So many times I have traveled through England and other parts of the UK already but there is so much I have not seen and many regions I have not been to yet so each year (if I can) I try to fit at least some new sights in and this year is no different.
But first things first. On my last few days in Germany we visited more of Saxony’s castles and palaces two baroque stately homes and gardens stand out. Firstly Barockgarten Zabeltitz near Grossenhain – with its great central lake and numerous well kept walkways in the middle of the Saxon Country side turned out a nice surprise. The stately home attached was sadly closed (again never try this on a Monday) but we had more luck with the Barockschloss Rammenau just a bit over half an hour from Dresden the next day.
The central building here is mid 17th century and reflects the taste of the time with some exotic looking rooms and some very interesting owners over its life time. The exhibition is very well thought out and has a certain flow to it that makes it a pleasure to walk through each room. Sadly here the Garden was more or less off limits due to some damage to the trees but one can see glimpses of it from the main house. They do hold a big natural textile market each year in August which was of particular interest to me of course.
There are still many more of these place to see and we already compiled a shorts list for my return in August but some will have to wait until next year. One can’t see everything.
Having said that – leaving hot and sunny Germany behind for a unpredictable summer in the UK I noticed that from the air that first garden I mentioned Zabeltitz looks even grander than on the ground….
So arriving in the UK to a strike on the London Underground meant that the trip from London Central Airport to the South Coast took a bit longer than I anticipated.
Having said that my little red VW Golf with only 6000 Miles on the clock (Diesel) made it easy to cruise along. Although at first I got a bit of a uneasy feeling – VW … hmmm after all the problems I am having my own VW at home (though older and different model of course).
I kindly got invited to stay with a friend in the town of Christchurch (no not the NZ city but the UK town in Dorset) and since I had not been to this area of the UK before it was a real eye opener in terms of how different the landscape and the villages look in this part of the country. The town itself can trace it’s origins back to the 600’s AD and has always played a vital role in the defense of this area – as recently as WW2. Of note is the priory church that is still standing and looks magnificent.
The villages around this part of Dorset look rather different to other parts of the UK to my eye because they use the local Purbeck Stone to not only build the houses and churches out of it but also use it as a roofing material – making them all look uniformly grey.
We took a little road trip on the second day around Dorset and I finally got to see Maiden Castle – as some (I hope most) will know not actually a castle but a Iron Age Hill fort – but even that name and age is misleading as this monument of national significance is much, much older and despite the massive banks and ditches not a fort in the conventional sense of the word. I knew it was big but nothing prepared me for the sheer size of this monster of a ancient site.
It made me wonder what the early people of this region must have thought or felt to start building something like this and adding onto it throughout many thousand years. There is even a Roman temple right at the top and walking up to the main entrance one can get an idea what any potential attacker must have seen and felt – given the fact that by now the ditches and banks have eroded a bit and are not as deep.
The views from up there are 360 Degrees and many, many miles so surely that must have played a vital role in choosing the location. Another great location for a fortification is Corfe Castle on the Isle of Purbeck though it “only” dates to the 11th century AD but was destroyed during the English Civil War, Again the sheer size an presence of these ruins gives the impression of how it must have looked when it was still standing – overlooking the landscape for miles. The small town beneath the castle boasts to have the “smallest town hall” in the country and the “most photographed pub” – at least the latter I can’t attest to as I did not like that one at all but who knows:-)
Kingston Lacy is a stately home with a huge (I mean really huge) garden. It’s owned by the National Trust and must be very popular as the car park was over flowing and it was not a weekend. They had helpful volunteers in each room and even outside and this house has a very special connection to Corfe Castle as well.
The Bankes Family who owned Corfe Castle built Kingston Lacy when the castle got destroyed but could not afford to live in it straight away so had to rent it out but did eventually move in and it stayed in the family until the National Trust took over.
The Minster Church nearby has Saxon and Norman origins and seems to be famous for holding the tombs of Henry VII’s grandparents. It is very impressive on the inside and again lovely volunteers will answer any questions one might have.
For a whirlwind visit we packed a lot into one day and I have to make sure to be back at least to Kingston Lacy one day as there is so much more to see and learn and the rooms where just a bit too packed for my liking (both with people and stuff).
Finally I reached Leiston Abbey again and it feels like coming home since it is my third year here now – more to follow in due course…