an English abbey in ruins

2016 Great Britain

Investigating a Murder at Montgomery Castle

16 February 2016 | Mri Grout

After waking up to an aching body, but a stubborn mind I directed Rob to the next castle I wanted to visit – er research – despite it requiring a 5.5 mile walk to get to.

It wasn’t until we were already half way there (in a two hour drive...) that he managed to convince me that it was in fact, a stupid idea – given I could barely stand up as it was. Not one to let a simple thing like that stop me, I detoured him to another castle that was closer to a carpark and used him as a crutch as I hobbled up the hill.

the ruins of Montgomery Castle, WalesMontgomery Castle isn’t a very big caslte, especially not when compared to Conwy Castle that we had visited two days ago, but it was full of character with history seeping through its pores. We could easily imagine going through the massive walls that had been erected centuries ago as we crossed the drawbridge that was still intact (though obviously updated). We could easily feel the mounting tension between the English and Welsh as we took in the ruins here today and sympathise with the 9 year old Henry III when he was made king of a country at war with its neighbour across the river. He signed a peace treaty fairly soon into reign, but even that didn’t stop the Welsh’s anger and so he was forced to build reinforcements.

Though given the current state of the castle, they didn’t seem to do any good.

But the most interesting part of these ruins was the marking of the exact spot an accidental death or covered up murder took place.

the ruins of Montgomery Castle, WalesThe year was 1288 when Maud Vras approached the castle gates to collect her saucepan that the assistant constable, William of St. Albans, had borrowed some time prior. But though she had made it past the drawbridge and through the castle’s grounds, her path fatefully ended right outside its gates. Will said it was entirely accidental when his cloak knocked a deadly rock off the window and onto her head. Maud’s daughter, however, claimed it was murder. So which one was telling the truth?

But though we never found out the answer and were left to our own thoughts and theories, Montgomery Castle was the perfect ending to our Welsh adventure. This particular one anyway for there is no doubt in my mind that we will be back to travel Wales again some time. After all, I have yet to see every free thing it has to offer. (:


Mountaineering Glyder Fawr

15 February 2016 | Mri Grout

the Victorian district of LladudnoAfter having hidden the remaining soaps, teas, coffees, little vials of milk, sugar packets, and jams into the top of my bag and eating enough of the free breakfast where I wouldn’t need a lunch (or at least, one not at the same time as normal), I followed Rob out of the hostel we had stayed in last night. As he ran ahead and hid any parking tickets we might have gotten (for I would have made him pay them – though so far our luck has genuinely held), I took in the beautiful architecture of the Victorian buildings of Llandudno, Wales.

After a quick chat in the car, we decided against hiking Snowdon after all and instead opted for a mountain somewhere around Glyder Fach. But though Rob had agreed, that didn’t stop him from asking, “Are you sure?” the entire way there. And of course, being the stubborn woman that I am and having already fallen in love with the pictures from the top, I always answered, “Of course I’m sure.”

That is, until we reached its intimidating bottom. Then it was more of a mumbled, “Sure...” But alas, we had gone too far to turn back now and so we climbed out of the car, geared up for an overnight stay, and followed the stream uphill.

A few asthma attacks later and Rob kindly forced me to take yet another stop...right before asking if I wanted to continue up the actual mountain part of our hike. Feeling shattered, but determined to see those awesome rock structures I had seen in the photos, I easily agreed.

Besides, it already looked like this:

Hiking up Glyder Fawr

So what was it going to look like higher up?

But as we progressed past the snowline, the hike got immediately harder (who would have guessed and not just due to walking in snow without crampons. The rock changed from being relatively smooth to being full of dips and holes as spikes poked out of the snow at every angle. The breathtaking beauty of it didn’t help either as I was too distracted looking around at everything to watch where I was going very carefully (gotta love travelling problems like these). Luckily, however, I only slipped a few times and nothing serious.

Along the way, we started talking to some other hikers in full gear to make sure it was still safe to proceed. Our was clear enough if we treaded carefully and after thanking them for the advice, we left them to put on their crampons and treaded carefully. Or at least, we thought we did until we came to an undesirable pass with the actual path right below us...

So our current route made for a difficult attempt for us to tread carefully, but luckily it was only difficult and not impossible, because once we finally got to the snow-covered top we found the beautiful rocks I came all this way up here to see...well, similar ones anyway. The rocks I saw in the photos were on the adjacent mountain and its path required gear we did not have.

Views of Glyder Fawr Awesome rock spikes on top of Glyder Fawr Awesome rock spikes on top of Glyder Fawr
Awesome rock spikes on top of Glyder Fawr

We took our time heading back down the mountain as we took in the other sites and stopped to watch the airforce jets blazing through the pass. We had a few chats and backward scrambles when we got lost, but eventually we made it to the lake Rob had decided that we should camp at and crawled into bed.

