A Castle For Your Dreams

13th Century - Restormel Castle, Cornwall, England

13th Century – Restormel Castle, Cornwall, England

Hundreds of years ago someone imagined a life on hillside overlooking the River Fowey. Not content with the natural height provided, they scooped up the earth to build a motte and bailey design castle. The first structure appeared around 1100 in what would eventually become the stone remnants you now see in the photo above. Restormel Castle in Cornwall is considered one of the best remaining examples of a motte and bailey castle and according the English Heritage site, one of 70 remaining in Britain.

Fulfilling the dreams of others

When my best girlfriend Patrice came for a short visit in 2011, she had a list of things that she wanted to do while she and her partner Lisa were here for a few days. One of which was a visit to a castle.

I took them to Sunday services on St Michael’s Mount and later John walked with us through the attached castle, but I wanted more for her. I wanted her to see a remote castle with no furnishings and few people, a place where she might have a moment alone to think about her mother who had died a few years earlier without going on the ‘Castles of Europe’ tour she’d always imagined she’d see one day.

I remember Patrice telling me how she’d asked her mother if there was anything she wanted to do in the time she had left and how they had talked about castles before her mother began chemotherapy. Her mother died without going on that trip so this was more than just another tourist stop for Patrice, it had a special meaning and while she didn’t mind which castle she saw, I wanted it to be really special and I had a feeling that Restormel Castle might be that place.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

When I see this photograph of Patrice, I can almost hear her saying, ‘I’m here, Mama’ as she pauses in the first entrance to the castle.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see a second entry point into the castle where the person in blue is walking under the arch. The gatehouse was originally three stories high but was partially dismantled during the Civil War. I found the history of this building style fascinating when I researched Restormel Castle. If you’d like to know more, I have done some of the work for you by providing the highlighted links above.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see the entrance to the chapel in the center of the photo above. The chapel projected out past the circular structure and had points of entry from smaller side doors.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel CastleLooking to the middle left of the photo above, you can a side entrance to the chapel as well as an arched entry leading directly into the sanctuary.

Patrice & Lisa

Here’s a shot looking mostly down into the space. I’m afraid these images are not my best work as it was wet and windy shooting that day, but perhaps you can still get a sense of the space.

Patrice & Lisa

From this angle so you can see how thick the walls are and get a glimpse of the lovely view from the castle walls.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

There are stories about a dungeon, but I’m not sure they are more than stories.

Patrice & Lisa

There are stairs which lead to all kinds of hidden areas like this one with Patrice. I said she looked like a monk from a distance with her dark hood up to avoid the rain so she assumed a prayerful position at the end of a moss-covered passage way.
Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

In this photo, you have a window in the center with an open space  to the left where a fireplace once stood. There’s a matching window (not seen here) on the other side of the fireplace shell.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

I wondered how many faces must have looked though these great stones windows over the last 800 or 900 years and thought about how the view must have changed along with the ownership of the castle. My imagination goes wild thinking about the lives of those privileged to have been able to stand or sit near the windows in a room with such an important function.

Patrice & Lisa, Restormel Castle

You can see how the windows and fireplace might have looked in the great hall by double clicking on this image of a plaque from the castle grounds.Patrice & Lisa, Restormel CastleHere’s a last look at what the interior of the keep might have looked like. You can see the window outline and the fireplace off to the left in this photo of one of the English Heritage information plaques. I usually take a quick photo of these to use later as a reference when I want to do more research online at home. I thought these might be helpful for this post.
Duchy Nursery

One more shot of Restormel Castle from a distance … the first and last photographs were taken during the last week and all others in September 2011.

It was good to help Patrice complete a goal that had been one of her mother’s dreams. Two castle visits may not have been the ‘Castles of Europe ‘ tour her mother dreamed of, but walking through Restormel Castle and St Michael’s Mount, I can’t help but think that Patrice’s mother would have had a little chuckle to see her daughter fulfilling a few of mom’s unfinished dreams.

I imagine most of us have something like that. There are so many places I see living in the UK that I know my dad would have loved to see himself, but the thing I feel most keenly is the connection he and I shared with writing and imagination.

