Saturday, 9 May 2015

We see an 800 year old Magna Carta and buy some truly ancient fossils

Back into historic Lincoln today, again using the excellent Castle Shuttle
I don't think I've seen a half numbered house before! 
park and ride service, and our main destination was Lincoln Castle. Built by the Normans over the ruins of Roman fortifications, and added to later with other structures including an imposing Victorian prison. Lincoln Castle is pricier to get into than we would normally pay, but justifiably so. I spent a significant proportion of our visit with vertigo, firstly in the Victorian prison which was remarkably similar in interior appearance to the set for Porridge and had three floors with narrow gantries so I could see right down to the ground through the rails. Conditions were unsurprisingly terrible for the Victorian inmates with prisoners often dying of disease before their trials and sentences were carried out. The prison chapel was bizarrely arranged. Female prisoners sat in a row at the front, then behind them male prisoners were each locked into an individual pen, completely closed off from everyone else and only able to see towards the chaplain in the pulpit at the front. The prison made good use of projected films and voice recordings to illustrate the unfortunate predicaments of many inmates.

Mary Ann Milner 
Another well made short film was showing prior to our viewing of the Magna Carta. Four original copies of the document, each distributed to a different town at the time of the charter, are still in existence. Lincoln's is under glass in a climate controlled environment inside another glass pillar, and inside a vault. I got a definite sense of occasion going to view it. And then a sense of 'is that it?' when stood peering down. The Magna Carta is in Latin and written in tiny handwriting on a fairly large sheet of sheepskin parchment. It is plain though. I suppose I was expecting colourful exaggerated capital letters and many decorative swirls and flourishes. Instead, there is a dense block of faded brown text. A privilege to view the artefact in its 800th year and interesting that the idea of Magna Carta worldwide is so much more significant than the item itself!

Out in copious fresh air again, we did the Medieval Wall Walk around the windy Castle battlements. Another high spot in both senses of the phrase! (Interestingly, one side of the castle overlooking terraces has low frosted glass plates between the battlements to prevent falling but allow visitors to look out. On the other side, overlooking posher housing, the frosted glass is considerably higher and voyeurism practically impossible!) We accepted an audio guide and there are lots of informative metal plaques around the walls too. Other circular plaques are set into the paved paths all round the castle giving brief details of people who once lived there - some nobles, others prisoners.

Nicola De La Haye 
The Prison cafe does a good flat white coffee in a large cup and serves locally handmade cakes - a far cry from the fare in Victorian times which was described in a large poster on the wall. Think gruel! I had a slice of a fantastic Beetroot and White Chocolate cake which led to a mini epiphany in my views on fruit and veg. I think we're pairing them wrongly! Fruit should be eaten with meat - Lamb and Apricot or Rhubarb, Pork and Pears, Poultry and Olives - and vegetables should be used in cakes - Carrot Cake, Courgette Cake, Beetroot Cake - all of which are generally wonderfully moist with a good flavour and, in the case of the Beetroot Cake, a pretty colour too. What do you think? Comment below!

We considered visiting the English Heritage's Medieval Bishop's Palace,
View back to Lincoln Cathedral from
passage to Bishop's Palace 
but could see over the ruined walls into the interior and there wasn't much there in comparison to the heavily restored the Castle. The Cathedral exterior held our attention for quite a while though. It is so over-the-top ornate and huge enough to have been a small town in its own right I think. I couldn't help but wonder how many poverty-stricken people had gone without while all the Church's money went into the construction of this edifice. Nowadays the front is smart and round the back is in need of a good clean - it's practically black in places! There's an interesting statue of Tennyson examining a plant that he has ripped up, 'root and all', inscribed with his poem of the event where he tries to understand god and man from the wilting flower.

Tennyson statue near Lincoln Cathedral 
Heading back to the bus stop, we were distracted by a butcher's window, Elite Meats, where they had nice looking stuffed mushrooms on display. We've got a couple for tonight. Another, Curtis of Lincoln, had tempting pies - I can personally recommend their Lincolnshire Pasty! - and we finally found ourselves in A Taste Of Baltic. This Lithuanian grocers reminded us of our very first holiday together, nearly twelve years ago, when Dave swept me away to Vilnius. If he'd known then what he was getting into ... !

I mentioned fossils in the title and I actually bought one yesterday from a
If I can find a backing clip, I might make an unusual brooch 
tiny treasure trove of a shop on Steep Hill called Lapid Art. We saw several fossils while walking near Alcossebre in Spain which piqued our interest. I choose a polished Ammonite Colignoceras which is 65-97 Million years old and was unearthed in Madagascar. The shop owner kindly included the pictured card so I wouldn't forget. I find it enough of a leap to have been looking at an 800 year old document, or standing on the spot of a 2000 year old Roman gateway. Then to be holding something that is potentially 97 million years is mind-blowing!

Tomorrow we move on from Skybarn Farm CL. If you're a Caravan Club member looking to visit Lincoln, this has been a perfect base for our visit. Well laid out and ideal for the Castle Shuttle or cycle paths into Lincoln. I'd happily use this campsite again and Lincoln is a wonderful city for a weekend - even on grey days!

Skybarn Farm CL campsite 
Skybarn Farm CL campsite 

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