime/mystery fiction writer Agatha Christy was found here after she disappeared for eleven days after having a breakdown due to her mother's death the previous year and finding out that her husband wanted a divorce so he could marry his mistress. 

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Because of the wet weather, we decided to eat at the hotel. I had the soup to start and chicken. The bloke had salom. For dessert, he had chocolate brownie and I had creme brulee.

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I do hope to return to Harrogate and book time at the spa. (I tried to book it in advance, but there wasn't any availability.) The Old Swan Hotel also have themed nights and murder mystery events. I would not mind returning.

Last spring, I planned a trip to Yorkshire (England) with accommodation in Harrogate. (You can read about my time in Harrogate here.) In the morning of the second day, I visited Mother Shipton's Cave and Petrifying Well. This tourist attraction was first recorded in 1538, but it was known for its petrifying properties much earlier. It is the oldest recordered tourist attraction in England, and it is located in the town of Knaresborough (near Harrogate). To find out more about this Petrifying Well (and what it is) and who Mother Shipton was, keep reading below. I found my visit fascinating, and this story has started so many legends and stories that date to popular culture today.

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We arrived just before the attraction opened in the morning. The main gated entrance allows cars to enter to drive through and park along the banks of the River Nidd. The patrifying well and cave is then a short walk through the woodland. The petrifying well can be seen from the river if hiring a boat on the river, but you would have to leave the boat unattended and we wanted to look around and enjoy ourselves. Also, parking is included in the fee and there's quite a lot to see in Knaresborough.

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The walk through the woodland is a pleasant one. The beech trees and woodland were planted and sculptured in 1739 and dubbed 'The Long Walk'. It was planted for the visiting gentry. Along the way, there were information boards and sculptures made of wood. I saw many sculptures and faces carved into the wood, and one large fallen log was pounded full of thousands of coins. A close-up is above.

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All along the walk, we followed the river and took in excellent views as we climbed the hill. On the other side of the river from here is the Old Mill. It was built in 1791 and was a cotton mill, but a paper mill was located in its place previously. In the early 1811s, it manufactured excellent-quality textiles for the royal family. It closed in 1972, and it was converted into flats.

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Finally, we arrived at the top of the hill and above the Petrifying Well itself. The water from a spring on top of the hill (pictured below) has trickled down, creating pools of water on the top before it cascades into a waterfall below. According to the information boards, it has taken 6,000 years to create the petrifying well, and the formation is similar to that of a stalactite that forms in a cave. The 'Dripping Well' was its first name, and it has been famous for centuries. In 1538, it was written about by Henry VIII's staff, who would have been well aware of it and knew of the powers of the water turning items to stone.

The spring on the opposite side og the footpath runs underneath the footpath, and this is where the magic starts. The spring is from an underground lake and travels about a mile away before breaking the surface along a porous layer of rock called 'Aquifer', which contains the minerals (calcite) that are taken with it. The minerals are then deposited, creating this large mound of pools and allowing the water to trickle down into a waterfall, carrying more calcite with it.

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On the other side of the mound, the hill descends and splits so that we could walk underneath the mound of rock that we saw above. We looked on in awe at the rock-face and waterfall as it cascaded down onto items that were in various stages of pertification. This, of course, happens over time. The water trickles down and deposits the minerals onto the items hanging in its path and eventually covers them in stone.

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The bicycle was the first item to be noticed. I tried to identify other items hanging up too. Many of these had been here for awhile, and some were recent additions. The strands of rope with many items on them were stuffed teddy bears. These are changed regularly and left to turn to stone, and they are sold in the gift shop.

The Petrifying Well was regarded by the townspeople of Knaresborough as a magical place, and they would not go near it for fear of turning to stone. Perhaps someone noticed that items around or near the pool of water had become stone. By the 1600s, the water was examined by someone in the medical field and deemed to carry healing powers.

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In 1630, the attraction was sold, and it was opened to the public as the first tourist attraction. Their items were left to be turned to stone, and some items are visible in the shop. Others have become a part of the large rock-face. In the image above, the mounds sticking out from the rock-face were traditional hats or bonnets of the time. The Victorians were obsessed with the Petrifying Well. They would also petrify dead animals. These items became sought-after curiosities.

