"All good things are wild and free." --Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Arundel Castle


Special posting by Tiki Stew: DJ, father and all around good bloke

Tiki Stew in the middle with his son
Arundel Castle is the perfect castle because it has all the elements of a good castle, and it wasn't a complete ruin with a small museum, like a lot of castles are. (And there was Michael Jackson there, eh? She was a woman in her sixties with a large Afro. She seemed to be white but had a very high voltage sunburn, and her jacket had loads of zips. She had orange lipstick and loads of phones.) My daughter was reluctant to go upstairs at the Keep because it was quite high but when we saw one of the guards (aka Michael Jackson), her fear turned to laughter. (I think Michael twigged, but rather than lose her job she kept schtunned, and we beat it.)

  • The room with all the swords--the Armory room. 
  • In the dungeon there was a dummy that my kids liked because my son said he had no clothes on and green feet. I said the moss had made his feet go green. 
  • Picnic on the castle grounds
  • In the chapel there was a monk, and I took his habit off and he had the proper monk haircut. And there was a dummy behind him who had no face. 
The castle had the best toilets ever, with hot and cold running water. The thing I liked about it, was the toilets, the cafe, the gift shop was all still in the castle. And the kids loved the chocolate cake. 


Special posting by SARA KERRY

The view of the northeast from the Keep
It is a proper castle with proper turrets and amazing gardens [note from Tiki Stew: not "Tourette's" that is, but "turrets"]. I think it is a great for anyone who wants a day out in Sussex because it has brilliant landscaped, ornamental gardens. We actually ran out of time---it closed before we were finished. There is also some impressive fine art because they had Canaletto and Gainsborough landscapes and portraits. I liked the juxtaposition of the old and new, including the family history with new family photos along with the old shit.  


Special posting by Marshall Dow Hahn-Taylor, rock solid spouse 
Descending the stairs in the Keep
In the distance Arundel Castle looks absolutely fairy tale, almost unreal.  That one family would inhabit such a place seems ridiculously posh.  Apparently they open it up to the public tours to help maintain the vast property.  There must be a square mile of furniture, flooring and fittings to dust, sweep and polish.  Just living there would cause one to get the recommended daily allowance of walking.  Just popping down for a little snooker in the billiards room from any of the bedrooms is a several minute stroll.  It's beautifully appointed, but I can't imagine living there.  Maybe it's just my proletariat blood, but there's little about the place that says `cozy'.  It's a bit like living in vast museum devoted to the decorative arts.

The original Keep, built in 1067 by Earl Roger


Special posting by Laura Jane Waters, 
authentic British lady and history geek

The castle was founded in 1067 by Roger de Montgomery, one of William the Conqueror's most loyal supporters. He had been rewarded for his support during the successful Norman invasion of 1066 with lands covering a third of the county of Sussex and the Earldom of Arundel, with the stipulation that he built a castle close to the mouth of the River Arun to protect the coast from attack. The original castle was a motte and bailey (mound and courtyard) with a wooden keep (tower) built high up on the motte.
Walking towards the castle Keep

Earl Roger's son Robert inherited the castle and Earldom and fought against the next king, Henry I. The king retook Arundel Castle and banished the Earl to Normandy. When Henry I died, his wife remarried and the castle passed into the Albini family. They rebuilt the Keep in stone in 1138. On her death Henry II inherited the estate and built the main castle.  Arundel remained in the Albini family until the 13th century when it passed through marriage to the Fitzalan family. In the 16th century Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel, was the last of his line and when his daughter married Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Arundel Castle passed to the Howard family where it has since remained.

The Fitzalan Chapel and Barbican (gatehouse) can be found in the castle grounds - they were built in the 1380s.  During the English Civil War (1640s) cannons were placed on the roof of the chapel by the parliamentarian forces (supporters of the government against the Royalists, who were loyal to the King). The barbican was damaged by cannon balls. The castle was eventually taken and parts of it were blown up when the troops left in 1653. Massive restoration was undertaken in the 19th century.

