Archive for October, 2008
Battle is a strange and slightly amusing name for a town. It’s even more amusing, for us at least, when it’s placed next to the word ‘Station’.
However, I was less amused, when upon arriving at the town at 4.00pm, ready to take in some of it’s 1066 history, on a rare sunny day in October, we found that the Abbey and Battlefield had just closed.
Okay, it’s our fault for not noting the closing times. But it’s just that we were there, and wanting to see the battlefield, and with so many other places that we still want to visit in the UK, who knows when or if we’ll go back.
We hired a car yesterday and Matt drove us down to Dover. We’ve been through Dover several times, leaving on the ferry to France, arriving back in the UK. From a distance, we’d seen the white cliffs and the castle on the hill.
That was our first stop yesterday: Dover Castle. And with English Heritage Membership, we managed to avoid the £10.30 entry fee. The Dover Castle complex is vast. It’s the site of a Roman lighthouse, a 1216 seige, a visit by Henry VIII, and – more recently, home to a set of underground tunnels, where they coordinated the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk in World War II.
We could’ve spent a whole day, maybe more, at Dover Castle. Since we only had a fraction of that time, we decided to focus on it’s wartime history. There’s three layers of tunnels under the complex. We joined a guided tour of the first two – one operating as a hospital; the other as a strategic headquarters for the military. Apparently the one below was to be used in the 1960s in the event of a nuclear attack. That level remains closed to the public, remains more of a secret.
England does it’s history well, I think. It comes with audio guides and placards giving the important facts. Or videos with old footage. Or tours with the sights, sounds and smells of a World War II hospital. A chance to stand inside a lookout and scan the horizon with binoculars, as others used to do, when the sight of an unknown ship had far more serious consequences.
Being here has given me a whole new appreciation of what the past is.