The day after the little bees and I arrived in England, Mr Bee took us to visit Kenilworth Castle, on the grounds that (a) it was interesting, and (b) we needed to get out in the fresh air and sunshine to help get over jet lag. It was the first castle the girls had ever seen, and they were fascinated. But quickly enough, they found their way into nooks and crannies, and fireplaces.
(Description: three girls standing in a disused fireplace, heads hidden in the chimney)
This turned out to be an on-going theme: walking around and looking at ruins, and then playing in hidey holes…
(Description: cubby holes in a stone wall at Chesters Roman Fort, two girls perched inside them)
Finding shelter from the wind was a necessity when we visited Housesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Housesteads was the first place in the Roman Empire where the soldiers were allowed to wear socks. We could feel why. There was an icy wind knifing across the hillside, coming straight down across Russia from the Arctic, so cold that we could only manage about half an hour outside exploring the fort. Pity the poor Roman soldiers in their leather skirts.
(Description: Three girls huddled beneath a stone wall at Housesteads)
At Corbridge Roman Town, I was fascinated by the drainage system, which ran from a fountain at the top end of the township, all the way down through the town. The town was well preserved, I suspect in part because when the aqueduct and fountain and drains fell into disrepair, the settlement shifted down the hill closer to the river. So although stones were removed for use elsewhere, the town was never built over.
(Remnants of stone walls and pillars alongside a street, two girls looking about, one sneaking behind a pillar)
The best ruin we visited was Ashby de la Zouch, which had a tower that you could climb up (97 steps!), and a secret tunnel. It was about 50 metres long, running from the kitchen to the tower, and it was creepily cold and damp and dimly lit. This turned out to be the best playground of the lot.
(Description: Two girls coming up steps into the light, from the underground tunnel at Ashby de la Zouch.)
But they weren’t allowed to play on this ruin, at all.
It was magnificent, and I was so pleased to have the chance to take our girls there. As we visited various places in the United Kingdom, I explained to the girls that this place had been built before white colonists came to New Zealand, or that place had been built before people came to New Zealand, or this other place had been built before Rome was founded in Italy. It was mind blowing.
Also, it was fun.