My father left a fair amount of unpublished words and ideas and at least one story he wrote for his daughters. I know he would have been a big fan of my writing (being my dad) and would have encouraged me to go beyond the limitations of my blog. I hope to manage that one day and do something that he, like Patrice’s mom, never had a chance to do himself.

How about you? Are any of you secretly hoping to complete a dream desire that someone special to you can no longer do for themselves or maybe one like mine that you shared with a parent or other loved one?

Sundays On St Michael’s Mount

Last Sunday found us fighting the wind to cross the water to get to church. Patrice and Lisa were finishing a three-week, three country, tour and we were happy to have a chance to share our part of the world with them before they went home. When I knew they were arriving on a Saturday, I insisted we plan a trip to St Michael’s Mount for Sunday services. I been a few times on Sunday morning and I’m always aware of its age and how people have worshiped there for over 700 years.

We spent a few minutes watching as the windsurfers left the beach and we had to run to catch the boat that would carry us to the island.

Speaking of running … here comes Patrice with Lisa right behind her snapping photos.

The boat filled before we got there so we had to wait for the next. I was worried we would be late for the service because having climbed the steps before, I knew that it might be slow going for Patrice who had knee surgery a few months ago. I used Lisa’s camera to get a windblown shot on the boat. It only takes a few minutes to get across, but it was long enough for the sky to clear.

We still had a long way to go once we got off the boat.
I was a bit pushy, nicely so, but still pushy. I found out later that Patrice told Lisa that she and I had run a marathon together and she’d had to listen me being encouragingly pushy most of the way.

Almost there …

We made it with a few minutes to spare. Lisa snapped a quick photo before the service began.  

  It was Harvest Sunday and the chapel was decorated with things from the garden.

There was a special card with a prayer not in the book. I thought it was interesting that it was Prayer E as E is what Patrice calls me and I recently wrote about my struggles with prayer in this post.

I took this picture of Patrice while Lisa, who you see behind her was taking the photo below.  

I came out first and the wind attacked me making it seem as it I’d had a hair-raising experience in church. Even the Vicar turned to look from the doorway. 

You can see part of the church behind Lisa as she’s walking towards us. It’s the building over her left shoulder not the one to the right. The one on the right was the Lady Chapel before it was converted to a sitting room.   

Lisa snapped this photo of me with John. It was pretty chilly that day, but not as cold as we look.

You can see the tide going out in this photo and people beginning to walk across the causeway instead of talking the boat.

Here it’s fully revealed and Patrice and Lisa are right behind me. John went on ahead to get the car.
 There they are!

I think I was saying, ” Hurry, we’ve got a lot to see today!”

I thought this was a blot on my image until I enlarged it and saw it was a bird. It may be time to get reading glasses soon.

The last photograph below shows the wind blowing sand across us. I turned my back to snap this and curled around my camera to protect it from the sand. It was pretty to see it skipping along the shore looking almost like smoke.

I’ve got more from our travels coming up. We took loads of pictures and while I won’t share them all, I think you might be interested in a few more.

Doing Battle With A Demon

In a world where people are starving, I feel bad saying that I hate waking up feeling full. While I cannot say that I have a food addiction, I do reach for sugars and starches in much the way I imagine people with more deadly addictions begin.

I wonder sometimes if not being able to say no to another slice of cake or reaching for another scoop of ice cream when you promised yourself only a taste … I wonder if that is how it begins.

One moment it’s five extra pounds that make your clothes feel a bit tight and the next time you look up from the table you are carrying enough weight to feel it on your bones in a way that makes your joints hurt. You get out a breath faster when climbing a hill and you begin to understand why people call a developing tummy a spare tire.

You notice it mostly when you sit, but you know if this demon keeps gaining strength you will begin to feel it affecting other parts of your body. Your heart will suffer in physical ways that you have only read about and cannot imagine because until now heart pain has been about sadness and regret, not clogged arteries and heart disease.

It feels both extravagant and weak to say that I ate so much before bed that I know I will not be hungry until just before lunch. I also know that people who have bigger issues with weight than my little bit will likely think, ” What is she talking about? “

What am I talking about?

I know that late night snacking is a demon for me that has begun to spill over into my daytime eating so that any occasion can seem like a reason to indulge.

