Dancin' in the Ruins

Posted on 21st October 2008

A few weeks back, I took DanDan to visit Ludlow Castle. Unusually for the weather we've been having, it was a fantastic sunny day. On the trip over there were a few view points that we really should have stopped at, as the view looking West as we came over the hills, was much better than those looking East. However, it was easier to stop and look East. At one point where we stopped, the area allows for sheep to run free, as cattle grids either side of the hilltop stop them straying too far. One decided to investigate DanDan further :)

When we finally arrived in Ludlow, we headed towards Castle Square, hoping to find a nearby car park. Our luck was in, as an on street parking spot was free right outside the castle entrance. It also turned out to be market day, but being a Sunday was more or the car-boot kind of market day, than a regular one. As we were here to see the castle, we didn't spend too much time in the town itself. Hopefully we'll get the chance to do that another time, as there looks to be some great buildings around the network of streets.

Ludlow Castle itself is an old medieval castle, that has gone through a few transformations and was once a Royal Castle. Not quite as grand as Windsor Castle maybe, but I can imagine the place was a sight to behold in its day. Much of the stone work has seen better days, but there is enough standing for you to get a good idea of what the castle must have looked like. You explore up the towers and down into the cubby holes, and discover some fantastic views.

I haven't looked at DanDan's photos yet, but he did seem to have a lot of fun with the camera. After we'd been up the first tower, that stands outside of the main fortress, DanDan handed me the camera. He then proceeded to run round the entire outer wall and buildings. I shgould have filmed him, as there were a few other visitors completely bemused by his mad dash! Once inside the main fortress, I took lots of photo opportunities. With the light being so bright outside, those shots have unsurprisingly come out the best. The more darkened pictures I struggled with. It was a shame as some of the hidden rooms tell some interesting stories.

Seeing as it was just DanDan and I, we're hoping to go back again with Nicole and Ethne at some point, so hopefully by then I'll have got the hang of photographing in subdued light. Will also take more time to take photos of other parts of the town. If you're ever stuck for somewhere to go for the day, Ludlow comes highly recommended.

File Under: castles / photography / sightseeing

Castles and Dreams

Posted on 29th September 2008

Discovering local history can be quite fun at times. I've lived in and around Birmingham for the past 12 years, and there is certainly a lot history I've discovered already. However, there has been one part I never knew existed until recently. While planning the trip to Ludlow Castle and Richards Castle last weekend with DanDan, I came across a page listing Weoley Castle. Now Weoley Castle is an area of South Birmingham, that is slightly North of where I live now, and slightly south of where I used to live when I first moved to Birmingham. I've driven through the area many times between Northfield and Harborne, but never knew that the remains of the castle ruins still existed. Although to be fair it isn't a castle in the grand sense, but a fortified manor house. Not that that should deter you from visiting it.

So on Saturday, DanDan and I took a drive over to the Weoley Castle Ruins. Having read the web page, we were prepared to only see the ruins from the viewing area. But seeing as it's a bit of local history I wasn't too bothered about that. As it turned out, our arrival at the site couldn't have been better timed. We'd just started taking pictures, when a woman walked passed the other side of fence, in medieval attire befitting of the lady of the house. She and the guy walking with her, walked up on to the ruins, where she posed for a photo. As they walked back, the woman paused and told us that if we wanted to come back later at either 2pm or 3pm, there would be a storytelling and we would be allowed into the ruins to have a look round. Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity, DanDan and I headed home for lunch and picked up Nicole and Ethne.

We arrived in time for the 3pm event, and walked with about 40 others up into the ruins by the last surviving apple tree, of those that had originally stood there. Then the show began. The woman we had seen earlier announced herself as Joan de Botetourt, lady of the castle. Over the course of about half an hour or more, she took us around the rooms of the castle, telling us about each room, the history of the castle and the de Botetourt family history. All completely in character. The show and storytelling were fantastic and I was so glad we had happened to come and visit the ruins in the morning. The storyteller turned out to be Anna O'Brien of Annamation, one of a troupe who frequently do this kind of storytelling, particularly at the Barber Institute by Birmingham University, where they re-enact paintings.

I took the opportunity to take LOTS of photos, and it was a wonderful day to take them too. I spoke with one of the organisers, who had come over to ask if I was a professional photographer or did it as a hobby. Reassuring her I was most definbitely an amateur, she told me about their plans for the site. Unfortunately they had been turned down to open a visitors centre, but they now have plans to open a school room. Although some local schools do take advantage of the opportunities to have the children taken around the ruins, not too many do, and occasionally rain means tours get cancelled. A dedicated school room means more schools can plan visits regardless of the weather, and much more planned activities.

