Having lived only 13 odd miles from Dover virtually all my life, I have spent many happy days rampaging around the magnificent Dover Castle both as a child and an adult. In fact, my mother was born and brought up in Dover in a house with a clear view up the huge hill to the ramparts, and she tells me that she always thought of it as being “her” castle. This attitude has in part passed on to me, and to my children too, as we continue to make frequent visits to one of the most popular English Heritage properties in the whole country. Whether it’s for the spectacular sight of medieval knights battling each other on horseback and Romans showcasing their military skills, or just having a run around the windy grounds, before running as carefully as you can up the stairs of the Great Tower to rush out onto the roof for that breathtaking view, our family think of the castle as part and parcel of our regular life.
In recent times we’ve been to see ghostly tour guides telling spooky stories and had Christmas craft sessions for the kids, but a couple of weeks ago we simply went to see what we might have missed before. There is simply so much to take in in just one visit that it seems only logical that we concentrate on one thing at a time; one visit we might head to the wartime tunnels, or spend our day in the military museum. On another occasion we could wander around on foot, or if we’re feeling lazy take in the views from the land train. But this trip was about seeing things that I had either forgotten from my childhood about or had never taken the time to see before.
Outside the ticket office, I noticed for the first time a small collection of numbers engraved into the paving stones – whether these are from the Second World War or earlier I have no clue, but I’m guessing they must relate to something military. From this point you also get a wonderful viewpoint of the army buildings which are located on the level of the middle carpark. Setting up a striking skyline against a stormy winter sky, these Victorian buildings look almost as imposing as the castle itself, whilst also giving me a comforting sense of familiarity as I know that my grandfather worked there during the war.
We also headed over to the Saxon church behind the castle, and to the Roman lighthouse, which is essentially just a massive wind tunnel now that it is so dilapidated, but these two buildings (which I suspect are not the star exhibits of many people’s visits) show precisely what an important site Dover is – one that has been advanced and changed by many different military and social forces over the preceding 1000 years. The view from the castle at this point is much less dramatic than the usual publicity shots, and to my mind shows it as the home it has been to thousands of people, rather than just as the imposing, strategically placed fortress everyone sees it as.
Lastly, a quick visit inside the Keep for a wind-blown visit to the roof, and what caught my eye in the corridors leading off the Great Hall? Historic graffiti, scratched into the stone, featuring the initials of lovelorn visitors in a wonky shaped heart that more resembles an apple. All these details, but especially the last one, serve to remind me that no matter how many times I visit a place, if I keep my wits about me and my eyes peeled, there will always be hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Many thanks to this week's Guest Blogger: Charlotte Cambridge, of Lotte Jamieson Crafts!
Charlotte Cambridge is a freelance writer and editor who lives and works in Ashford, with her family. She writes for a variety of local independent businesses, some big, some small, and some very tiny indeed, and helps them out with marketing on the side too. She also runs her own (very tiny) company Lotte Jamieson Crafts, where she makes hand sewn and knitted creations inspired by all kinds of things from Mad March Hares to Scandinavian elves. Selling her items online and in a local fabric and craft shop, Charlotte also takes the time to teach beginners how to knit. In her rare moments of spare time, she likes to sew for herself and her children, and record her progress on the sewing machine with her own blog, where she can bring together her passion for craft and writing in one neat little package.