19 January, 2007

Leeds Castle, oh and AA to the rescue

Leeds Castle #1
So, after Flyingpops opened her pressies, played with her balloons and ate her breakfast, we headed out in the rain and gusts (reports today are talking of 99mph!), making a (bad) judgement call that the weather was good enough to take Colin the camper instead of the Golf...
Leeds Castle #2
...the journey there wasn't easy, the winds were seriously strong, doing their best to blow vehicles out of lane, but we got there pretty fast, then stopped to make a quick cup of tea/coffee respectively (because we could), ventured into the shop to pay our entrance money and grab some duck food (50p a pot) and a guide book ("that's another 50p I'm afraid")...they also warned us not to venture into the woods, as the high winds might mean an early and most unpleasant death by falling timber, so forewarned and cautiously glancing to the heavens whenever we heard a threatening "KrrCCKreeeeeeeak!", we made our way through the road entrance...
Leeds Castle #4
We got a lift down the avenue from one of the many members of staff standing around idle (we were customers no.14 and no.15 for the day apparently, and we weren't exactly early) in his landrover train (being the only customers in it, which was quite nice, total choice of seats) -
Leeds Castle #37
Only a minute or two later (of "where's this castle then?"ing) gasped at the *most* impressive sight of the structure itself, as it appeared, hovering in the lake-esque moat to our left...
Leeds Castle #21
Leeds Castle #9
Leeds Castle #12
We walked all the way around the castle, the route invaders would have *least* likely taken (imho), but not personally being in posession of swords/shields/etc. following the "This way" signs seemed to be the best course of action. Entry was gained through the cellar, then working our way up through the various rooms (won't go on about all of them, just present a few shots to give you an idea what you can look forward to if you visit) -
Leeds Castle #14
Leeds Castle #15
Leeds Castle #17
Leeds Castle #19
Leeds Castle #20
...we found our way out the front door (through a little human shaped hole so they don't have to creak the whole thing open each time), and back past the long lake...wind and rain really starting to build...taking each shot was a matter of waiting for the wind to drop and the rain let up (for a second) and whipping the camera into position and shooting like a gunslinger in a Western, bit annoying...! Anyway, we found a bit of shelter in the courtyard...phew...
Leeds Castle #22
...and on to the dog collar collection (dog collars originated for stopping wolves and bears going for the vulnerable neck of the dog, not for decoration or identification, which I thought was quite interesting), then for a little lunch...Flyingpops had a "very tasty" tuna and sweetcorn jacket spud and a slightly alcoholic lemonade, I had a nice cup of Earl Grey (not very hungry, been gorging on Frazzles in Colin) -
Leeds Castle #27
Then walked around the lake, and into the maze...where we became hopelessly lost until we bumped into a wizened old man, who said "Are ye ready for some 'elp yet?", we laughed and said we were okay, but the worryingly serious look from his squinted, wrinkled eyes, and the "Are ye *sure* ye don't need any 'elp" that followed rather forced me into a nervous "Okay then", with a much less confident smile to go with it...Turns out we had been going completely the wrong way when we ran into him, so rather lucky we did... ;)
Leeds Castle #28
So, to the centre of the maze, which was a *little* underwhelming, until I spotted the sign over the top pointing to the "Grotto"...
Leeds Castle #31
A secret entrance beneath the centre, leading down through a tunnel, into a bell shaped chamber with crashing water and then out right by the maze entrance! Had been actually a little worried about finding my way back through the maze, not quite being able to encourage myself that reversing the instructions to get us to the centre would work...so that was a nice touch... ;)
Leeds Castle #33
Once we did get out I very quickly decided that it might have been better to stay underground, the wind was amazingly strong, nearly knocking me over a couple of times with breathtaking gusts (must have been getting near our quoted figures, above)...we had a quick look around the aviary (lots of very pretty birds, but my lense was a bit too big to take pics through the gaps in the cages, and I don't like that really, reminds me how caged they are)...
Leeds Castle #40
So we took our walk (not even bothering to wait for the land rover train) judging by the almost asleep people in the waiting room, watched some of the ducks and geese being fed (our feed had been thrown into the water after every single bird we tried to approach flew off), got back to the main shop (by the car park where we had left Colin), four or five people in official looking gear were talking worriedly into walkie talkies, when we got nearby a lady approached and enquired "What colour car have you got?"...as it turned out, a few trees had come down, one of which had made a bit of a mess of someone's pride and joy...and as it transpired pretty far from the only casualty of the weather...
Leeds Castle #39
Anyway, we popped into the shop and managed to break out Leeds castle bear, who is currently staying in the bedroom at home, very relieved, but not after a very difficult rescue mission...some sabotage had obviously taken place as as we pulled onto the M20, Flyingpops floored it and pulled into the middle lane to overtake a slow moving lorry and suddenly (she described afterwards hearing a small "bang") all power was lost, she just managed to coast it over the white line into the (officially) "worst place to break down on a motorway"...with signs telling you not to get out of your vehicle and cross the wall...
Leeds Castle #41
...wonderful...so, the AA called ("No, we can't exit the vehicle! There are signs!", we had an agonisingly scary wait as the wind lashed us from one side and the dirty truck vortex patterns bashed us from inches away the other side...luckily the AA put us at priority one, and the welcome sight of the rescue van appeared in front of us after only about ten (*very* long) minutes...
Leeds Castle #42
We got towed to safety (using a very short cord) a long way up to the next junction, and finally came to rest in a lonely layby, goodness knows where by a load of creaking and swaying dead trees and a gothic church and graveyard...nice...Seriously though, apart from that minor judgement call, this guy was good, he spent over 3 hours on our case, compare that to the RAC (who would have been gone by the time their threshold hits, which is 20 minutes), leaving you waiting goodness knows how long for a lift home on the back of a lorry, ready to face your local garage bill...he did some initial diagnostics, which lead him to think that the little step up box that comes from the coil was broken, so off he went to Gillingham (shudder), to try and source a new one...
Leeds Castle #43
We waited for hours, but at least we had (as I mentioned previously) hot tea, psp, books etc. in the camper to keep us comfortable while we waited for the AA man to return...which took rather a long time...and when he finally returned and swapped the part out (now by torchlight), it didn't fix the problem...anyway, to cut a long and complicated (lack of spark producing) story much shorter, he finally tracked it down to a rogue cable hidden in the loom (looked like a cable from a domestic plug) not only drawing 15 valuable volts from the ignition system, but also shorting it out, he unplugged it, put all our original parts back in and one turn of the key and VROOOM!
Leeds Castle #45
One scary drive home later (high winds causing things to swerve and lots of debris) we swapped to the Golf, and I drove us out for a birthday dinner at the new Gastro pub/farm shop, great disclaimer on the menu about not being able to promise your dinner is free of "shot, bone or feather"...I had a king prawn and chorizo spaghetti (which was much improved by a grind of black pepper, thoughtfully left on the table), but the notable dish of the night was Flyingpops' poached salmon fillet, which practically stopped her talking...amazing...! ;)
Leeds Castle #47
Happy Birthday...Done...*phew*...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Grief! What a day!