It was a brilliant afternoon, and I'm so glad that Birmingham Museums And Galleries put on these sorts of events every so often. If you ever spot the chance to go and tour the ruins, especially if Annamation are doing the storytelling, then go. You will be thoroughly entertained.

File Under: birmingham / castles / museum / photography / sightseeing

Dans Le Parc Du Chateau Noir

Posted on 21st September 2008

Today DanDan and I went to visit Ludlow Castle for the day. It was a nice sunny day and we had a great time walking round, and there'll be photos of that later. However, afterwards, seeing as it was only a few miles from Ludlow, we headed off to find the ruins of Richard's Castle. It proved rather tricky, and had I done my homework better beforehand we might have been a bit more successful. Our first hitch was getting confused by the two Richards Castle village within a short distance of each other, one in Shropshire the other in Hereford. The one in Hereford is where the ruins are. All I knew was that the ruins were near St Bartholomew's Church.

Heading towards the Hereford village, having just gone through the Shropshire one, I spotted a small signpost heading off down a one-track road. After about a mile we saw a church, and then a hand painted sign saying "TO THE CASTLE AND CHURCH". Great, we found it ... or so we thought. We walked up to the church, and indeed it was St Bartholomew's. But we couldn't spot any earthworks or walls as I'd seen one website. There was a large sign showing how the castle had once looked and the history of it, but no further signs as to where any of the actual castle stood. We walked around the church and apart from the gravestones, drew a blank. We ended up heading back and never got to see the parts of the castle that are still visible. It was only after getting home and reading several other pages on the internet, that I suddenly discovered that we had to follow the path down through the lower cemetary into the woods. We were in spitting distance of the wall ... just the wrong side to be able to see it!

The moral of this story is that if you are planning to visit somewhere that is likely to be well hidden, get as much background as possible. It would have been nice for someone to have added another sign from the church pointing us in the right direction, but at least we know next time we go. Seeing as it's only 30 miles away, it isn't that far. For anyone finding this post who is planning to find the place as well, here are some help hints, so you don't miss out like we did. Here is a map link you might want to open in another browser window first. The church should be in the centre of the map, with a square tower (the bell tower) to the right. On the left, to the upper left and lower left you will see gravestones. Between the gravestones in the lower left part of the cemetary is a path. Walk along this to the woods. Look to your right and the wall should be there.

Further links for the castle history itself are on the Castle Wales site and the Hereford Council site. Even if you don't find it, there are some lovely views along the way. We had a nice drive anyway, and it was still a lovely day out. More on the rest of our adventures later :)

File Under: castles / sightseeing

In The Clouds

Posted on 1st July 2008

My photos are finally online from the YAPC::NA Conference in Chicago. Although many of the outdoor photos have come out well, many of the indoor ones haven't. For the conference itself, the main room was too dark on stage to really catch the speakers well, and all though the other two rooms were well lit, the speakers always seemed to move at the wrong moment. I think it might have helped if I';d have used my tripod a bit more, but I really do need a good digital SLR.

I did want to add lots of tags and things to all the photos, but that's just going to have to wait until I have more time. In the mean time, enjoy.

For those that only want to see the conference related photos, these are they:

For those who just want to see the sights of Chicago, then you'll more likely want to see these:

As an added bonus I'm piecing together some of the photos I took during the Speakers Party, where we were able to get a grand view of the city. At the moment I have only uploaded 1, but hope to get the other two sorted soon.

File Under: chicago / community / conference / opensource / people / photography / sightseeing / yapc

Between The Wheels

Posted on 8th June 2008

A friend of mine, Arnaud, has been planning the trip of a lifetime for a couple of years. Earlier this year he began his sabbatical from work and prepared for his trek from France to China. Although based in Cheltenham, UK, he first headed over to France to stay with his parents and make final preparations for the trip. However, there have been a few issues regards getting into China, so at the moment he's unsure of whether he have to fly in, or will be able to ride in.

He has a website, Frog On A Bike, which he has been updating on a regular basis, with tales of his journey and plenty of photos and even a few videos of his trek. He's currently in Russia, heading for Astrakhan and Kazakhstan. Considering it's only been 6 weeks since he hit the road on 21st April for his World Tour, he's travelled a very impressive distance. It's been great reading of his travels, and looks to be a journey I would have loved to have done. Although, I think I would have had to drive rather than ride. I'm not that fit these days :)

The funniest sight he's seen so far has to be the Fake Police Car. I'm just hoping the UK police don't get ideas and start putting these around the country.

File Under: friends / life / sightseeing

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