After our waterfalls walk, I spread our dripping gear over the garage, house and front garden of the surfnslide family home. Gallingly, the sun was now shining, although a gusty wind was preventing any impression that spring had returned from taking hold. From the front door I listened to a cuckoo calling from the trees behind the houses opposite. Maybe the cuckoo knew something about what was to follow: our final day in the marches was to be the best, weather wise. We opted for a similar arrangement to the first day: a castle followed by a walk.
The kids adored Raglan. S said it was because it had a proper moat, full of water.
I think that it was also because it has a larger footprint than Goodrich and had more nooks and crannies to be explored. It is a great castle, but to my mind not quite as atmospheric as Goodrich. It was built later than Goodrich, and although it has fortifications, they may principally have been for show. I suppose that one significant element in the design of any castle is the impression it creates; that was a point made by the audio guide at Goodrich about the complex arrangements for the defence of the gate: they were almost certainly impractical on a day-to-day basis and may not have been regularly in use, but the two portcullises, the arrow-slits commanding a cross-fire of the gateway and the murder holes above were there for all to see. However, where as at Goodrich the tension between creating a comfortable home and a defensible stronghold is evident, at Raglan the imposing towers seem slightly bogus: more showing-off than military necessity.
Still, it is fascinating to look around and it commands great views of the surrounding countryside and nearby hills. (Andy did reel off the names of these and I think that I remember: Blorenge, Sugar Loaf and Ysgyryd Fawr. No doubt he’ll put me right if not.)
Sugar Loaf and Ysgyryd Fawr. Possibly.
In complete contrast to the much older keep at Goodrich, the keep at Raglan has a wide staircase with broad and well-lit steps.
The keep is unusual in that it is hexagonal in shape.
Here’s something else that Andy pointed out to me, and another unusual feature of Raglan. These are machicolations, often found on French castles but unusual in Wales and England and indicative of the French influence on the design of Raglan. Machicolations originally had a defensive purpose, enabling stones or other unpleasant items to be dropped on attackers from the battlements, but again, I suspect that these were more decorative.
There are numerous other decorative elements at Raglan, of which here are a few…
On the day of our visit, there was also a very noticeable pong in the vicinity of the castle. I thought it might be down to the sizable resident population of….
…pigeons, but the consensus was that there weren’t enough of them to account for it, so the cause of the whiff shall have to remain a mystery.
The castle was busy with swallows. But unlike at Goodrich, where I had searched in vain for nests, here we found several. These two…
..were often joined by a third bird. I’m guessing that the ruffled one on the left is a fledgling.
The moat too seems more like a water feature than anything intended to deter aggressors. It is inside the outer wall and only extends part way around the castle.
B and I watched a pied wagtail fly back and forth from the far wall to the wall alongside us, always with some titbit in its beak. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a photo when it was close by, but this is a cropped version of one I took when it was on the far side of the moat.
The moat was also home to a family of moorhens. I was surprised to see that the lily-pads were robust enough for the chicks to walk across them.
We picnicked in the grounds of the castle. Whilst the kids muddied themselves rolling down the steep bank of another (dry) moat, their parents stretched out in the sunshine (!). Bliss! The kids were happy; perhaps we should just stay here? But no: the walk that Andy had suggested was just too enticing.
A hollow oak by the car park, the kids were all keen to explore, particularly B.