Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Day Seven - Road (trip) to ruin(s)

We started the day, again with really excellent weather, easing up on the rambling and instead decided to drive to several castle or priory ruins visited heavily on Picturesque tours. These included Flanesford Priory, Goodrich Castle, Raglan Castle, and Llanthony Priory. We also wanted to do some more looking around for Goodrich Court, since we would be directly behind its former site.

Approaching Kerne Bridge, the Flanesford Priory ruins (?) are immediately to the west, incorporated into a large farm. It's a rather nice and modern renovation as renovations go in England. According to my 1913 Warde-Locke Guide, the priory was founded in 1347 by the Black Friars Regular of St. Augustine. It also appraises the current farmhouse "notable as a remnant" and then later in the guide again "a scanty remain." Confused? me too. I'm usually fine with most secondary usages as long as the building isn't demolished or converted beyond recognition architecturally. Today, you be the judge.

Before driving around back to Goodrich Castle, we drove through Goodrich Village towards the site of former Goodrich Court. We entered a road which should have delivered us to the mansion's remains, but we found ourselves staring at a field of turnips and potatoes. We retraced our path to the turnoff and entered another property named Goodrich Court Stables. We entered a courtyard and I immediately saw a man working underneath a modern shed roof attached to a red brick building of some age. He was Jon Edgar, a sculptor, living and working in the onetime stables of Goodrich Court... so far, so good. I asked about the circumstances surrounding its disappearance and Jon provided an account, supported by a book which he produced (it can't get it any better, right?) We continued talking as I began to look around with a bit more scrutiny and realized the courtyard was filled with sculptures and I was suddenly brought to the realization I was looking at a living re-picturing opportunity. Jon agreed to a photograph and went about his work on an alabaster piece.

We then walked around the back of the stable to view some of the garden remains. The story goes something similar to other lost estates in the United Kingdom, the estate was too costly to maintain, a suitable charity was not found and it went to auction. The high bidder was a demolition company who used the stones from the buildings. An additional erasure came with the building of the A40 dual carriageway (highway in USA). I feel a little better with this knowledge, but do wish that Goodrich Court might have been around to see. Here's a picture from the Warde-Locke Guide.

On to Goodrich Castle, the most formidable fortress on the Wye and a glorious hilltop vista of Wales and England. The site is now managed, as are many such historic structures, by English Heritage. This pioneering conservation group promotes conservation, heritage tourism, and education. The also produce a lavish set of guides, printed and audible, for those inclined to dig a little deeper. Personally, I love pictures and texts together. Perhaps I'm too simple, but I cannot bear to hear an actor's voice describe what I'm looking at (or not looking at as may be the case) within historic sites. It's too much like hearing a voice in your head, and we know what that means!

As we toured Goodrich a faint wall of rain approached and we soon were looking for the few rooms or hallways which afforded any cover. I anxiously awaited the tail-end of the storm anticipating some nice skies and crystal clear air. I wasn't disappointed.

A short distance away lies Raglan Castle in Wales. A castle which I've found was popular with early photographers such as Roger Fenton and Francis Bedford. I'm fairly certain Francis Frith, or an employee of Francis Frith & Company, would also have taken images of the grand, towered facade. Here's image number 12 in Frith's Cameo Series of the Wye. (both below)

Raglan was a wonderful experience, the amount of remaining detail made clear the high style of living offered by the castle. Ornate fireplaces, huge windows, a kitchen Hilton (the Hotels) would envy, and generous courtyards completed the mental image of a prosperous mediaeval kingdom. This site is managed by Wales Heritage, which like English Heritage works to promote Welsh history through its advocacy. I was very impressed by the ruin, especially the moat.

Last on the day's agenda was Llanthony Priory, now a hotel, farm, and site for pony trekking and hiking in the Black Mountains (a part of Brecon Beacons National Park.) Gilpin added this site to his second edition, although (to me) it is unclear if he actually made this trip. His second edition included another journal, from another traveler, but the text uses the first person style and is confusing if one reads the first edition. Such is the nature of many a tourist's journal. I'm afraid this venture may suffer a similar fate. Traveling all day and writing and photo-editing all night leaves a little to be desired, but I'm not complaining. The days are wonderful, but exhausting. The evenings are relaxed (too relaxed sometimes after a big meal) and I try to recapture some of the feelings and thoughts I had during the day. The photographs are an excellent source of that inspiration. Coffee helps too.

Nonetheless, Llanthony Priory and Valley are breathtaking places. We got a bit lost and most frustrated by not being at our destination as the light began to creep up the mountainsides; at one point I simply stopped the car and pointed my cameras out of the window and took this shot.

There were so many more, and so much better. Evening was coming on fast as we arrived at the Llanthony Priory Hotel parking lot. Walkers and their dogs were returning, couples arriving for dinner, as we scurried about trying to squeeze in a few shots with the tiny bit of light remaining. I would very much like to return, possibly on foot or maybe even on a horse.

I don't know why I think sheep are so adorable.

Check out the Day Seven gallery.


Aubrey said...

So you have a penchant for photographing sheep. Are sheep considered "picturesque"? Or is it really only in the eye of the beholder? I would believe that many people today would find the English landscape, with sheep, to be extremely picturesque. I know you're doing a kind of then-now project, but would the sheep now be part of the definition today?

I'm really enjoying your trip on this end as it's a nice way to begin my day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 9:17:04 PM  
photochick72 said...

I can't believe you actually met someone who knew about the disapperance, gave you some info. and showed you a book, those are some really good odds there, maybe you should by a lotto ticket.

I too was amazed by the condition Raglan is in now, very much of the structure seems to be intact which would give the viewer much to imagine as you described.

I love that image of the sheep hiding out under the stones. I agree, they are very adorable.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 11:30:51 PM  
Darryl B. said...

According to Gilpin's hierarchy of (animal) things Picturesque, sheep were at the top, then cows, then horses. Two sheep aren't as good as three "...two sheep cannot clump." He mentions "sheep clinging to the river sides" on the section of river below Monmouth (which has to be near Redbrook, our B&B's location) and I can attest they are still there, clinging and munching grass.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 4:29:39 AM  
John Pfahl said...

Yeah, I used to feel that way about acoustiguides, too -
until I took the one at Tintern Abbey. It was so beautifully done, it actually brought tears to my eyes when the monks started to sing while filing into the nave. Don't miss it. The English are brilliant at this medium - combining information and atmosphere.

Hey, the more sheep the better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 1:41:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home