May Day Visit to Kingston Maurward

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As a Dorset native, I like to think I have visited most places of interest in the lovely county I am fortunate enough to live in, but I had never visited Kingston Maurward House and Gardens until yesterday. Despite it being May Day, spring wasn’t much in evidence as the sky remained cloudy and grey throughout most of the couple of hours my family and I spent there.  However, it was still a pleasant stroll around the 35 acre gardens, which form part of the 750 acre estate and also contain a land-based college, working farm and dairy, equestrian centre and animal park.

As we walked beside the lake and through the many different types of garden; including Japanese, secret, terraced and Elizabethan walled gardens among many others, the sound which could be heard above all others was that of birdsong and running water from the stream. As it was quite a dull day, I don’t think we saw the gardens at their best, so a return journey is definitely on the cards.  We didn’t walk round the animal park but many people, families especially, were doing so.  There’s a shop and café at the entrance, but they are very small, so I recommend taking a packed lunch.  There is a second café, which looked bigger, but is closed at the weekends.

If you’re in Dorset on a sunny day, pack a sandwich and go!

There’s a rich history to the estate, which you can read more of below:

http://www.kmc.ac.uk/gardens/

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

 

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History and Light at Hurst Castle

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Yesterday was an unexpectedly warm day and I had not dressed to handle the heat; I’d gone for trousers and a shirt with my walking boots, but wished I’d opted for something much lighter as my family and I crunched loudly over the shingle that stretches out from Keyhaven, on the edge of the New Forest National Park in Hampshire to Hurst Castle, which is all but stone’s throw from the Isle of Wight.

We hadn’t actually planned to go inside the castle, but were glad of our impromptu visit because it was fascinating.  The castle dates back to the 16th century, but was also used during WW2 as an important line of defence against any potential invasion.  As we wandered around the grounds, climbing up to 360 degree views of the Isle of Wight, the Needles, white-sailed boats gliding through the Solent and Keyhaven Marshlands; and then down into dark, cold, extremely damp store rooms, we were aware of those who had been stationed here throughout the Second World War.

Some of the guns are still on display in their original positions; frightening, yet awe-inspiring machines of warfare, which were loaded with shells that must have taken several men to lift.  The netting around the hole through which they fired acting as protection from any fragments of incoming bombs is still in place.  Yet even the everyday concerns have also been preserved, with the remnants of kitchens and bathrooms, such as they were, on display in all but empty rooms.

A small, circular section of grass has been given over to red poppies and a memorial to those who lost their lives defending this country, in addition to several exhibitions which detail daily life, battle plans, and bring that link closer to the present day with old weaponry, clothing and interviews with ex-soldiers.

We took our own food, but there is a small café and shop and we saw families tucking into what looked like delicious, decently-sized slices of cake.  Dogs are welcome too, but they may struggle getting up and down some of the steps, which are quite large in places.

My camera loved the light and perfectly-framed views through the castle windows, and I could have spent hours wandering around chasing the light as it moved and shone through every gap in the walls.  I hope to go back with my Bronica as I think the square format will work well with the natural framing of the scenery outside.

As our boots crunched back towards Keyhaven, I thought of all those who had made their way back and forth to the castle, and spent freezing winters and hot summers there in scratchy uniforms, while I was bemoaning my cotton trousers and shirt.  I realised that my luxury to moan about being hot in such an outfit, and wishing I’d worn a dress, was all down to those self-same, brave individuals who had fought so I could have the freedom to amble around an old castle with my camera and my attire was of little consequence.

If you have a chance, I’d recommend a visit to Hurst Castle, preferably on a sunny day.  Go early and you’ll have the place almost to yourself for a while, and can make the most of that incredible sunlight.

Photographs©vcuzzell2015

For more information, check out:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hurst-castle/

A Reason to Remember

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I went for a walk recently along the beach at Lepe in the New Forest and came across these structures (see photo). They are the remains of embarkation points from World War Two, used for the D-Day landings on the 6th June 1944.  It was a sobering thought, as families ambled along the pebbles and sand, that had it not been for those who had launched their boats from this point all those years ago, that we would not have been walking along the beach that day.  The building I live in used to be a hotel, and the owners’ daughter told me today of how she used to race her father down to the basement to shelter from air raids.  It made me reflect on how fortunate I have been to grow up in a time without such fear and uncertainty.  That is not to say that people have not continued to suffer as a result of an extreme ideology; we are at risk of attack from those who do not agree with our way of life today, as we always have been.  Yet for those born at the beginning of the last century, they went through two world wars within a generation; battles which were brought to their doorsteps on a nightly basis.  Men, women and children lost in their thousands.  As I walked home from town earlier, a coffee in hand, trying to beat the rain which was about to fall from the dark skies above, I realised how lucky I am to be able to do so.  I am grateful to all those who have given their own lives over the years to protect us, because without their sacrifice, I would not be writing these words and you would not be reading them today.