And though I would love to say that our fantastic hike up Glyder Fach ended on that peaceful note, sadly it did not because the wind picked up and our tent was in no way sheltered. Long story short we were forced to walk back the last few kilometres to the car at 2 o’clock in the bloody morning. I drifted off in an uncomfortable position in the very small, slanted trunk of the car while Rob slept in my bivy bag outside.

'Researching' at Conwy Castle

14 February 2016 | Mri Grout

I recently decided that I wanted to become a novelist (again) and when I get an idea in my head, I'm quite stubborn about it until I finally realize the truth of it – which unfortunately for our budget, was not quiteyet. But despite not having any money coming in to raise our savings, I still managed to convince Rob that doing a few days trip to Wales was a good idea – for research you know? He wasn't very enthusiastic or supportive about the research part DESPITE me writing every day for the last month (20,000 words now!), but it was a new adventure in a new place that wasn't raining and so he was willing.

Our first stop was at Conwy Castle – a 13th century building that both his mother and grandmother recommended. The entry cost was about £13.00* for the both of us – aka: £13.00 more than I normally pay for such attractions, but as soon as I stepped through its gates I no longer cared. After a quick scan around, we made our way to one of the towers. Rob because that was the 'logical' way of seeing it – top to bottom and down one side, then up the next. I because it was a freaking tower!

spiral staircase at Conwy Castleold fireplaces and tower of Conwy Castle

The only way I wouldn't have gone up here first was if they had a torture chamber.

Unfortunately, though, all of the floors had been taken out of this first bit, but we could still see where each one would have been given the grooves circulating the wall. But the things that really captivated me the most were the giant fireplaces with their beautiful columns and stark declaration of a time previous, but not lost.

The magick of the place only increased the further up we climbed its steps. When I emerged onto its roof, surrounded by the merlongs that would offer protection during a siege, I could start to hear the rushing cries of war. When I stepped between them and peered out with the fresh wind in my face, I travelled back to a time of noblemen and ladies. I wonder, did they see their home and castle with as much appreciation and awe as visitors do today?

Conwy CastlePainted glass in the altar room of Conwy Castle
pigeons at Conwy Castle

Excitedly we made our way across the wall's edge and spiralled down another tower. We backtracked quite a few times as we got lost in the maze of continued hallways and dead-end ancient toilets, until weended up in the gorgeously designed prayer room. It had three tall windows of painted glass that you could stare at for ages, beautifully carved arches and columns, and what appeared to be...a room for a peeping tom.

Obviously that's not what it was for, but that's the overall vibe you get when you see it. Or maybe it was just us two? If anyone else has visited Conwy Castle and spied upon (or through :P) this room, we would love to hear your opinions about it in the comments. For those that haven't yet travelled here, I shall not ruin the surprise. (:

After we walked every inch of this castle's grounds and wondered about the making of its dungeon (or more specifically how they ever cleaned it), we headed out for a much needed pre-relaxation at a hostel I had booked for the night for tomorrow we would attempt Snowden – the highest mountain in Wales. Dun dun DUNNNNN!

Paragliding at Souther Fell

12 February 2016 | Mri Grout

Rob's dad paragliding at Souther FellDue to my wing still not yet being fully repaired (I did say we had gotten lazy) and my shaken confidence to fly, I had yet to take to the air since my first tree landing a little over two months ago. However, I'm not one to let my fears control me and so once the skies cleared, I was finally keen (after a fair bit of hard nudging from my lovely, but stubborn as hell partner) to go up Catbells in a tandem. I had agreed for the sole reason that the hike to the top would be fairly short.

But of course, when it was time to head out, the wind changed just enough to call for a much further walk up Souther Fell. Committed now (or rather, stuck in the car now), there wasn't any point complaining. Besides, Rob was right: I needed to get out of the house more. Also, with any luck this flight would clear my head, like they always used to, and I'd get over my writer's block for the novel. Win, win, right?

And though a big part of me wants to say 'wrong' here (cuz who doesn't like the satisfaction of being right?), I have to admit, the flight was most enjoyable.

