The Old Fort at Box Hill

Yesterday I shared pictures from the Stepping Stone walk at Box Hill and ended that post just as I got to the Old Fort, saving the pictures of it for today.  The Fort was built in the late 1800s during a crisis period in British history. It was part of the London Defence Scheme, which was built as a last ditch attempt to save the capital of the empire.

And this was my first view:

it looked intriguing and I was soon exploring further.

It was built during a time of great changes, when ships were starting to be made from steel and powered by steam. There were also improvements to weapons, with large artillery guns becoming more accurate and more destructive and infantry rifles quicker to reload. Britain hadn't kept pace building modern warships and its forces were spread across the whole empire, leaving London vulnerable.

If London fell, the whole empire was likely to follow so therefore it needed to be protected while the naval forces were bolstered. So this and the twelve others built were literally a last ditch defence protecting London from attacks arriving from the south and the east. Known as the London Defence Scheme, this series of defences were seventy two miles long. It was never used in battle though.

The design of each of the thirteen Defence Positions varied; they were never elaborate with just a magazine and storehouses for the mobilisation of troops.  The doors and windows of the fort at Box Hill were made of thick cannon proof steel, fitted with rifle loops to defend the fort from an enemy at close quarters. 

The magazine rooms were protected from shelling by the earthen roof and contained ammunition for infantry rifles and artillery guns. Those chimneys were used as ventilation and were important to keep the gunpowder in good condition.

Today though, as you can see it's derelict and serves as a reminder of time gone by and is no doubt used well by the local wildlife population. While I was there a small group of children thought it was a great place to run around and play hide and seek. And they were right, It was large enough that they could run around and not see each other, but small enough that they could call out and easily confuse themselves. It looked like fun and the sort of game that could easily keep you occupied for quite a while, and one I'm sure I played when I was much younger!

As you can see it also provided a great photo opportunity for me. It was great to walk around, take some pictures and learn a bit about the Old Fort and its part in history. 

Sun on Saturday: The Old Post Office at Tintagel

Yes, I'm taking you back to Tintagel as promised at the end of my second post from our visit to Tintagel Castlethis time though we're in the village and visiting the Old Post Office which is one of the National Trust's properties. It's tiny - or as the Trust more diplomatically says "unusual and atmospheric" and it's appeal - and wavy roof - is immediately visible as you approach it.

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It dates back to the 14th century and is a yeoman's farmhouse which the National Trust acquired in 1903 and the first room you visit is the Parlour. As well as this beautiful vista with the light streaming in on the day we visited there's plenty of samplers to admire, some of them worked on by girls as young as nine.

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Each of the samplers on display are intricate and neatly sewn - and more importantly finished.  The cross stitch I rediscovered last year, still isn't finished... ahem!

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We headed upstairs - thankfully just a spiral staircase and not like those above, which I'm sure would be problematic for many visitors - and into the South Bedroom. There were more samplers here but it was the bedspread that really was the star of the show, well alongside the wooden beams and oak bed.

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Then we headed back down the stairs, yeap these ones and into the cottage garden. And despite just being off the busy high street, it felt a world away. There was a large noughts and crosses set and a dressing up box and plenty of "garden rooms" to explore.

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We stood back to admire the wavy roof and the typically cottage garden type plants and after a while we felt as if we were being watched. We turned and discovered we were!

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So we popped over and said hello!

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I said before that the Old Post Office is tiny, the same's true for its garden, but both pack a lot in and for such small spaces there's lots to see. Even a model in the garden...

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And if you're wondering about the Post Office part - the name comes from the Victorian period when it briefly held a licence. Today though, there's still a post box.

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And all in all another fantastic National Trust property to explore.

Sun on Saturday: Tintagel Castle and 148 steps for starters...

It was last September that we were in Cornwall - I'm not sure how it can be quite that long ago already but either way it's about time I shared the pictures of our visit to Tintagel Castle with you. Looking back at them this week, it was quite a day and there's a few to choose from and I've a feeling it'll take more than one photo-heavy post to tell you more about the place which is the legendary birthplace of King Arthur...

The site of the castle has been inhabited since between the 5th and 7th centuries AD when a prosperous community was based there but it wasn't until later in the 12th century that it gained international literary fame and named by Geoffrey of Monmouth as the place where the legendary King Arthur was conceived.

English Heritage, who maintain the site think this "may have been what inspired Richard, Earl of Cornwall, younger brother of Henry III, to site his castle at Tintagel in the 1230s. The castle had fallen into disrepair by 1330, but its associations with the Arthurian legend have helped to foster the site’s continuing international renown." 

Despite the disrepair, the ruins provide some stunning views and an insight into what life in a castle might be like. Sadly on our visit there were no maps of the site available as English Heritage "had run out" so we wandered around slightly in the dark, making do with the signage available. We were though offered the chance to buy a full guide at the full price, which we declined and if I'm honest I was a little disappointed by this and by the lack of foresight to provide some basic information - for me, a photocopy of the layout would have helped put things into context and helped us plan our visit. It's probably the only time I'll visit Tintagel Castle and it's the first English Heritage site I've visited, and as they say you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

But map aside, you can see we had fabulous weather and the castle and the scenery were fantastic.


We started by exploring the castle on the headland - there's 148 steps up from the bridge to the wooden door - at the top we paused and looked over to the part of the castle on the mainland, and the steps up to that, and decided that was probably on the "after lunch" exploring list!


There's spectacular views along the Cornish coast too, and as seemed to be the case for this trip I quickly found a seagull that was happy to pose for a picture or two!


It wasn't long before we found The Tunnel and although little is known about it, including its date, it is known that it was cut using metal tools and while its purpose is also unknown, it's thought it may have been used as a medieval cold store.

This is the entrance and as we stepped down into it we weren't quite sure what to expect.


But as you get further into the tunnel, it opens out and you can see all the way through. The workmanship is incredible, but it's a shame that more isn't known about it.


And once through the tunnel this is your view, inside the temperature was definitely lower but I do wonder if it was intended as a cold store, why it was made as a tunnel rather than a cave...


Out of the tunnel and we continued to explore the headland admiring the strata of the rock and the views out to sea, the whole place had a special atmosphere which I wasn't expecting, but maybe that King Arthur legend really did have roots here.







Once we'd had our fill of the views and been entertained long enough by the seagulls, we decided some lunch was in order - and we saw the perfect spot on the next headland along, and from our vantage point we could make out some paths too.  


So with a rough plan in place we set off and of course what goes up, must go down. And then down some more!


With the steps under our belt (for now) we briefly admired the view from Tintagel Haven before setting off in search of the perfect lunch spot. I'm going to leave it there for today and will continue our visit to the mainland part of Tintagel Castle and some views from where we had lunch on the National Trust's Barras Nose next Saturday - hope to see you then!