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I identified skates, a sock, a cap, a trophy, a hat, a cup, a watering can, and a lobster. I could not identify all of the items.

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After visiting the petrifying well, I walked along the back where there is a small cave and a spring. This is known as the 'wishing well' and visitors make a wish. The well has been credited to making wishes come true. Mine did! The wish must be made properly and according to the instructions. Many people return to make another wish.

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After staring at the items being turned to stone, we listened to commentary about Mother Shipton near her cave. In the image below, my back is to the petrifying well, and Mother Shipton's Cave is located on the left. The cave isn't much except a shelter, and it contained a dummy Mother Shipton. Mother Shipton was born in the cave in 1488, and she was named Ursula. The mother had the baby out of wedlock and would never tell anyone who the baby's father was, so she was kicked out of Knaresborough and lived in the cave with her baby and drank from the waters here.

When Ursula aged, she became regarded as a legend and a powerful witch. She is said to have forseen the Great Fire of London in 1666 (as it was recorded in Samuel Pepy's diaries). Many of her prophecies are deemed to have come true, and there's a prophecy that the world will end if the bridge into Knaresborough falls in. (There's actually a pub on the other side of the river called "The World's End" based on this prophecy.)

Mother Shipton was regarded to be hideously ugly, even as a baby. The traditional 'witch' appearance with the pointed chin pointing upward and crooked nose almost meeting her chin actually started with her. 

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After looking at the cave, I walked down this beech-lined walk to the museum.

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Unforunately, some of the beautiful beech trees had been damaged. This one became a wooden angel.

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The museum is at the end of the walk. The museum had examples of petrified items and also had sections on local history, including one on Guy Fawkes who lived near Knaresborough. The petrified items on display in the cases were interesting to note as many had famous connections, and others were very old. Below is a parasol dating from the 1890s and made with beautiful lace.

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In the case above, the different types of rock around the petrifying well are included. The item near the foreground is a twig that had turned to stone without human help, and people a long time ago would have come across items such as this or a dead animal.

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Queen Mary's shoe is pictured above with other items. Also on display in one of the cabinets were items by modern-day celebrities and the souvinir bears. One exhibit shows the bear at different lengths of petrification. After three to five months (depending on the water flow), the bears were totally petrified. This means the waters carry so many minerals.

Have you visited Mother Shipton's Cave or the Petrifying Well? If not, I recommend it.

After visiting Ludgershall Castle and Old Sarum for my birthday, we headed further south to visit Christchurch Castle and Norman House. Despite living in the south of England for many years and working/studying in Bournemouth and the New Forest, I had never been to Christchurch until that day. Our first stop was to walk to Christchurch Castle from where we had parked (near the picturesque Christchurch church and rose gardens).

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We walked around the church (Christchurch Priory) to get to the castle. The building would have been constructed in the late 1000s.

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The castle (actually, it is the tower and primary form of defense) is built upon a mound of earth, which would have been surrounded by a water-filled moat. All that is left is the ruins of a couple of walls. The castle would have originally been constructed of timber around 1100, and the stone structure would have probably been constructed in the 12th century.

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We climbed the stone stairs in order to get a better view of the castle and its surroundings.

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Next to the castle is another field and then the main road with hotels and pubs on the other side. We saw people in this field who were having a wedding. On the far side of the field is the ruins of Norman House, a house dating from the time of the castle. Beyond the ruins of Norman House are the two canals.

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This area looked pleasant with potential good walks, but we could not explore it for too long. The two canals gave the place a name 'Twynham', which means "place between rivers". The area changed its name to Christchurch because of the important priory here.

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The pigeons seemed to love the house, and we saw a dead one on the floor of the house and a lot of live ones hanging around the stonework.

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The lord would have lived in this house, and these formed his apartments and the Great Hall. Stables, kitches, and other buildings would have existed in the fields that we crossed near the foot of the castle (and on the other side of the filled moat).

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This is a rare example of a house from this time as many would have been constructed of timber instead of stone. The chimney has survived, and its survival is a rare feature. Kings would have come here to dine.

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Overlooking Norman House is the priory, and this large field would have held the other buildings to help with the running of the castle.