Some people will say just stop.

Stop eating they will say, but I know that I need to do more than just push back from the table or add more exercise to my day. I need to face down my enemy and call it out from where it lurks … waiting as it does to offer comfort in my weak moments in the form of a sweet flavored treat or a salty bag of chips.

Worse than a simple lack of self-control it feels like something bigger gnawing at me from the inside creating a deeper hunger that food cannot satisfy. It is a demon with no name yet … this hunger that has grown larger than my stomach can accommodate.

 

I’ve Been Here Before – St Michael’s Mount

I just spent far too long putting this post together only to have it disappear so I’m afraid you will have to make do with a shorter version as I have blackberries in the kitchen calling to me to turn them into jam.

When I knew David and Steven were coming to Cornwall, I suggested we pay a visit to St Michael’s Mount and as they were going to be here on a Sunday, we made a plan to attend the Sunday service.

To reach the church you must cross the cobblestone path you see in the photograph above.

This is easy enough as Steven demonstrates above until the tide comes in.

Here you can see the exterior of the church nestled with the castle around it. I took this on an earlier visit.

I managed to snap a discreet photo just before the service began. After the service David photographed a few of the stained glass windows with two shown below.

David is in the photo below with Marazion in the background.

Can you see the tide coming in the photograph below? People are hurrying to get across.

Below is a another look at the water and people … it’s partly under water now.

You can see a close-up of what the stone path looks like as the water spills over it. John took this of me in 2008 and I altered it a bit for this post.

