In the summer of 2011, I walked from Land's End to John O'Groats (well, almost), enduring the worst weather Britain could throw at me. That journey is reported in "My 1200 Mile Summer." In the summer of 2012 I am facing an even greater challenge: I will drive the length of Britain, zooming down Britain's narrow hedgerow-lined lanes and navigating its infamous roundabouts -- with my wife sitting next to me! Follow along to see if we are still speaking to each other at the end of each day.
Adventure starts mid-July, 2012
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 – Much Wenlock to Thorpe
The day dawned with heavy cloud cover and light rain.Today’s destination was Thorpe, in Dovedale, but there was no hurry because at least one of us wouldn’t be walking in the rain.With no need to arrive at Thorpe early, we detoured to Kenilworth to visit its famous castle.
From its origins in the 12th century under the reign of King Henry I, Kenilworth Castle has undergone a number of additions and architectural changes, and over the ensuing five centuries became a center of political intrigue and scandal.In 1210, King John greatly reinforced the castle by flooding the surrounding lands and turning the castle into an island.So reinforced, it withstood a six-month siege in 1266 by the troops of Henry III as he suppressed an uprising of rebellious barons housed in the castle, until they were ultimately starved out. Although the rebels lost some weight during the siege, it was nothing compared to their weight loss when the King had them beheaded.
Private Garden Made for a Queen
Three centuries later, Robert Dudley took possession of the castle and spent buckets of money remodeling it, all to impress Queen Elizabeth I, whom he apparently sought to marry.Although he was much older than the Queen, he was still “a favorite” of hers.Unfortunately the Queen was deterred from marrying him, partly because he was a commoner, and partly because he was already married – at least until his wife was one day found dead with a broken neck at the bottom of a staircase.Nobody charged the wealthy Dudley with a crime, of course.Still, there were enough doubts about the cause of death that any thoughts the Queen may have had of marriage were set aside by the scandal.
Henry V is said to have received a gift of tennis balls from the French King at Kenilworth Castle – an event recounted by Shakespeare.The gift so insulted Henry that he declared war on the French.Perhaps the balls were the wrong color.
Having heard more history of Kenilworth Castle than I can keep straight or than you care to have me relate, Janet and I returned to our car and drove to Thorpe, where we were staying at the Peveril of the Peak Hotel.You may remember the Peveril from last year as the very upscale (and expensive) property frequented by the well-heeled beautiful people.
Dirty Floor Grout
This year, things were a little different.The room rates were reduced dramatically – as was the quality.We found mold around the bathtub, dirty grout between the floor tiles, a missing handle cover on the water faucet.From the prix fixe menu, I ordered lamb shank, which was dry and over-cooked; the pan-fried vegetables were mushy and unpalatable, as if they had been left in a steamer too long.Four large tables were occupied by several dozen clients of a large walking-tour company, but Janet and I were the only independent diners.I was saddened to see what had become of a very lovely hotel in such a short time.
Later in the evening, I called my good friend King Arthur to relate my disappointment.“Yes, ‘tis a pity,” said the King, “all a result of an errant staff.It seems that last year, an inattentive staff allowed a man to enter the dining room without shoes.Imagine that – dining in his stocking feet!!Well, decorum was maintained at the time, but word soon spread that mere commoners were taking over the Peveril, and society’s elite just stopped coming.The hotel has recently been taken over by a walking and hiking company which brings its large groups into the hotel.They are trying to put things right, and may do so, as long as their clients wear shoes in the dining room.”
“Allowing a guest to dine in socks? Absolutely appalling,” I replied.“What could the staff have been thinking?”