Wednesday Wander – Caernarfon Castle, Wales

I’ve been to Caernarfon, located on the picturesque North Wales coast, a few times. But my most memorable visit took place quite a few years ago, when a friend and I were travelling through Wales together. We managed to find, on our meagre budget, a guesthouse with a view of the famous castle, a genial host named Norm, and a very generous breakfast (we may even have taken some extra packets of cereal with us for later in the day – very small travelling budget, as mentioned).

I don’t know whether Norm’s Place, as we affectionately dubbed our guesthouse, is still there, but the castle undoubtedly is. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1986, Caernarfon Castle was built in 1283 by Edward I, on the site of an earlier Norman fortress. It was one of a series of castles built by Edward after his defeat of the Welsh, to impose English rule on the land. Edward and his queen visited the castle in 1294 when, it is said, Edward II was born, and was designated the first Prince of Wales. Since that time, the title has traditionally been held by the eldest son of the British monarch, with Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales, receiving his investiture at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.

The castle, despite its auspicious beginnings, has had a turbulent history. Sacked and set aflame by Madog ap Llewellyn during the Welsh uprising in 1295, the castle was recaptured and rebuilt by the English a year later. In the early 1400s it was besieged by Owain Glydwr, with support from the French – later that century, the Welsh Tudors took over the British throne and tensions eased, but the castle, which had been damaged over the years, fell into disrepair.

Despite being a Royalist base during the Civil War, the castle escaped destruction, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that repairs began. In 1911, the first modern Prince of Wales was named there, when Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) was invested by his father, George V.

Image: Manfred Heyde, Wikimedia Commons

Nowadays the castle, dreaming by the water, looks like something from a fairytale, a fortress from a vanished time. It is a popular tourist attraction, with almost 200,000 visitors in 2015, and is also home to the Royal Welsh Fusilliers Museum. It’s well worth a visit due to its wonderful state of preservation and its huge scale – you can see, looking at the size of the people in the photographs, how large it is. It must have been quite imposing in its day. In fact, it still is.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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Wednesday Wander – Hampton Court Palace

Okay, so I’ve not wandered too far this week – a train ride, rather than a plane ride, away. Still, it’s to a rather interesting place. London is home to some wonderful palaces – I have another post about the Tower of London still to write – and Hampton Court Palace is one of the finest, a treasure trove of history, design and architecture.

Built by Cardinal Wolsey and taken over several years later by Henry VIII, the palace was constructed between 1515 and 1694. Not much of the original Tudor palace remains in its original state, as successive monarchs each sought to put their stamp on the building.The palace remained a royal residence until Victorian times, though George II was the last monarch to reside there. However, the monarch with whom the palace is most closely associated is Henry VIII. Oranges carved over an internal doorway are symbols of Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, while the clock above is the Hampton Court astronomical clock, set in the Anne Boleyn gate, named for his second wife. Jane Seymour, his third wife, gave birth to their son Edward, and subsequently died there, two weeks later. It was also at Hampton Court that Henry learned of the infidelity of his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Imprisoned in her rooms, it is said she escaped and ran the length of the Haunted Gallery, screaming for mercy, but was recaptured and, eventually, executed.

Large landscaped gardens surround the building, running alongside the river Thames. One of the original 16th century tiltyard towers remains, part of Henry VIII’s jousting range, as does his Royal Tennis Court. My friend and I also walked the Hampton Court Maze, planted between 1689 and 1695 for William of Orange, the ancient green hedges taller than we were.

This is the Fountain Court, designed by Sir Christopher Wren during the reign of William and Mary, when a huge program of renovation took place at the palace. William and Mary wanted the design to reflect their status as equal monarchs, so two sets of apartments, equal in size and stature, were designed, as well as two identical interior staircases. However, when Mary passed away, William lost interest in the renovation project and work ceased.With all this history, it’s not surprising that the palace is reputed to be haunted. Several tourists have reported strange occurences, and then there’s ‘Skeletor’, a famous image captured on the CCTV cameras which has not been adequately explained. We didn’t see any ghosts, but we did see a rather dishy fellow, a cross between Damien Lewis and Tom HIddleston, decked out in full Elizabethan regalia, including a single pearl drop earring. Seeing him on the train later in civilian clothes rather spoiled the illusion… 😀

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Thursday Doors – St Leonards Church, Shoreditch

This little green door stands in the porch of St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, one of London’s oldest churches.