Well, other than the freezing temperatures and really wet, muddy ground. But even those in all honesty, were okay because:

  1. I wasn't flying so I could sit on my hands to warm them. :D
  2. Unlike every other time I've flown, I didn't end up falling on my face as soon as I landed. My landing approach is okay, but due to medical problems, my legs collapse out from underneath me as soon as they get any weight back on them. Rob and his dad find this hilarious. Me, not so much. lols.
But at the end of the day, I wasn't completely lazy, had taken that first step to recovery (more so of laziness to fix the wing than fear of flying it), and had managed to write out another chapter of my novel. (: So jeah, it definitely was a win, win. (: PS: I did take a lot more photos, but I accidentally deleted them all...Luckily Rob sent the above one to his dad before I did that or I'd have none at all for this post! *gasp!*

Hiking Bleaberry Tarn

9 February 2016 | Mri Grout

Despite being un-busy for about two weeks now, Rob and I haven't really done any travelling other than the two short visits to Egremont Castle and Ravenglass' Roman Bath house (see previous blog entries). I'd like to say it's because we've been practising being 'real' (ie: responsible, future planning) adults, but that hasn't been the case at all. I mean, I have been taking this time to actually get back into writing (thirty-five pages now!) and we have been looking at flipping a house in Ireland, which means lots of research and stuff, but like...oh who am I kidding. We have been way too lazy and way too pampered by the sunlight to want to go out even in the slightest drizzle.

But now that the forecast is predicting at least four hours of no rain...well, there went our feeble excuse to stay indoors. And so out we went, or rather, out Rob dragged me as I complained about really not wanting to go because I had a book to procrastinate over - er, I mean write.

Hiking through the woods below Bleaberry TarnWe eventually decided to go on the same walk we had decided on a few days ago, but then refused to do because of the torrential rain that opened up on our arrival. Fortunately however, or unfortunately given my state of mind at the time, it wasn't raining by the time we got out of the car and so we made our way to the lake.

We crossed a bridge over a pretty cascade and hiked up the steep steps of a forest - though in reality, it wasn't actually that steep. Well, scratch that. It was like walking up a flight of degenerating stairs the entire way to the top, but my body didn't seem to register it at all. The same body, mind you, that struggled to get up Dodd a mere three years ago! And the very same body that needed every effort to get out of bed in the summer months due to the pain and vertigo such an action compelled!

Don't want to brag or anything, but I am like, kicking my condition's butt! Like, seriously kicking its ass to the moon and back. :D Though that's not to say I always manage to dodge its solid punch to the stomach.

I might not have felt the physical/asthmatic strain hiking up this mountain, but the chronic pain was still there (as always) and required constant stopping. And the removal of my nice, fluffy, warm jacket.

In high, freezing cold winds.

Freezing.

Cold.

Winds.

Because if my stupid back burnt up, then Rob would have had to carry me down the mountain and I wouldn't have gotten to enjoy such amazing views like this:

The colorful hills seen from Bleaberry TarnHow can this view NOT be worth the mind-numbing pain and vertigo? I mean, just look at the way the light played over the mountains as it peeked through the clouds in a constant game of peek-a-boo. And you can't see any in this photo, but there was the occasional dyed sheep that just made the place all that more magical. (By the way, only the male sheep are dyed and so when they mount a female, they literally mark it so the farmers can know who's the likely father.) And then....ooooooh, and then we reached the top.

And my breath left me on the same wind that stole the last feeling in my arms because, well...

Just

Look

At

These.

Views of Bleaberry Tarn in the winter Views of Bleaberry Tarn in the winter Views of Bleaberry Tarn in the winter

Unfortunately, however, due to the snow (not being able to sit down anywhere) and cold, we didn't stay up there nearly as long as I would have liked. Also there was the inching reality that if we stayed up there much more longer, Rob would have had to carry me down the very steep mountain. But whatever, I still count this hike as a win as I didn't collapse until we made it back to the house. :D

Booyah. Eat that Chronic Pain Syndrome/stupid brain giving off the wrong chemicals/asthma that I refuse to admit I have/whatever else the doctors said that I wasn't listening too...

Discovering Ravenglass' Roman Bath House

7 February 2016 | Mri Grout

After having visited Egremont Castle (see previous blog entry), Rob and I decided to continue our mini- roadtrip a bit further down south. A few minutes later, we arrived in Ravenglass - a town that is known to be at least as old as the 2nd century! - and parked the car after a bit of a mix-up on my part. Turns out, even with glasses, I can't read correctly and had us drive around town before finally realizing the sign at the start of the trail didn't say 'no parking' but 'private entry (past this gate...).' Whoops.

On the plus side, we found toilets with hot water?

Anyway, Ravenglass' ancient history is clearly visible via the current ruins of the Roman Bathhouse (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/ravenglass-roman-bath-house/), or Walls Castle as the locals know it. Built in AD 130, this building was part of a larger fort used to guard the town's port. This was undoubtedly a very useful and important position to hold as Ravenglass was the most southerly port of the Cumbrian naval defence system and thus the regional supply point for the north-west Roman occupation.

Ravenglass' roman bath house

Despite the barracks holding over 500 soldiers (men that historians believe were recruited from the fleet during Hadrian's time), the bathhouse wasn't built solely for their enjoyment. Rather, it was constructed right outside of it on its north-east corner so that the civilians could enjoy its hot baths as well. And yes, you read that right: the Romans knew how to create underfloor heating via a system known as a hypocaust.