Elizabeth At St Michael’s Mount – 2008

You have two ways to cross as I said earlier and this trip we came back in the boat below. I wrote a post about my first church experience at St Michael’s Mount in 2008 and thought some of you might find it interesting.

~~~~~~~

Elizabeth - August 2008

Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat

Originally posted – August 13, 2008

I have thought a good bit over the last few days about this post. What to call it and how to write it. Sometimes it can be difficult to say what is on my mind. My internal editor tends to call out from the back of the room where she sits in my head. Arms crossed over one another she has a defensive posture she likes to assume when she feels as if I’m stepping off into a place of too much controversy. She’s there now, shaking her head giving me the look that says, “ Are you sure you want to talk about this?” “ Shush, I say … get lost,” and with that I step off into the murky waters of spiritual questioning.

I don’t like church services or organized religion. I dislike anyone telling me what I must think or do in order to know God.

In England where many I’ve met consider themselves to be atheists, saying those words out loud doesn’t seem to have the same effect as it would in the bible belt part of the US where I was born. Mind you I feel that I have been to enough church services to speak from a place of experience as to why I don’t care for them. It’s pretty simple really. The only voices I hear in any house of worship are those in my head. Cynicism, skepticism, and judgement, both of others and myself tend to make so much noise that the voice of God is never present there.

So I don’t go anymore.

Recently I made an exception to my usual avoidance of church attendance when I spent an hour or so in a historic chapel attending the Sunday service. The Chapel on St. Michael’s Mount was completed in 1135, although much of it had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1275. I had mentioned to John that I would like to see what a service was like there when we had visited it originally a month earlier. I said it was for the experience you know … I mean how many times does one get a chance to hear scripture quoted in a place where souls have gathered for a same purpose for almost 900 years. I said I wanted to go in order to see how a Church of England service might differ from the Lutheran beliefs that I’d grown up with.

That’s what I told him and that was the truth at least in part, because the core of who I am is a woman with an insatiable curiosity. In most situations I have a strong desire to experience things firsthand, but the rest of the story is that on some level I thought in a worship service held where people have come together for hundreds of years I surely might find some whisper of God’s voice.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for direction communication as in a voice from a burning bush, but I thought just maybe …

So early one Sunday morning we made the trip to St Michael’s Mount and I took a small boat with a few strangers across the causeway. The castle and chapel are perched on an island that must be reached by boat except at low tide when a cobblestone pathway appears from the water inch by inch.

Once my feet touched dry land I was off at a brisk pace up a steep path of large uneven stones to the top of the mount to claim a seat in the tiny chapel next to the ghosts of the Benedictine Abby established on St Michael’s Mount in 966. On my way to the top I passed a group of woman who looked to be of retirement age chattering their greetings to one another and largely blocking the narrow path. “Ugh!” I thought as I nodded a tight polite smile to the four women who seemed oblivious to anyone else.

The sound of their voices stayed with me as I walked on a bit faster in an attempt to hang on to the place of stillness and contemplation I was trying to encourage in my head.

The ladies chattered on like the magpies who hang out in John’s garden as they followed behind me more quickly than I imagined they could for women with walking sticks. Suddenly, they seemed right behind me as I stood in the short aisle deciding where the best seat might be for seeing and hearing the service. Hearing them talk over the sounds of the pre-service organ music I decided on a seat as far from them as possible.

The ladies settled down as the service began and I adjusted my average-sized behind on the tiny cushion meant to provide a bit of padding. The small seats of the individual chairs were placed in tight rows possibly anticipating the crowds of people the church hoped to welcome, but the church interior remained largely empty with only fifteen to twenty people dotted round the sanctuary.

As hard as I tried to have an open mind and heart so that I might feel some spiritual connection, I could only think of the historical issues that have and still plague the religious institutions that try to minister to souls in need.

That would be me you see in the boat at the top, always questioning, but still searching. Somewhere there must be a community of people like me who are looking for something simple and honest that may only be found I think, in silence.

Don Henley, one of the members of The Eagles, a band I grew up with in the 70’s sang a song called, Sit Down You’re Rockin the Boat! These are just a couple of verses of the song so you can get the picture.

I dreamed last night

I was on the boat to heaven

By some chance

I had brought my dice along

And there I stood

And I hollered someone fade me

But the passengers they knew right from wrong

And the people all said sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

The people all said sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

Cause the devil will drag you under

By the sharp lapels of your checkered coat

Sit down Sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

Oooh Oooh Oooh (scat)

Oooh Oooh Oooh

I suspect I’m not alone in my little boat so I’ll just keep on rowing for now.

When Friends Come To Visit Part II- Climbing Rough Tor

As I continue sharing our three-day visit with friends David and Steven, I want to show you our trip to Rough Tor. David took the photo above as we struck out for Rough Tor.

John went on with ahead with Steven while I lagged behind a bit with David as he and I took time to snap a few photos along the way. The three images below were taken by John. In the one just below you can see two tiny dots in the center. ( click to enlarge )

In the image underneath you can see the tiny dots a bit better. I am the dot on the left and David is the one on the right.

Do you recognize the pile of stones below? Oh wait, there’s someone missing … look at my border at the top and you’ll see me standing on the same pile of rocks. Steven has long appreciated that photograph and wanted his photograph taken there above all else during his visit to Cornwall. Due to the fierce wind and the slipperiness of the wet rocks he had to use another stone as a stand-in.

See the rock above David’s head (he’s in the blue jacket ) … that’s the one Steven wanted to stand on.

Even I didn’t want to risk it this time, but I did slip my shoes off to climb up on the one next to it on the back side. (two photos below) Can you see the moorland pony down left of Steven … it’s a long way down from the top of the rock. (click to enlarge)

After I slipped off my shoes, I felt much more secure climbing up the back side of the rocks below. My neglected rock climbing skills came in handy and I’m glad I was still in shape ( hah!) well, at least well enough to get as high I did below.

Yep … that’s me. The wind was wicked.

From my lofty advantage I managed to get a photo of John ( ant-sized figure in the center)  as he was taking pictures of me.

Did you find John? He’s down there with his arms outstretched. I had to step back to show you the cool impression carved out by weather on the rock .

Here’s a photo of me with Steven after I came down off the rock. I’m wet and bedraggled from wind and rain along with still being barefoot.

Steven & David

John did a bit of climbing himself.

I think by the time this one was taken John was ready to go.

I couldn’t resist finishing with David and his runaway brolly. It’s a long way down although easier than the climb up and about halfway back to the car David decided he’d had enough of the rain and decided to find his own cover. His umbrella clearly had other plans.

I’ll be back with more later if you’re interested. Sunday took us to St. Michael’s Mount for a service in a church built in the 14th century and I have some good pictures from our last day to share with you.