The original church is thought to date back to Saxon times, but was rebuilt in the early 1700’s after the steeple became unstable, resulting in the glorious building you see today. And if you’re familiar with the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’, you’ll know how the bells sound – St Leonard’s is the church referred to in the line, ‘When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch.’

There is a story, we were told, that Shakespeare was partially inspired to write Romeo and Juliet while in the church. However, I’ve been unable to find any corroboration for this and, as the building in its current state was created long after Shakespeare’s death, it’s most likely untrue. However, it doesn’t detract from the church’s strong theatrical history – there are several notable Tudor actors buried there, with a plaque to their memory from the London Shakespeare League. In the 1500s, two of London’s original theatres, The Theatre and The Curtain Theatre, were located nearby, where several of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed.

I visited the church this past weekend for a family wedding. Inside the paint was peeling, the floors back to bare boards. Apparently, they’re about to spend a fortune restoring the building. However, I like it how it is now, all the layers of history apparent, and feel fortunate to have visited when I did.

And as for the Shakespeare story? Well, it may not be true, but you never know…

This is my entry for this week’s Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Thursday Doors – In The Village

img_5301I had a little time after work the other day, so decided to photograph a few of the lovely Georgian doors in the village where I work. It’s a small high street, 16th century half-timbered pubs next to Victorian villas and tiny cottages, older timber framed buildings ‘modernised’ with Georgian facades. The village dates back to Saxon times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. In the 12th century it was home to one of the royal Plantagenet palaces, since demolished.

img_5298It’s a lovely place to work, the river running in the valley below next to the more placid waters of the old canal. I’ve seen a kingfisher, flash of brilliant blue, along the river, and at the moment there are snowdrops on the banks – it’s nice to have the option to walk to work, too.

img_5314And I also took a shot of this wonderful fellow. He obligingly stopped so I could take his photo – isn’t he great?

img_5304This is my response to Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge, for door-lovers from around the world. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

A Trip Through The Old Town, Hemel Hempstead

IMG_2175Today’s post is a weekend wander around Hemel Hempstead. There is a reason for this – last week, on my Thursday Doors post, roughseasinthemed asked if I could post some pictures of the Old Town area, as I had mentioned that improvements had recently been undertaken. Apparently their partner used to live here, and was curious to see what had been done. So here we are.

IMG_2163Hemel Hempstead Old Town has buildings dating back to the 1500s, though it is believed there has been settlement here since Roman times. Henry VIII used to rampage his way through here, and had a hunting lodge nearby, plus there are rumours of secret tunnels and trysts with Anne Boleyn. He is reputed, as is Anne, to haunt at least one building in the Old Town.

IMG_2180The Old Town has a mix of architectural styles, from half-timbered Tudor buildings,

IMG_2173to Georgian shops and apartments,

IMG_2164to the Victorian splendour of the rebuilt Corn Market, home to my Thursday door.

IMG_2194There are old carriageways leading to hidden courtyards,

IMG_2195Where the gates have been open so long, flowers grow around them.

IMG_2151The improvements took place a couple of years ago and are still ongoing. A rather nice set of gates was installed, one with an image of the church steeple, the other with the old Town Hall.

IMG_2176New paving and parking bays were laid, adding to the appeal of the streetscape.

IMG_2160The building covered in scaffolding was, until recently, a rather unattractive late 70s/early 80s edifice in dark red brick, a bit of an eyesore when compared to the other architecture in the area. It has now been painted off-white and is undergoing other renovations, no doubt trying to make it more sympathetic to the area.

IMG_2155This building is still a mystery, though a small plaque on the front door reads ‘Bank’. It is no longer a bank, and the tattered curtains and peeling woodwork add to the air of intrigue.

IMG_2170This is a small parking area overlooking the Norman church and graveyard. When it was being repaved, an underground chamber was discovered. Perhaps a remnant of the rumoured tunnels?

IMG_2204

I’ll finish with a view over Gadebridge Park, which runs behind the Old Town. Apparently ghostly galloping can be heard there at night – at one time, the Park was private land belonging to a large house (now gone). The owner of the house was a military veterinarian and he used the land to rehabilitate injured cavalry horses, so was somewhat ahead of his time. Apparently the horses lived out their days in peace and tranquility but, every so often, would make formation and charge down the field, as though reliving their battle days. So perhaps it is their hooves that people hear…

Thanks for taking a trip around the Old Town with me. Happy weekend, everyone!