Not only was this technique used to warm houses during the winter, but it was also wisely used to heat baths. There is evidence (digging and reburying) of this under at least two rooms of here. In addition to these, this place kept to the Roman tradition by containing a cold plunge room, in which one could dip in invigorating waters at the end of a relaxing cycle of hot rooms and baths.

After the Romans abandoned the barracks, evidence suggest that it was then used as a personal base for a local warlord at the end of the fourth century (evidence from its reconstruction after a fire during this time) and then later as a private home during the Middle Ages - which is why the ruins are in such good upkeep, well, relatively.

A final interesting fact: flush toilets and hot water was invented back in 1700 B.C. at the Minoan Palace of Knossos on the isle of Crete. Unfortunately, however, with the departure of the Romans this technology was lost to the English for thousands of years. It wasn't until the 16th century that Sir John Harington would 'reinvent' the flushing toilet. Two hundred years later and the 'modern day toilet' would be patented. Out of all the 'crimes' religion, stubborn beliefs, and patriotism have committed, letting our ancestors unnecessary go without hot water or flushing toilets for centuries tops the list in my opinion. lols.

Exploring Egremont Castle

7 February 2016 | Mri Grout

After two weeks of rain, strong winds, and a great deal of laziness, Rob and I finally got blessed with a day of light drizzle. Knowing these days came few and far in-between at this time of year and that there was a good chance it would change back into a downpour at any moment, I quickly hopped online and surfed around for something to do.

An half hour later and we were parking the car at Egremont Castle. It was thankfully still not raining - unlike the last time we tried to go somewhere - and so we got the dog out too. He was an inside pet and a fussy one at that, so any time it rained he refused to go outside unless you dragged him - which at this time of year meant he didn't like going out much.

But it wasn't raining now so he was quite keen as he followed us around the castle

front of Egremont CastleI found the place to be absolutely magical even though it was smack dab in the middle of a town and surrounded by shops and houses. Rob, unsurprisingly, found it to be quite small and 'not a very good one,' but given he's an Englishmen (ie: a person who has grown uparound castles and so just sees them as yet another object in the background), any opinion he has on the matter is automatically invalid. Lols; joking-ish.

But despite not being very impressed with this ruin, Rob walked around with me nonetheless and when we got to the gate house, he was full of wonderful information. Even though I already knew that castle men poured burning oil onto their attackers and that the windows were narrow to make it harder for arrows to fly through, I was ignorant about the actual architecture of the place. Fortunately, however, Rob's got this very amazing knack of being able to look at something and just know how it works - or in this case, should have worked.

ruins of Egremont CastleThe castle would have had two solid doors and because some grove thing was missing, they would have been placed on hinges. The front entranceway was wider than than the one immediately behind it, thus forcing the enemy to fight in smaller numbers. Above these two doorways there would have been a second floor with holes in it in which to pour burning oil through when the time came and I'm assuming the time did come if the information boards were anything to go by.

Built sometime in the early 12th century by William le Meschin (though some stones in the gatehouse may prove he just extended ruins already there), the castle only lasted a mere 200 years before it was sacked twice by Robert Bruce.

It then went on to be repaired by the Fitzwalter family, but their work was also short lived. It ended up playing a strong role in the Rising of the North in 1569, but uUnfortunately it was used by the defeating side as they tried to put Mary, Queen of Scots, on the English throne. So when she was eventually beheaded and her rebellion squashed, Egremont Castle was officially sacked by the English forces and left in ruins.

However, one room was still left standing and it was used as a courthouse up until 1786 - though which room that was I have no idea. The only things left standing now is a crumbling wall of arches that made up part of the great wall, the surrounding wall of the castle, and a few outlines of what I can only assume used to be buildings.

ruins of Egremont Castle

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Time Traveled: 4 years
Current Country: England

About Mri Grout

feeding giraffes at Orana Wildlife Park in ChristchurchI got fed up with the 'real world' after having my couch cushions stolen by my drug-dealing roommate's client after his actions already lead to the trashing of our shared appartment by the local gang. So after finally understanding the whole: 'you've got one life and you can die at any moment' thing, I packed my bags, dropped out of school, quit my job, and left to hang out with the homeless people of Australia.

About Rob Grout

feeding giraffes at Orana Wildlife Park in ChristchurchDespite having a comfortable life with an easy job and a cheap house to live in because he lived with my mum and gran, he left all of that behind for this crazy Asian woman that kept popping up at the house every few months, then weeks, then days, and then every minute. He'd never really been out of England at this point except for the occasional family holiday and then all of a sudden, with very little planning, he's living in a van half way around the world.

He's not much of a writer so I, Mri Grout, wrote this for him.