Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Travel journal -- Sept. 22-23, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006
What a frustrating day this was, at least in the afternoon. It was chilly and blustery and threatened to rain, but I had things to do, places to see. I started out for nearby Evesham, but got stuck on country roads behind a truck, with no opportunity to pass. Then traffic in the town was thick and heavy because it was market day. So it took about 30-45 minutes just to find the riverside park.
Near the river and a renaissance-era church, there is a monument to Simon de Montfort V, Earl of Leicester, 1239-1265. He died in battle there and was supposedly buried in the abbey church by the river. However, I’d read that this great hero of the people (because he fought for parliamentary rights and limited monarchy against ancestors Henry III and Edward I) was dismembered and his body parts and head were sent around to be displayed as a traitor’s fate. I think part of him was sent to Kenilworth Castle, where his family lived. (I visited Kenilworth in 2004—gorgeous.) So what “remains” of Simon are buried here at Evesham, I don’t know. Maybe someone went around and collected his bones?
There is a monument in the place where his tomb had been by the altar of the church, but the church is long gone, with only a few pillar foundations in the lawn.
Another ancestor buried at the Abbey at Evesham was Robert (de Toeni/Tosny) de Stafford, 1036-1088.
It was starting to sprinkle as I hot-footed it back to the car.

I intended to visit Merevale Abbey, also in Warwickshire, but I never found the roads I planned and needed to get there, as they’re so poorly marked. Nothing says north-south-east-west, only an indicator of some nearby village or town. Hardly ever could I find a number for the road I was on, either. With the cloud cover, I couldn't sense direction. So I ended up driving the opposite direction, west and northwest toward Birmingham—in Friday getaway traffic, mind you. I decided that since I was closer to Chartley, which had been my last destination of the day, that I’d go there next. I crawled through major roadworks jams, Friday traffic, rainy day traffic: the perfect storm of traffic. I took the wrong exit from the motorway, heading for Stafford, and crawled some more. All the roads said toward Stafford or Uttoxeter or Birmingham, none of which I wanted, as Stowe-by-Chartley was sort of inside that triangle. But eventually I saw the turnoff for Stowe-by-Chartley, at the same time as I saw Chartley Manor’s sign. My destination was not Stowe, but that was the only Chartley I could find on the atlas, so here I was in Chartley, precisely! Chartley Castle.
But there were no-trespassing signs, and no parking on this two-lane road with curbs and no pull-outs. Plus it was raining! So I parked off the road near the manor gate, took out my umbrella, and walked about a half-mile along the road. There was no sidewalk, so when trucks and cars came by, I’d get up on the curb in the long wet grass, and then walk again on the pavement. I had come so far and at such a cost in time and frustration that I was not going without a picture! I passed a sign that warned of a bull in the pasture, and indeed saw the “guard-bull” staring balefully at me. I took some pictures of the castle on the hill, where my de Ferrers (earls of Derby) ancestors lived for more than 200 years. They were earls of Derby, but Chartley is definitely in Staffordshire. I think the de Ferrers acquired Chartley by marriage to a Cheshire heiress, Agnes des Meschines.
So after the hike back through rain, mud, and wet grass to my rental car, I drove up the same road, now looking for the road to Tutbury, another de Ferrers castle and church. But only a few hundred yards from the Chartley Castle, I saw an antique store. I stopped there, hoping to find an antique bit of Staffordshire blue and white pottery. The store owner invited me into his attached home, which had been a farmhouse on Chartley’s territory, and showed me a wooden shield with de Ferrers arms that had hung on one of the buildings of the farm or castle. After I purchased an 1820s cream pitcher (blue & white, my favorite), I was on my way to Tutbury.
More rain, more turnarounds because roads are abominably marked, and because with heavy overcast, I couldn’t tell directions. I finally got to Tutbury about 5:30, of course too late to enter the castle if it had been open. But I shot some pictures of the exterior from the churchyard. Now I tried the door of the 900-year-old church so I could find the Henry and Berthe de Ferrers burial inside. No way, the church was locked. Nobody in the neighborhood had keys or knew of anyone with keys. So after 90 minutes of trying, I gave up. I replanned my route back to Gloucester, but again—got lost. I gave up the route-planning and drove miles out of my way to find a motorway that I could stay on. Finally got home to Audrey’s by 9:00 or so.

