Guedelon – the making of a castle. Having seen it on TV, we happened on the site almost by chance – it was a few miles from La Catanque campsite at St Fargeau. What an amazing place: the castle is slowly and painstakingly being constructed using medieval methods, funded by visitors and staffed by paid workers, apprentices and volunteers. The ‘squirrel wheel’ really does its job of hoisting heavy loads of stone up the towers. This is a one-person version. There is another two-person wheel. Among the working areas for masons, carpenters, rope-makers and potters we were particularly taken by the dyer’s cottage.
So many other things to see… the amphitheatre and mosaic at Grand, for example, the pottery at Ratilly, the chateau and gardens at Joinville… And some beautiful campsites, our favourite being La Forge de Ste Marie near Joinville, seen below at night.
Here’s a nice peaceful picture from a nice peaceful garden near Montreuil, visited after we found that our intended garden in St Valery was closed on Mondays. So, this newly discovered gem was a delightful surprise. Just a private garden that happens to be open to visitors for five euros. A few days earlier we returned to Maizicourt, a very much larger place but also very relaxed, rather like the geese in one of the many areas that are there to explore.
Looking across the canal towards our apartment – somewhere behind the trees. Two flights of steep stairs but worth it when you get there! The open gardens also included a lot of art, especially sculptures, and sometimes something unexpected:
The hidden gardens were a bit formal for our taste – and we felt they needed some more splashes of colour – but they were fascinating nevertheless.
Swoop, swirl, glide, dive… Sweeping over the waves or clinging on the cliffs, seabirds are everywhere! This is Bempton Cliffs on the coast of Yorkshire just north of Bridlington. Gulls, gannets and guillemots; razorbills, fulars and kittiwakes all circle around these sheer white sides and manage to find a ledge, a niche, to nest and lay eggs. It seems precarious and counter-intuitive but they’ve been doing it successfully for years so I guess they know what they’re doing. Puffins are about – but none visible while we were there. The bird above is a gannet, by the way.
Even a grand mansion benefits from a little bit of careful framing. The house is now the Northern College but the gardens, from where this is taken, are open to the public. Some nice variation from parkland to ‘Union Jack’ beds and then the slope up to a folly castle. Good place for picnic. On the way back we took in the fernery and a walk glowing with camelias. Finally, a view of the restored glasshouse which is majestic.
Conwy Castle on a misty morning, seen from the walls which encircle the town, giving excellent views not only of the castle but of the estuary and the hills and everyone’s back gardens. It’s a lovely town – compact enough to walk around in a short while but with everything you might need for a relaxing week. Lots of great scenery within a short journey of course – or if we fancied a three minute walk, The Albion pub was just one of the best, and there was a chip shop round the corner!
Too often Surrey is associated with boring commuter towns, traffic and suburban sprawl. But there are other parts of the county which are beautiful. Some of the lanes through the North Downs are more like Devon roads with their overhanging branches and deep cuttings. One long and winding lane led onto the road to Ockley where we found the Inn on the Green and a nice lunch – together with views over the green to some interesting cottages. Most properties in the Hills would probably need a banker’s or a footballer’s income but there’s no charge for visitors – yet.