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After exploring both structures, we walked down the High Street. We had ice cream from a little cafe, and we looked in a couple of shops. Christchurch has the standard town/village High Street with the shops.

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Overall, we had a pleasant evening. Have you ever been to Christchurch?

Old Sarum is an ancient town that pre-dated its neighbour Salisbury. The town of Old Sarum was once thriving, and the market town of Salisbury was constructed nearby so that funds could be generated to build an even larger cathedral. The land that occupies Salisbury was owned by the bishop, so the new town was constructed along with the cathedral in the early 1200s. Eventually, the cathedral at Salisbury and Salisbury itself pulled more people in and Old Sarum lost its influence and was abandoned. The town and fortress was one of the most important in England. A model of the town in its heydey exists in Salisbury Cathedral.

I have driven past this monument so many times after working in Salisbury for awhile, but I never visited Old Sarum. I decided to plan a visit for my birthday.

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The town is built on an ancient site with an Iron Age hill and Norman town/fortress and is not far from Stonehenge. Previously, it was a Neolithic settlement (3000BC) that suggests it was used for seasonal gatherings until 1500BC. Because of its proximity to Stonehenge, it probably served an important function. The mounds around the area were for burials, so the area probably held some significance. Later, it was a fortress due to unrest in the area with other tribes. William the Conquerer inherited the town and its castle in the mid-1000s and used it for his army. 

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The entrance to the castle is across a footbridge over the raised banks of earth, and this was the main entrance. Inside is the inner courtyard where various buildings would have stood. In front is the Great Hall. It was built for King John in early 1200 and may have been used as a courthouse and entertaining since the kitchen was nearby. It was never maintained and the roof needed repaired in in the middle of the century and fell in about 100 years after it was constructed.

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Upon entering the inner courtyard, we found a bouquet of flowers alone on a table. A note read for us to take them and give them a home. I'd come to Old Sarum for my birthday so I was very happy for the gift of flowers to brighten my day as I felt a little down. I'll post more about these in another post.

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The royal palace also occupied this area of the inner courtyard and was built for King Henry I in the early 1100s. There was a view over the cathedral here, and we could see where the apartments, chapel, and latrines were. The latrines were expansive holes in the ground, and they were cleaned by someone lowered down into them. I don't think that would have been a nice job, and the hole is so deep that it would have frightened me too much to even access the room.

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The great tower's basement is photographed below. 

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The views over Wiltshire were stunning, even though the day was an overcast one.

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The inner courtyard (below) would have been a bustling place, like a city. It would have contained many buildings. By the 16th century, all of the buildings were demolished.

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The image below is all that remains of the great tower. In the foreground is the well, which was the centre of gossip for the servants. The well is probably about 70 metres deep. 

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I had a walk along the edge of the inner courtyard where the bank is raised. Below is the moat and outer courtyard.

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The next stop was to walk around the moat to the remains of the cathedral.

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I took in amazing views of Salisbury Cathedral, which is one of my favourite cathedrals.

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On the southwest side of Old Sarum is the remains of the cathedral. The nave is the only area that ordinary people could access, and there were no seats in those days. The cathedral was used as a meeting place and for other non-religious functions as well.

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The cathedral was built in the mid-1000s and was damaged in a storm a few days after it was completed. By the mid-1200s, the palace and cathedral had both been demolished.

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The final stop was the toilets, which are built into the hill of the outer embankment.

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I enjoyed my walk around Old Sarum. There's not too much to see, but the views are amazing and it is an important historical site. It must have taken a long time for the site to have been constructed over the thousands of years, and I find this fascinating. 

A Day in Birmingham (England)

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The weekend before last, I had a day in Birmingham. I was meant to stay longer than a day, but my time was cut short because I had a toothache. However, I made the most of my time and had a wander around the city in search for street art, sight-seeing, and shopping. Birmingham is the UK's second largest city, so there is a lot to see and do. In a day, I think I did get a good feel for the city. I've been to Birmingham before a couple of times several years ago, but I've never really explored it; I remember a trip to the Bull Ring shopping centre, but that was about it.

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Th Custard Factory is in the 'trendy' and 'hipster' area of Birmingham. This area is the equivelant to London's Shoreditch. I discovered so much street art here. It's a pity this was my first stop of the day and the shops must open later on a Saturday as not much was open. There's a lot of night life in this area as well as warehouses.

