The last weekend of summer?

Our trip last weekend was taken in the company of Paul and Jen. Paul works on the HelpDesk with me. We had picked up a hire car on Friday night and set off early on Saturday to go and pick Paul and Jen up from their flat in Notting Hill. After picking up our companions up it was out of London and on towards Wiltshire.

After some deft avoidance of traffic jams and struggling to find a chalk Kiwi while on a tiki-tour we found our way to the earthen embankments of Old Sarum castle. Parking was provided in a neighbouring field and we unpacked and set off up the path to the castle proper. We were somewhat early so took in the preparations around us and then walked into the inner bailey and the ruins of the castle. We wandered around exploring what was left of the castle walls and buildings, taking photos of the view and being buzzed regularly by light planes and microlights from the nearby airfield. I should say that both Saturday and Sunday were beautifully clear and warm days with the temperature upwards of 26 degrees, I don’t know that we’ll see another weekend like it this year.

We made our way back to the outer bailey and visited the outline (as that’s all that remains) of the Cathedral built on the site. It was then around to the front entrance past the fenced off horses and tents of the enactors and down to the tilting ground where we found ourselves a seat to watch the events of the day.

We watched a medieval falconry display, a couple of musicians and the arrival and formal challenging of the knights. The knights were each announced by the lord marshal and then made their speech of introduction to the crowd before lining up behind the tilting barrier. Each knight then challenged the other knights before heading off to get ready.

We had lunch at this point and lounged around under a tree quite enjoying the shade. After this it was another falconry display and then the main event came along, the joust. There were four knights in two teams, yellow and red. Each knight faced off against the knights from the other team in turn, two rides each. They meet at quite a pace and once they got into the sewing of things there were broken bits of lance flying everywhere. At one point one of the red knights appeared to lose control of his horse after a joust and careened into his fellow knight at the end of his run, which resulted in him being thrown to the ground. Considering how much amour he had on he got up very very quickly and despite some rather concerned looks from the squires he seemed to be OK. This did cause a bit of confusion and for some reason the two yellow knights ended up jousting each other, I think the knight marshal had a touch of heat stroke.

Knights in action at Old Sarum.
Knights in action at Old Sarum

To end the joust the two knights with the highest points tally from the previous rounds faced off to find a winner. One of the yellow knights finally won and after the competition had finished the knights and a maiden (who had been watching the competition from the far side while astride her horse) came forward to talk to the crowd. We decided to head off at this point.

Rather than make our way straight back to London we rather made our way back up the road the short way to Stonehenge, just to have a look. As we were all English Heritage members in didn’t cost us anything so we figured why not. The site was busy, as to be expected on a lovely day in the summer school holidays. It was still nice to walk around the stones, especially as we knew we’d be a lot closer in two weeks time when we come down for our out-of-public-hours visit. Meandering back to the car we had a quick stop in the gift shop (more for the air-conditioning than anything else) and then it was once more on our way.

Stonehenge in the afternoon sun.
Stonehenge in the afternoon sun

Our last diversion took us to a chalk horse that we’d seen a few years ago on a previous visit to the area. The obligatory photos were taken of the Cherhill White Horse and we were off once more. We drove through Avebury on the way back, glimpsing the huge stones around and through the town and it was then that we stopped our countryside tour and made our way back to the motorway and on to London.

In London we parked near a pub on the side of a canal and had a few drinks with Shainey James, a kiwi who had up until the day before been working at LST. We stayed for a few drinks, chatted with Shainey and her friends, gawked a little at Billy Zane who was having some quiet drinks with a pretty lady and then we left. After dropping Paul and Jen off we made our way home and that was the day in Wiltshire.

This is another of the birds from Eagle Heights. I think we’ll be visiting again, I really liked the place. I curious to see what it’s like in winter with a bit of snow around.

A Barn Owl at Eagle Heights.
A Barn Owl at Eagle Heights

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