  • The Armoury - including a rare 15th century jousting saddle and the 14th century Mongley sword that formerly belonged to the Castle Warden.
  • An amazing collection of paintings by artists including Canaletto, Gainsborough and Van Dyck plus family portraits - look out for the 3rd and 4th Earl of Norfolk who plotted and schemed their way through Tudor and Elizabethan England.
  • The magnificent Victorian Gothic interiors, considered to be some of the finest in England. The house was almost completely rebuilt between the 1870s and 1890s. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Arundel and you can see furniture made specially for them in the Queen Victoria's Bedroom. In 2009 Arundel was used as a location for the film YOUNG VICTORIA.
  • The spectacular Collector Earl's Garden, a formal garden opened in 2008 and inspired by Jacobean garden design, particularly those which may have existed at Arundel House in London in the early 1600s.  
  • Outside of Fitzalen Chapel, where the ancestors are interred
Climbing a garden tree

Castle gardens with the cathedral in the background

Arundel Castle 
At the playground just down the street from Arundel Castle

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Consider the following points of interest for Hill Babies in the area:
Hard to leave the castle


Special posting by Laura Jane Waters, authentic British lady and history geek

The Prince of Wales (b.1762) first came to Brighton in 1783 to escape from the restrictive court of his father King George III. He enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the small town, and rented a house there for the following few social seasons. By 1786-7 he had commissioned an architect, Henry Holland, to convert and extend a farmhouse in the centre of town. From 1801-4 it was further extended and the interior was redecorated. Finally between 1815 and 1823 it was almost totally rebuilt and redecorated in the Indian and Chinese style by architect John Nash and interior decorators Frederick Crace and Robert Jones.

(no photos allowed inside...)
The Prince finally became King George IV in 1821 but by then he was in ill-health and spending most of his time at Windsor. He died in 1830 and one of his brothers became King William IV. When he died in 1837 their niece Victoria became Queen. She visited only a few times before she purchased Osborne House on the Isle of Wight as a more private Royal Family summer home, and sold the Pavilion to the town. Most of the contents and furnishings were removed to the other royal residences and parts of the service wings were demolished.

Tea on the grounds outside
During the First World War, the Pavilion was used firstly as a military hospital for Indian soldiers injured fighting for the Empire on the Western Front and then as a hospital for limbless British troops. After the war restoration of the state rooms began in earnest, particularly under the directorship of Henry Roberts and with the support of Queen Mary who began the ongoing return and loan of some of the original contents from the Royal Collection. The Pavilion was opened to the public, largely for functions and community use, until the 1970s when it was finally devoted to its own display.

Restoration continues and the Pavilion is now Brighton's most famous and iconic landmark and visitor attraction. It is the only former Royal palace now in local government ownership, and a fine monument to Regency culture. It is the flagship site for the five museums owned by Brighton and Hove City Council.

  • the fabulous Banqueting Room and Music Room, designed for lavish entertaining and the kitchens which were so impressive for their time that George even took his guests in here!
  • ongoing restoration in the Saloon - check out the delicate gold leaf being painstakingly applied to the cornices around the ceiling. If you visit in the week you may be able to talk to the conservator!
  • Hill Baby with a stroller found in the trash bin
  • a small display on the upper floor about the Indian Military Hospital with period film, paintings and photographs
  • changing annual displays in the new Prince Regent Gallery - until Feb 2012 you can check out Dress for Excess, with examples of Georgian costume displayed around the building and an exhibition about the Prince Regent in the gallery at the end of the visitor route
Musician Linos Wengara Magaya outside the Pavilion
  • delicious seasonal/local food and drink in the Queen Adelaide Tea Room on the upper floor, with a balcony that is open for the summer months
  • the views from the Pavilion gardens - there is a lovely cafe here between April and September (but watch out for the scavenging seagulls) and the flowers are spectacular in the summer months
Laura Waters, history buff and guest writer for Hill Babies
Snapdragons in their summer best

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Contemplating the history of the Royal Pavilion
Consider the following points of interest for Hill Babies in the area:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The western view from Devil's Dyke
Local legend has it the Devil was sick of the pious townsfolk with all their quaint little churches in southeast England. He had the brilliant idea to dig a great ditch to the English Channel, hoping he'd open the floodgates to drown all those irritating churchgoers.   He set to work digging his ditch, calculating that he should dig until dawn.

