A Trip into Medieval England

1066   What Fates Imposed by G. K. Holloway reminded me of a wonderful holiday I took with some great friends to the very place that gave Holloway his mesmerizing topic.

I am a an open and unashamed Anglophile. I admit it. I love the Queen. I love tea with milk (NOT cream). I love the Cotswolds. I’ve vacationed there so many times I can’t count. I’ve watched every single Endeavor and Morse series at least 3 times AND their spinoffs. I also adopt an English accent the minute the captain announces we are landing at Gatwick. Ta!

I also adore English History. I once bored to death (my husband can vouch for this) a quiet, unobtrusive English couple, minding their own business, staying at our B&B, eating breakfast the same time as us with a complete and accurate recitation of all the kings and queens of THEIR country…in the correct chronological order. Mind the Gap!

So it makes sense that I would have, at some point, visited the (holy!) site where the Battle of 1066 took place and the future of Britain was decided.

That particular year we were staying in Rye, a gorgeously quaint town in the southeast of Kent and made Hastings and Battle )the town) one of our day trips. Our foursome goes to England in off periods to avoid “the crowd” (of which we were definitely NOT a part – we’re not real tourists!) But while we absolutely avoided the crowds, we discovered, much to our chagrin, that the actual battlefield was closed! I was devastated and being a rule follower, I just shed a tear and slowly turned away. Our friend, however, was not to be deterred (he happens to be a priest ordained at the Vatican and defrocked for getting married in the 70s so you don’t tell him “no”) Tally Ho! Following his courageous lead, we all hopped over the turnstile and soldiered on. Everyone wore their Wellies of course because it was suitably wonderful English weather; the kind you go to England for! Overcast, misty and cold. (I’d have been disappointed if it had been sunny!)

We trucked down the path and everything became eerily quiet. Not a soul was around – remember, it was closed – and we all lost ourselves to imagining who fell where. It was so quiet you could here the yelling and screaming spirits of the Norman and English fighting. I am not kidding. Writing this 10 years later, I can feel bumps on my arms.

We kept walking down the hill. As you know, Harold had the advantage of being on top of the hill close to where the Battle Abbey ruins are today while William and his men had to fight up the hill. We reached the bottom of the hill surprised that it wasn’t as steep as we had imagined, although it was long. We stood quietly among a large stand of trees with a stream running through them. Was that stream there in 1066? The trees hid the hill from our view until we stepped out and looked up. The we saw the full panorama of what William and his men had to climb. It looked immensely daunting.

We trucked down the path and everything became eerily quiet. Not a soul was around – remember, it was closed – and we all lost ourselves to imagining who fell where. It was so quiet you could here the yelling and screaming spirits of the Norman and English fighting. I am not kidding. Writing this 10 years later, I can feel bumps on my arms.

We kept walking down the hill. As you know, Harold had the advantage of being on top of the hill close to where the Battle Abbey ruins are today while William and his men had to fight up the hill. We reached the bottom of the hill surprised that it wasn’t as steep as we had imagined, although it was long. We stood quietly among a large stand of trees with a stream running through them. Was that stream there in 1066? The trees hid the hill from our view until we stepped out and looked up. The we saw the full panorama of what William and his men had to climb. It looked immensely daunting.

We slowly walked up the hill, each of us again lost in our thoughts; stepping over dead bodies everywhere, hearing groans and yells as we accidentally tripped over wounded knights. It was a long, long walk.

We breathed an unadulterated sigh of relief once we made it to the top. Looking back we expected to see a very bloody battlefield. But as we turned, the historic English countryside drifted into view sweeping away history.

Then we couldn’t get out because…it was closed, and this was an entirely different location from the entrance., the priest’s wife My husband and I climbed over a treacherous cattle bog gaining scratches everywhere possible. But where was our priest-in-residence? God must have surely favored his soul. Five minutes later he ambles up having found an open gate about 50 feet away. With all of us together, we made a bee line to the nearest pub to compare thoughts and haunted feelings of our adventure.

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