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April 9, 2007 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Today’s Adventure: Visit Pevensey Castle
Method of Transit: Walking
Amount of Peril: Stunning

England is littered with castles. I go to school in one. Every surrounding country has at least one. A cursory look at an English Heritage map will show well over 100 in the country; and those are just the ones that are publicly-owned heritage sites. You can’t throw a stone without hitting at least three. At yet, I’ve been to very few of them.

Of course, I’ve seen Herstmonceux Castle, since that’s where my classes are. And I’ve seen Edinburgh Castle as part of a field trip. I also managed to sit outside of Windsor Castle and completely fail to get on a tour, in an incident I’d rather not talk about. And that’s it for the year.

Clearly, this wasn’t going to stand, especially with so many options available to me. So today I woke up early, ate a hearty breakfast, and set out on foot to the (relatively) nearby town of Pevensey and it’s castle.

Now, one has to understand that there’s two ways to walk places in England. One is to take the main roads. The other is to take a series of treacherous footpaths through marsh and bog, the kind of journey in which you are liable to get soaked falling in a drainage ditch, lose your shoes in a mud-pit, be forced to walk through sheep feces, and generally get very lost and confused.

No one ever takes the main roads. There is a reason for this.

English roads are designed to kill.

I’m not exaggerating; I literally mean that English roads, through conscious design, are meant to ensure that any pedestrian foolish enough to walk it will be slaughtered by speeding vehicles.

They achieve this high level of peril through a few key design features. First, they eliminate the curb and sidewalk, making it so you have no choice but to walk on the road. In most countries people would simply walk on the grass, but this is prevented by a second design feature; every road is literally hedged in by stiff, unmovable shrubbery, preventing you from getting off the road no matter what. The final and cruelest feature is the roads themselves, constantly twisting like a snake in motion; thanks to the high hedges you can never see what’s coming at you from around a corner, and there’s a corner every five feet. Dozens of cars could be lurking around the next turn, just waiting to speed up and strike you down.

So, you can see why people take the footpaths.

Anyway, I set off in the morning, and it took two hours to get to Pevensey. A delicious pub lunch followed, and then it was off to the castle. It’s an interesting little place; it started life as a Roman Fort on the coast (in 298 AD, no less), was the invasion start-point of William the Conqueror, eventually had a medieval castle built inside the walls, and was finally rendered useless when dikes and land-reclamation moved the coastline several miles further along. After finishing there I got gang-pressed into going to a local museum; the old woman running it was standing outside and asked me to come in. I couldn’t say no.

Here’s where the problems began; I got lost on my way back. If anything, you’d think I would have got lost on the way there, but no; somehow, I ended up on the Road. And not just any road; it was a highway, and I was at a Roundabout. I’m sure you all know what a Roundabout is; needless to say, it makes it impossible to cross the street when cars are coming at you from no less than eight directions at once. I needed to get off the road, fast. So, I did the only reasonable thing one could do in this situation; trespass.

Normally, I’d refer to something like this as “cutting through a field”; I used to do it all the time back home, and there (as with here) most people don’t mind. The owner of this field, however, did; not only did he have a large “No Trespassing” sign, but he had one marked with an angry, red skull and crossbones. To make it worse, he was actually out in the field doing work at the time.

Given the option of being destroyed by speeding vehicles or shot by an angry farmer, I took my chances at getting shot. And thankfully, it worked; he was turned the opposite direction the whole time.

Following that brush with death I decided it was best to get back to residence as soon as possible, and adopted an aggressive policy of cutting through fields to do so. Thanks to the drainage system every English farm uses, this meant crossing dozens of wide streams with the help of footbridges, stray planks of wood, fallen trees, or (on occasion) incredible leaping ability. I saw more grazing land than I care to recall, all filled with ridiculously finicky and frightened sheep.

So, other than brief bouts of life-threatening peril, it was a good day. I had an uncharacteristically good lunch, got to see a lot of the country side, went to a cool historic site, and generally had a good time. I’ve also learned never, ever to walk anywhere in England again.

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