I escaped the uncomfortable humidity and summer rains of Tokyo to spend a couple of weeks in England. I’m mostly staying in London but have come down to my hometown in Sussex for a few days. I wanted to see the area afresh, like a tourist during the pleasant summer sunshine, and that’s what I’ve done today, with a visit to Bodiam Castle.
I have a lot of affection for Bodiam Castle. It really is an iconic construction. It’s not as old as perhaps it feels to the imaginative visitor – it was built in 1385 during the Hundred Years’ War. That means it isn’t as ancient as several of the churches in the area, nor many structures in London, Oxford or Cambridge, nor indeed the more imposing and better-preserved keep in Rochester Castle – let alone the Roman ruins in Dover, Bath or, well, Rome. Its lake isn’t as expansive or effective of that of Leeds Castle and of course it lacks the grandeur and scale of Windsor or Edinburgh castles. Internally, it remains a ruin, unlike nearby reconstructed Herstmonceux Castle.
Yet with its simple, square construction, its moat and its fine crenelated towers, it is the perfect iconic medieval castle. It aligns perfectly with what a child would draw when imagining a fortified European castle, even if it never saw real combat and wasn’t taken particularly seriously in defensive terms. It just fits the image of an old English castle so well, and I find it beautiful. Today, it’s a fun place for children to visit, with educational films to watch, carp and ducks to feed in the moat, and activities on the grounds like trying some archery or visiting some cute owls that hopefully aren’t kept awake all day every day. Well worth the trip.
It’s also just been nice to spend the day in Sussex, a beautiful part of the country, and to see it with fresh eyes. The weather was perfect, everywhere around were rolling hills, oast houses and happy-looking families – and I enjoyed a tasty meal at a pub run by a family friend. Steak and red wine pie with twice-cooked chips. Fantastic!