Friday, August 27, 2010

More Conwy

Telfords Bridge, and Edward Ist's Conwy Castle kept us busy for most of the day

[Kyle] We repo’d Footprint in the wee hours without incident. We floated off of the mud with a gurgle that sounded like a really hungry stomach growling. The engine started fine and the exhaust water showed no hint of mud. We got to our new dock with no steering or transmission problems. We later went to our old dock. There were still two teardrop shaped holes where our rudders were.

Much calmer than we were the night before, we went up to speak to the manager the next morning. He was very good. He said he understood our concern, took responsibility on the marinas behalf and offered to haul us out for a quick look at his expense. We declined because we didn’t think it as that serious and we didn’t want to spend all day doing that. He told us the next time we hauled out, to keep in touch and if we had any issues with the rudders, he’d make things right, then he refunded us the cost of our stay. We left feeling pretty satisfied (and a little surprised at their good nature); All is well with the world again.

We left for Conwy, that is. This time, having done most of the other stuff, we headed straight to the castle.

Conwy Castle is the best preserved medieval castle in Europe. This is because most other castles have had post-medieval additions and modifications that make them hard to pinpoint temporally. Conwy was completed entirely in the 13th Century and apart from replacing the roof on the main hall in the 14th Century, has been unaltered since. This was because, for the most part, it was never used as a residence and “redecorated”, nor was there any re-modelling over subsequent centuries. During his entire reign, Edward I stayed in the castle for a cumulative total of five months. Mostly it was occupied by 30 soldiers and 25 staff just in case he showed up and as a symbol to impress the Welsh with English power and superiority.

The place is impressive. The entire town, which was only occupied by English settlers, is visible and defensible from the castle’s turrets and the town walls. The castle itself is a monument not only to Edward I, but to extremely paranoid thinking. A castle is essentially layers upon layers of defenses. Starting at the unscaleable outer walls, the castle is designed as a series of well-defended fallback positions in the event of a breach. The King resides way in the back behind all of it where, if necessary, he can escape via the back way to the river. England had a Navy. Wales did not. All of the defenses ended up being unnecessary in this case because nobody even dared trying to invade.

We learned all of this and more form our tour guide, Neil, who is head of the Deganwy Historical Society (Deganwy is across the river from Conwy). For an extra £1.50, he took us around and told us way more than we ever knew about castles and the history of the time. He was really knowledgeable and interesting. It was the best £1.50 we could have spent. He made the whole place come alive.

Having crawled all over every stone in the castle, we went down to the adjoining suspension bridge, Built by Thomas Telford in 1829, and payed our toll to walk across, a little more than the 1d it cost originally. Pretty cool. The bridge was followed 20 years later by the railroad bridge, then in 1959 by the highway bridge. So when it was built, it was the only way across Conwy river.

After that, we had a nice meal in a pub to save both of us cooking and dishes, and then returned to Footprint for an early night. Our planned departure the next morning is at 3 o’clock.


Mommy Dearest said...

I have a good feel for how many spiral staircase steps you had to climb to get these wonderful photos. No thanks. They give me the creeps, but I'm grateful to you for not being scared of stairs so I can see photos of places just like this! So glad to hear you got Footprint out of the mud without all those scary things you feared.

Karen said...

Yes, good news about the problem-free results of your muddy berth. The Conwy gods must have been on your side. And that castle is incredible – what a structure! Did your guide happen to mention how long it took to build? In addition to being the best preserved medieval castle, it also looks like the largest you’ve visited judging from the other pictures you posted. Hopefully your beautiful surroundings will overshadow the unpleasant experience at the marina. Happy sails!