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

Sunday, July 29, 2012



A mash-up special posting by Sara Kerry, Tiki Stew, Laura Waters,
Marshall Hahn-Taylor and Jess 

On a lovely summer day in southern England, a group of adult friends and three kids  (ages 2, 6, and 9) decided to explore a new place for all of us: Battle, just outside of Hastings in East Sussex, England. Not only was it a majorly important site in British history (in 1066 AD, William the Conqueror and the Normans battled King Harold and the English here), but there were trails, a ruined abbey, an interactive museum, and a meadow where the pivotal battle occurred. The site of the Battle is a rough field, shrouded by undergrowth and trees--rendering reenactment perhaps impossible. :-) There is a very good visitor centre with some artifacts, audio and a short film about the battle that help to bring the site to life. On the ride home, we agreed how  everyone in our group loved the place. 

The six-year-old loved the interaction---the audio guide, the way he could pick up the Norman shields in the museum, the grass hopper he caught in the field, and that there was nothing restrictive about the place. Everything encouraged him to use his imagination, especially when he ran amok, exploring the ruins of the old abbey (that William the Conqueror built after his success).
The nine-year-old loved the independence---that she could go on her own down the trails and in the abbey, listen to the audio guide instead of hearing adults yammer at her, and the chance to order a piece of cake and a cup of tea at the cafe. She also appreciated the short movie in the museum.

The two-year-old loved the sensory experience---handfuls of fresh blackberries that she picked along the trail, running through the meadow which was the battlefield, and chasing the other children in the old abbey.

Battle marks the site of the last successful military invasion of Britain. The Normans were originally Vikings who settled in northwest France in the 900s eventually creating a powerful state - Normandy. In 1066 William, who had a claim on the English throne, defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and was crowned King on Christmas Day. A new alien aristocracy was imposed on the English population. The Normans dispossessed many Anglo-Saxon landowners, pressed the peasantry into service on their feudal territories and treated their subjects with contempt but they also taught better farming practices, developed the economy and built fine stone cathedrals and churches.

The abbey was founded by William the Conqueror in thanks for his victory and in penance for the bloodshed. The altar of the abbey is said to be located on the spot where Harold died. The abbey was prosperous and during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in Tudor times it was given to Henry VIII's Master of Horse who demolished the church, cloister and chapter house and converted the rest into a country house. The west wing is today a private school, while the fragments of the old abbey are very atmospheric and good to explore.

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