Saturday, 31 August 2013

Dover Castle

Today we drove to Dover Castle. Dover Castle is a medieval castle in the town of the same name in the English county of Kent. It was founded in the 12th century and has been described as the "Key to England" due to its defensive significance throughout history. Spectacularly situated above the White Cliffs of Dover this magnificent castle has guarded English shores from invasion for 20 centuries. Dover Castle is above all a great medieval fortress, created by King Henry II and his Plantagenet successors. At its heart stands the mighty keep or Great Tower, 83 feet (25.3m) high and just under 100 feet (30m) square, with walls up to 21 feet (6.5m) thick. The grandest and among the last of the keeps raised by the kings of England during the 11th and 12th centuries, it was designed by Henry II’s architect ‘Maurice the Engineer’ and built between 1180 and 1185.

Our first glimpse of the White Cliffs of Dover

The city of Dover

Commanding the shortest sea crossing between England and the continent, Dover Castle has a long and immensely eventful history. Many centuries before King Henry II began the great stone castle here in the 1160s, its spectacular site atop the famous ‘White Cliffs’ was an Iron Age hill fort, and it still houses a Roman lighthouse, one of the best-preserved in Europe. The Anglo-Saxon church beside it was once probably part of a Saxon fortified settlement: very soon after his victory at Hastings in 1066, this was converted by William the Conqueror into a Norman earthwork and timber-stockaded castle.

From then on Dover Castle was garrisoned uninterruptedly until 1958, a continuous nine-century span equalled only by the Tower of London and Windsor Castle. The stronghold hosted royal visits by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Charles I’s Queen Henrietta Maria: and from 1740 until 1945, its defences were successively updated in response to every European war involving Britain

Constables Gate

Medieval Tunnels

St John's Tower

The Keep c 1181-88 built by Henry II

Roman Lighthouse 1st Century AD & Church of St Mary in Castro c 1000

Look closely and you can see the shores of France

Friday, 30 August 2013


Today we drove to Rye a small town in East Sussex, which stands approximately two miles from the open sea and is at the confluence of three rivers: the Rother, the Tillingham and the Brede. In medieval times, however, as an important member of the Cinque Ports confederation, it was at the head of an embayment of the English Channel and almost entirely surrounded by the sea. During its history its association with the sea has included providing ships for the service of the King in time of war, and being involved with smuggling gangs of the 18th and 19th centuries such as the notorious Hawkhurst Gang who used its inns such as The Mermaid Inn and The Old Bell Inn, connected by secret passage way.

Rye is a quiet gem, full of hidden history along it's cobblestone streets. Rye is small, quaint, and very walkable. The cobbled Mermaid Street, itself lined with Elizabethan houses and inns, is often called "the prettiest street in England". Once a remote, fortified medieval hill town, Rye has become a favoured location for those wishing to escape city and urban sprawl. In essence it is still the medieval hill town that was rebuilt after the French burnt Rye down in 1377.
Mermaid Street

Oak Coner Rebuilt 1490

Hartshorn House the Old Hospital 15th century

Mermaid Inn Rebuilt 1420

Water Cistern 1735 for town water supply

Crowning the hill is the beautiful Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, built originally in the C12th by the Abbey of Fecamp in northern France to whom this part of the south coast belonged at that time. An image of it on the Great Seal of Rye shows a Church with tall graceful spires standing in an un-walled town. Badly damaged in the French raid, it was re-built with its present square tower but retained many of its original Norman features.

St Mary's Church
The "Landgate" (the only surviving one of four original fortified entrances to Rye) dates from 1329 in the early years of the reign of King Edward III. It is still the only vehicular route into the medieval centre of Rye and is suitable only for light vehicles.
Landgate 1329

We went to a Penny Arcade which had the original fun parlour machines for which you needed the pennies from pre 1960's to operate them, it was great fun seeing the moving pictures machine, having our fortune told and even an amazing early model of a poker machine

We then drove to Rye Harbour and went for a walk out to the channel entrance and we could see Dungeness Nuclear Power Plant at the end of the beach in the distance past the wind generator turbines. It is an advanced gas cooled reactor power station consisting of two 615 MW reactors, which began operations in 1983 and 1985 respectively. The first commercial scale AGR power station to be constructed, the design being based on the much smaller Windscale AGR prototype; the WAGR. The £89 million contract was awarded in August 1965 to Atomic Power Construction.

We could not believe the number of holiday makers using this beach for their day in the sun and swimming in the ocean waters with the reactor just a short walk up the beach we don't think we would be so keen to do so. Several people recommended the area as a beautiful place for a walk etc which is how we found it, so the people of the UK seem to be very comfortable with the plant being there.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Today we moved East along the coast to Eastbourne another seaside town with a pier like Brighton and housing along the seafront. We walked along the shoreline then stopped and ate chips from the Chippy on the Pier in the deck chairs really feeling like the locals soaking up the beautiful day and sunshine.

On the way we stopped to see the Long Man of Wilmington a hill figure located in Wilmington on the steep slopes of Windover Hill, 9.6 kilometres (6 mi) northwest of Eastbourne. It was formerly often known as the Wilmington Giant, or locally as the Green Man. The Long Man is 69.2 metres (227 ft) tall, holds two "staves", and is designed to look in proportion when viewed from below. Formerly thought to originate in the Iron Age or even the neolithic period, more recent archaeological work has shown that the figure may have been cut in the Early Modern era – the 16th or 17th century AD. Until 1873 the figure was reported as a faint indentation in the turf, visible only in low sunlight. In 1873-74 the outline was marked out in bricks. In 1969 these were replaced with pre-cast concrete blocks which still delineate the figure.

The Eastbourne Pier Company was registered in April 1865 with a capital of £15,000 and on 18 April 1866 work began. It was opened by Lord Edward Cavendish on 13 June 1870, although it was not actually completed until two years later. On New Year's Day 1877 the landward half was swept away in a storm. It was rebuilt at a higher level, creating a drop towards the end of the pier. The pier is effectively built on stilts that rest in cups on the sea-bed allowing the whole structure to move during rough weather. It is roughly 300 metres (1000 ft) long. A domed 400-seater pavilion was constructed at a cost of £250 at the seaward end in 1888. A 1000-seater theatre, bar, camera obscura and office suite replaced this in 1899/1901. At the same time, two saloons were built midway along the pier. The camera obscura fell into disuse in the 1960s but was restored in 2003 with a new stairway built to provide access.
Eastbourne Pier

Camera Obscurer

The current bandstand was built in 1935, with its unique semi-circular design and blue domed roof; there is no other in the United Kingdom. It has a main arena, middle and upper balconies for seating and originally seated 3,500 but with current health and safety laws this has been reduced to 1,600. The building of the bandstand formed part of the main seafront improvements, the bandstand itself cost £28,000 and was surmounted with a stainless steel spire. The project engineer was Leslie Rosevere. The first concerts were given on the 28 July 1935 with a total of 10,400 attending all three concerts and paying 3d each. With an audience of 8,000, the bandstand was officially opened on the 5 August 1935 by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, Lord Leconfield. The bandstand to this day plays an important part in the musical entertainment on the south coast offering around 150 concerts per year.

In 1793, following a survey of coastal defences in the southeast, approval was given for the positioning of infantry and artillery to defend the bay between Beachy Head and Hastings from attack by the French. 14 Martello Towers were constructed along the western shore of Pevensey Bay, continuing as far as Tower 73, the Wish Tower at Eastbourne. Several of these towers survive: the Wish Tower is an important feature of the town's seafront. 

Wish Tower

Apparently originally built by the Duke of Devonshire as a private bar for the staff of the Grand Hotel