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On the way to The Custard Factory, I walked up Frazeley Street and caught the above view. I also discovered some old pubs, such as the one below.

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After a wander around, I headed back toward the city centre and came across the wholesale market. It was buzzing on the Saturday and I noticed a real mix of people and a random assortment of items for sale from meat to fish to clothing to textiles to trinkets and a lot more.

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Further on my way, I noticed and loved this green post box. I've never seen one like it.

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Also, bright and early on the way from the market was this guy with his mates. I can't believe they were starting so early for their 'stag do'. I assume that is what they were doing, but I don't know how they would have made it to the afternoon as it was before lunch at this point.

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I liked the signs in the middle of the centre with the street name.

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I was told by my colleague who went to university in Birmingham that I should go to the canal area. So, I found myself wandering along this busy area with nice restaurants, pubs, and a nice canal walkway with a lot of canal boats. There are also museums here.

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I spent a while walking up the canal.

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I saw canal boat trips advertised, and I happened to arrive a couple of minutes before one of the boats was going to depart, so I hopped on. My feet needed a rest by this time anyway. The boat trip was just over an hour and it started near Gas Street and went south to where the university is located before turning around again.

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I learned a short history of the canals in Birmingham and how they were constructed to ship items from this industrial area. The railroad also runs along the side of the canal, so we were told about it.

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After the canal boat trip, I went and had some lunch on the other side of this rainbow bridge over the canal.

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'Pickled Pig' is the name of the restaurant, and it had good reviews even though it was more expensive. It was coming up to 1:30 now, so I decided to give it a try. I had the drink and a vegetarian gnochi meal. Unfortunately, this was about the time that I really started to feel unwell with pain in my tooth. It had been bothering me all morning, but it got worse after lunch as I'd accidentally bit down the wrong way when I was chewing. 

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The food was very good and tasted fresh, and I loved the pudding.

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I walked back into the centre of Birmingham after my wander around the canal.

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A lot of redevelopment is taking place in Birmingham at the moment, and all of this is happening right in between the monuments, smack in the centre of the city.

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Victoria Square is the name of the large square with a lot of sculptures and beautiful buildings around it. Anthony Gormley designed the sculpture below.

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This is a sculpture of Queen Victoria.

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I spent an hour walking around the Bull Ring shopping mall, but it was a little too crowded. While I waited awhile for the people in front to finishing their photo-taking with the famous bull in front of the mall, a guy decided to turn up and butt in with his kids just as everyone else disappeared, leaving me no time to quickly get a photo sans people. I waited and hoped he would be quick, but the kids didn't want their photo taken but continued to occupy the spot and climb on top of the sculpture, so I just got them in it and eventually told him he was rude after I was waiting patiently for so long for others to finish and he ran up and butted in. He continued to try to photograph his disinterested kids and then more people decided to queue up and kids run in front of and on the bull, so I had enough and headed to the train station. I was waiting for this guy for over eight minutes (yes, I did look at my watch and count), and this is the best photograph I could get, with the guy's disinterested children and wife climbing around the bull. 

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The constant photo-taking because everyone had a phone or device with a camera is annoying once again, but I do wish people would stop and look who else is there before seeing a 'free' opportunity and running up before someone else. There may be someone there who is waiting to get a photograph of the monument without anyone in it. Not all of is like to take 'selfies' or may be with anyone to get 'selfies' of. I was on my own, but I am not invisible and it doesn't mean I am not sight-seeing if I am on my own. Just be polite, please. I really only needed a few seconds to get a photograph, compared to your several minutes.

I hope the next time I visit that I can enjoy it more without a toothache.

Ludgershall Castle

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Ludgershall Castle (located in Wiltshire, south England) was built in the late 1100s as a fortress surrounded by two rings of earthwork ditches. The location was used earlier for other forts, but the castle itself was constructed primarily of stone and consisted of a great hall, kitchen, apartments, and stables. King John updated the castle in the early 1200s to bring it up to date to use as a hunting lodge. The land around was used for hunting and games, and a viewing platform in front of the castle looked onto the fields. The castle is built inside the rings of earthworks, and a small farm and house is located next to the castle today. Although there is a road to walk up to the castle from the small parking area, we opted to walk through the earthworks.