It happened that a little old lady with nothing better to do than stay up late and peek out her window, spied the Devil and his massive shovel, and figured he was up to no good. She lit a candle and stuck it on her windowsill. The light of the candle woke her rooster, who promptly puffed out his chest and cock-a-doodle-dooed, thinking it was morning. Wiping the sweat from his red brow, the Devil figured it was morning and tromped on home to get some shut-eye

Suffice to say, the Devil didn't go back to his digging, and the valley was never flooded

Tiki Stew and Sara Kerry -- the devils afoot

We actually didn't walk very far, but I have read that the trail is about five miles and circular. It is up and down steep valley sides, so not stroller-friendly

Sara Kerry and the devilish Hill Baby
There's a pub at the parking lot where you can find hearty English food, a stiff drink, and toilets. Keep an eye out for bunnies--they are everywhere. And if you don't want to drive there, you can take an open-top bus from the centre of Brighton in the summer. 
At the Devil's Dyke

Contemplating the interrupted handiwork of the Devil

National Trust (info on Devil's Dyke and other hikes)
Wikipedia article about the Weald
Devil's Dyke website w/detailed travel instructions

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Sham Castle on Bathwick Hill
While I was bathing in a geothermal pool with my British girl friend, Laura, soaking our barking dogs after a rambling day, much like the Romans did here a thousand years ago, my husband and our daughter hiked to a hilltop to get a view of Bath, England. From the city center, Sham Castle is about three miles roundtrip, and up such a steep hill that my husband ditched the stroller in some bushes two-thirds of the way in.

Their destination was Sham Castle on Bathwick Hill. While my view for the next hour and a half was of other tourists' heads bobbing over a steamy pool,  my husband and daughter breathed fresh air, looking over the ancient city of Bath, nestled in the green hills of southwestern England, and played around the false front of a castle.

Crossing the Pulteney Bridge from central Bath, father and daughter set out. They passed Laura Circle, rounded the Holburne Museum of Art, meandered through the Sydney Gardens, across the railroad trestle and over the Kennet and Avon canal, ever climbing upwards, towards the Bath Golf Club located next to Sham Castle.

Eventually they walked up a road bordered on one side by National Trust pastureland dotted with cattle and historic homes on the other. After a long shady grade, they made a left turn up the one lane Bath Golf Club road.  Upon seeing the grand entry gate to the golf club, they made a right up the hill along a forested single track path for around a 100 yards before coming to a mowed clearing.

Rising from the lawn was the picture perfect castle facade. In 1762,  Ralph Allen commissioned Sham Castle to be built so that he could have a better view out of his windows. It was a monument to fantasy and whimsy, maybe only fifty feet wide. From the backside it looked like there was a door to get up into the tower (so it wasn't a completely superficial facade) but the door was padlocked. So father and daughter played on hide-and-seek on the grass, until they began their walk downhill to meet me in the city center.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


The whirly thing-a-ma-bob
Stoneham Recreation Ground is a sweet neighborhood playground in the seaside town of Hove in southern England. Particularly cool features include a tunnel burrowed into a hill, a graffitied mural of a train under a starry night sky, and some permaculture aspects to the grounds, including a "bug motel" to encourage insect life.  Amenities include a community-run cafe, bathrooms, and a couple stores around the corner. When the kids tire of the swings, the beach is just a few blocks away

The tunnel in the hill
One section of the playground
The mural
Beware the stumpy-footed seagull
Contemplating the greatness of it all

Climbing the barrow mound
Three feet off the ground
Flirtatious fun
Stoneham Recreation Ground is bordered by Stoneham, Tamworth, Mainstone, and Marmion Roads; it's a few blocks from the Aldrington rail station.

Kids in Brighton (parks and playgrounds list, plus more)
Brighton and Hove City Council (playground info)
Poets Corner Community Society (the history of Stoneham Park)

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On a less-than twenty-four hour layover in Toronto, on a rainy day with our small child in hand, my husband, daughter, and I made our way to the Toronto Zoo. At first glance you might sniff, but there are seven miles of trails.  Five thousand animals are spread out in the 700 acres, arranged in geographically themed regions. Purportedly it's the second largest zoo in North America---so along with the high kid-enjoyment factor, there's the chance for a long walk.

The most remote part of the Toronto Zoo is, ironically, the Canadian portion---up and over a steep, long hill, nooked into a corner with some awesome, playful grizzly bears.

Toronto Zoo is one of the better zoos I've seen, despite it's high entrance fee and garbage food. My knee-jerk reaction to a zoo is usually a big NO, but this is about kids, and they love animals. In the spirit of conservation, preservation, and education, more power to healthy zoos with plenty of space for the animals. (By the way, my favorite zoo is the unpretentious Belize Zoo)

If and when you come to Toronto Zoo, bring walking shoes, an umbrella, and a sack lunch. 

Among the better ways to get around
Should I stay or should I go?
The Incredible Mr. Fox
Heartening to see a big space for the giraffe
The old white lioness
Babies LOVE bears

Toronto Zoo
361A Old Finch Ave Scarborough, ON M1B 5K7
(416) 392-5900

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