Monday, 28 September 2009

Day 2, Battle and Bodiam

East Sussex is probably best known in the Britain for its connection with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This year is probably the most significant, well, memorable, date in British history ... for reasons that (me being from Scotland) are largely mysterious. Today's hike was centred on the town that now exists adjacent to the battle site, the appropriately-named Battle, and took us to Battle Abbey, a memorial to the battle built by the winning side. I'm still not entirely sure why this particular battle is such a tectonic shift in British history (hadn't we been conquered by the Romans previously? aren't we currently "ruled" by an alien royalty?), but I can at least say that I've walked all around the hillside on which the battle took place.

Day 2 Battle walk

We started bang in the centre of Battle but got out of the town in fairly short order, heading northeast. This time the GPS unit had remembered out track so, with a few minor deviations, we stayed close to the plan. This was helped by rather obvious path markers like this one ...


After a short deviation immediately after this railway tunnel, essentially we walked the wrong way around a sewage farm, the walk was pretty uneventful. A long stretch of it was through the bottom end of some impressively large gardens attached to equally impressively large houses, much, I'm sure, to the displeasure of their clearly moneyed owners. The outgoing leg, to a small village called Sedlescombe, took us mostly through fields, while the return leg was a largely forested affair. Quite a long walk (16.6 km; 10.3 mi), but cloudy weather kept it comfortable.

Eventually, we circled back to Battle ...


The town is pretty much dominated by the abbey built to commemorate the battle, and though we'd already walked quite far, we figured that we couldn't possibly visit the town without doing the history.


It turned out to be a lot more interesting than I'd originally feared. After a short film setting the scene, we took a walk around the battle site guided by a surprisingly entertaining audioguide.

Usually I'm extremely skeptical of these devices because they turn art gallery visitors into inconsiderate view blockers, but here there was no risk of that, and the commentary was well-written and actually quite amusing in places. For instance, after introducing an impressive, if tumbledown, portion of the abbey, the speaker delighted in undercutting our perceptions by revealing it as the toilet block.

And though even the geography of the site has changed somewhat since the battle, keying the commentary to particular locations still gave the listener an idea of where key events took place. The key event, of course, was the felling of King Harold, ostensibly by an arrow to the eye, an event we couldn't resist replicating on the very site where Harold (allegedly) fell ...


After leaving Battle we headed home by way of a couple of stops. We caught a really nice church in Salehurst with what we thought was a novel solution to graveyard lawn maintenance ...


Our last stop was nearby Bodiam Castle, something of a total castle stereotype. Not content with classic turrets and slit-like windows for shooting arrows out of, it's also surrounded by a (duck-infested) moat crossed by a drawbridge. Still, it made for a photogenic end to our day out.


Full set of photographs available here.

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