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A path has been mown into the grasses, so walking and finding our way to the castle was easy. The site is maintained by English Heritage. We started on the left side where the path was located in the ditch.

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We had rain overnight, so the grass was still a little damp. We saw several snails and slugs climbing around.

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Nearer to the castle we had the choice to use the path in the ditch or on top of the earthworks. We opted for the high ground. Soo, the castle was in front of us.

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We stood in the location where the viewpoint over the fields was located. The information boards suggested that the land was not extensive enough for proper hunting, but rabbits could be hunted here and deer could also be kept. The land passed between different royal families. By the 1540s, the buildings were levelled so that the nearby house could have a garden with the romantic castle tower ruin kept as a feature point of the garden.

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In the 1960s and 1970s, the ruins were escavated to dertermine their use and possible appearance. Maps on the information boards marked out the kitchen, chapels, rooms, great hall and latrines and the approximate years that these buildings were constructed.

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We had a wander around the tower, although there's not a lot to see. Children from the house next door were playing around the ruins when we were visiting. Having a castle in your own garden/land growing up must be amazing. Other than the children, we had the castle to ourselves.

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After we had looked around the castle, we found the path through the earthworks in the opposite direction that we came from. This is the shorter route, and we noticed a lot of animal poo on the path, and I noticed that the wet grass had been trampled recently. As we were trying to guess the animal (I thought it was goat because the poo looked too 'big' for sheep), a load of rams came into view.

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Our visit to Ludgershall Castle was a quick one. I believe we spent about fifteen to thirty minutes here. The castle is free to visit and open during reasonable daylight hours.

The Dorchester hotel in London had an afternoon tea pop-up at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, but it was completely booked when I bought my tickets in January. Instead, I decided to go to their hotel on Park Lane where they were also serving RHS Chelsea Flower Show afternoon tea for the week. This was also on my "London Bucket List" because I've seen previous themed flower show teas, and they look so beautiful.

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The Chelsea Flower Show champagne afternoon tea takes place in the hotel's restaurant The Promenade, a beautiful area of the hotel with high ceilings, statues, and carved ceiling and coving with gold-plated details. The hotel has been serving afternoon tea since 1931. The afternoon tea comes with Laurent-Perrier Brut or Cuvée Rosé Champagne.

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For the event, floral designer Phillip Hammond has created the beautiful floral displays in the hotel.

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First up, the champagne. I had the standard, and the bloke had the Rosé. The standard was the same that we had at the flower show.

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Afternoon tea consisted of several 'courses'. The first 'course' was salmon with avocado and cavier on a biscuit base. An edible flower petal was presented on top in line with the theme.

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Next up, we had a selection of sandwiches: egg, cucumber, chicken, salmon, and beef.

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I opted for The Dorchester Blend afternoon tea, which is a standard black tea. The bloke wanted to try one of the Scottish teas, which has a surplus cost of £12.00. The Scottish teas had a smokey peat flavour/scent, and it reminded me of the flavour of whisky (minus the alcohol, of course). The tea was prepared differently from standard tea in that it was brewed in a glass pot. 

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Our second 'course' consisted of a small pot of white chocolate mousse and strawberry jelly.

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This was followed by scones, and we had the choice of clotted cream and blackcurrant or strawberry jam.

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The pastries were then delivered. First up, a cheesecake was served with a candied edible flower. I dislike cheesecake, so the bloke had this one and he assured me that it was tasty.

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I had the dark chocolate with salted caramel 'handbag'. This had a white chocolate ladybug and three sugared flowers. The chocolate and salted caramel was good quality.

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We were told to eat the round pastry first, which we did, because it is meant to be enjoyed cold. It was a creamy peach mousse with a rice and chocolate base. This was my favourite of the pastries.

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The butterfly pastry was a shortbread and lemon treat with a white chocolate butterfly and a slight caramel taste.

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After we finished, we were brought the final 'course', which consisted of chocolate and almond cake and another type of cake. A pot of lemon curd was also provided to have with the cakes.

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We enjoyed our afternoon tea, and I will highlight that the service was particularly good and our diertary needs were catered for.

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