Saturday, September 23, 2006
Audrey had planned to come on an outing with me today, but she had a backache, and her grandson Joseph would be coming in the late afternoon, so today was another day on my own. I drove west on A-40 through Gloucestershire, toward the Welsh Marches. What a beautiful drive, and beautiful day for it. My first destination was Ludlow Castle in Shropshire, but there was a long drive through the Wye Valley to get there. Because of roadworks and shopping and Saturday weddings, Hereford was one big traffic jam, but I would have loved to stop at the cathedral and museum there. Some other trip, I guess.
When I got to Ludlow, built on a very large hill, as many castles are, I could see it was market day here, too. I parked near the bottom of the steep hill just outside the city gates, took out my cane, and started hiking. I was amused to see a sign on a building for Mortimer, Solicitors. The Mortimers and de Genevilles owned Ludlow Castle in the 1300s! Roger Mortimer, the lord who had an affair with Isabella of France and usurped the throne of Edward II, was my ancestor. Roger and wife Joan de Geneville (Lusignan descendant) made Ludlow their home base, although they spent years governing Ireland. They had oodles of children, and I'm descended through two daughters.
I walked through the market square, which had vendors and stalls for fruits and veggies (or “veg” as they call it here), and handicrafts. I bought a silk/embroidered scarf in blue and gold. On to the castle. The entry and gift shop are rooms in the curtain wall of the castle. Then there’s a large green outer ward, and an inner ward. I hiked up some spiral stone stairs into a tower which overlooked the River Teme far below. Very pretty view. The round chapel in the inner ward was interesting, based on the Templar-style round church at Jesus' supposed tomb in Jerusalem.
I was at the castle for 90 minutes or so, then went back through the market square to the church, where a wedding was just getting out. The organist played pretty much the same pieces, same difficulty level, that I play for weddings! (I should definitely charge more money.)
I spoke with the vicar about any memorials that might be in the church, but all we could find were some stained-glass windows, obviously Victorian depictions of the lords of Ludlow, four out of five of which were my ancestors.
As I drove out of Ludlow, I saw a sign for Richard's Castle, which had been the stronghold of the Scropes in the 11th century before they moved to Yorkshire. It was a one-lane track, and I didn’t know how far it would be, and I’d seen a picture of it, just a vine-covered motte, so I didn’t go for it. Besides, I had two more stops in the day, if I was lucky.
Next place was Llanthony Priory Prima, in the Brecon Beacons National Park of Wales. This place was founded by my de Bohun ancestors, but it was raided by Welshmen (probably also ancestors--hahaha), and this Llanthony location was abandoned in favor of Llanthony (Secunda) Priory in Gloucester. To get to Llanthony Prima, you really have to want it, and intend to find it. But unlike yesterday in the gloomy Staffordshire area, I found my way easily. The drive is mostly one vehicle wide, with occasional wide spots for courtesy passing, as in: one car stops and waits for the oncoming car to squeak by. There are places of dark, dense woods, and places where you drive between 8-foot hedgerows, and other spots you can see across the sheep-dotted river valley to the tree-covered escarpment. The late-afternoon sun was sometimes behind the mountains and sometimes spotlighted impossibly green pastures with grazing horses.
I so hoped to find a sign for Offa's Dyke, as I must have crossed it once or twice, but I couldn't tell.
Admission to Llanthony is free, and there was a fair number of people there, who had been staying in the inn there and taking horse treks up into the mountains. Sounds like a very nice vacation! The horses have big, furry hooves, like draft horses, but they weren’t that tall. Yet they weren’t “pit ponies” for going down the mines, either. So maybe their ancestors had been a little of each. I suppose the wider hoof makes them more sure-footed.
The priory was very pretty, and you could see that it must have been a lovely gothic place when it flourished. The stones of the windows and crossing still stand. There’s also a wall that hangs 15 degrees off plumb. The priory was sacked several times by Welshmen, and by Henry VIII’s Dissolution vandals, who really gave it the death sentence.
After driving the four miles back out of the cul-de-sac that is Llanthony, I headed for Abergavenny, about three miles farther on. There, on the hill in the town center, I found Abergavenny Castle, ruled by William deBraose, another seriously not-nice ancestor who ruled the Marches, or border lands of Wales and England.
Abergavenny Castle was open dawn to dusk, and believe me, it was dusk when I arrived. The sky was pink and gold as I walked in, but there was nobody to shut gates, so I walked around leisurely. I think it’s operated as a city park. There were sign boards saying what the ruins represented. Some pub in the town was grilling steaks, because there was a heavenly odor all over the site. (Remember that the smoke of a beef sacrifice was pleasing to God! Well, I'm a child of God, and I like BBQ, too.)
I easily found my way back on the A-40 through Monmouthshire to Gloucester, although I was stuck behind a truck doing 25 mph for at least 20 miles.
Audrey’s friend Selena came over to see me, and we had a nice time talking for an hour or so, and their other friend Jill Swainson decided she’d like to come with us to Wales tomorrow.

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