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Excellent Adventure

by on July 3, 2012

From Alex:

Today we went to Hever Castle. Hever sounds like “heifer” which is a female cow so I thought it would be like the Cow Palace (which I learned about on the way to a Giants game a month or two ago with my class). Hever Castle turned out to be an actual castle rather than a rodeo stadium… complete with 2 moats, 1 castle, many guest houses, and 1 maze that if you step on the wrong platform it sprays water at you.  This is a private property that used to be owned by King Henry the 8th (who had 6 wives). Our tour included a look at old weapons, a zip-line (for children), 3 statues that look like the Goblet of Fire, 1 statue that looks like the Tri-wizard’s cup, 1 water maze (see above), 1 maze that reminded me of the maze on the Quidditch field in book 4, 2 stores, and a flower garden. Weather forecast: mist with clouds, cold.

From David:

This was probably Renee’s and my favorite day of the trip so far…. just chock full of “good surprises” that appealed to all of us.  Alex’s post covers it, but it needs more.  Renee’s been reading about Henry VIII and all the wives, and we braved the rain and did a day trip about an hour outside London to this country house from the 1400s where Anne Boleyn grew up and lived before marrying Henry.  Let’s just let the pictures tell the story:

Lovely walk in the rain through the hedgerows on the country road (yes, this is what the English call a “road”) from the train station to the castle


Past a very old house with actual thatched roof


Lunch (bangers and mash, and fish and chips of course) at the Henry VIII pub which dates back to the 1500s


Past the ancient church where Anne Boleyn’s father (Thomas Bullen, also grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I) is buried


Past baby swans (the grey one still an Ugly Duckling)


To the first view of the castle itself, set in just an amazingly beautiful valley


Across the real moat on a real drawbridge and under the working portcullis (look it up)


To the interior courtyard that is truly “Tudor” architecture in every way… hand-hewn timbers, leaded glass windows, etc


Where we met Anne Boleyn!   (Unfortunate timing on the picture as Renee was coughing, but it’s all we have)


The interior was just incredible.  It’s much more human-scale than the over-the-top palaces we’ve seen so far… this was an actual house where generations of barons lived and defended themselves against usurpers.  There are wall-sized  tapestries from the 1500s that showed Henry’s coronation, amazing wood carved walls and ceilings, secret hidden altars where the Catholics could pray (while publicly being Protestant to save their necks), Anne’s actual bible that she had with her in prison and wrote notes on, etc.

Photos of the interior were not allowed, but since there were no armed guards… here’s Renee with the 6 queens


Then outside to wander the 600-acre grounds.  The set designers from the Harry Potter movies, especially Goblet of Fire, must have spent some time here…

The long narrow pathway between hedges with the prize trophy at the end (although these hedges didn’t reach out and grab you):


A “yew maze” made from yew trees that you run around getting badly lost until you find the trophy in the middle:


A huge sculpture garden including the Tri-Wizard Cup


And then some fun things, including the “you’ll get wet if you step on the wrong stone” water maze:


And to end it all, tea and crumpets on the patio. Just to show that Anna isn’t the only one eating chocolate on this trip, here’s Alex:


Interesting story:  the place became rundown in the 1800s, but John Jacob Astor bought it in 1900 and spent years bringing it back to its original state plus adding all the grounds and gardens, and his family actually lived here until the 1980s.   Now it’s a conference center as well as open to tourists.

All in all, just a stunning step back in time, and an unexpected off-the-beaten path excursion that we want to yell “you should do this!” to everyone who visits England.

Hope you enjoyed the virtual tour.

PS:  major discussion of the day was:  how is it that it’s not OK to divorce your wife and/or just kill her, but it’s somehow OK to lie and say she’s a witch and then have her killed so you can marry her handmaiden?  And do laws apply to kings, and why were kings such bad people?


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One Comment
  1. Aunt Ginny permalink

    Catching up on all the posts. Alex wrote a lovely summary. The rain coats are sure coming in handy. Love that you dared to take a photo inside – the punishment is “off with your head” by the way!!! Keep smiling Anna and Alex keep eating chocolate and have som for me too!

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