Monthly Archives: May 2011

Arundel Castle

One of the places the children wanted to visit this year was Arundel Castle. It only opens between April and the end of October, so I needed to make sure we planned it for during that time. As it was bank holiday weekend, we fancied having a family day out, and I realised that there was a special event on at Arundel Castle. A 14th/15th century castle in siege event, which surprisingly, you don’t pay anything extra for, which is an added bonus. 

Approaching the castle

We took the train as it seemed simpler than trying to park when we got there, and getting the train was part of the adventure of the day out. The castle is only a short 15 minute walk with children, and you can see it as you approach.

Now the only bit of the day that could have done with some improvement was the entry to the castle. It didn’t get off to the best start, but I was very impressed with the manager who quickly sorted it out, and addressed the problem. I think the entrance area is quite unclear and could do with a bit more physical organisation. 
Forgetting this little blip at the beginning of the day, the rest of the day was brilliant, and all the other staff we encountered were lovely, friendly and helpful. The children and I had various questions as we were going round the castle and all the staff were happy to answer them and provide information. Plus the actual organisation of all other areas of the castle were good, and it flowed well.
Collection of swords
First we headed up the hill and came to the special event tents, so we had a wander around. There were lots of people willing to talk and share their knowledge and let the children hold equipment and look at it, bringing it all to life. We saw armour, arrows, cannons, the herbal lotions that would have been used. I loved the smell of wood smoke, it was just lovely.

It just shows that we are always learning too, we had a good chat to the armourer, and found out why the wooden box that the charcoal was in heating to 1000+ degrees doesn’t catch fire. There was fire, bellows and the whole thing was made of wood, I couldn’t work out why it didn’t all just go up in flames!
We watched two battles, managing to get a seat right at the front for the second one. These were very impressive, lots of knights in various armour, and various weapons, rows of archers, cannons going off, and a great commentary, encouraging the crowd. You definitely felt the atmosphere.
Battle is on!

Afterwards we chatted to a lovely man, who let the children look at, and try on his helmet, gauntlet, and buckler. They were very impressed. 
Knight ready for action
While chatting to him, he imparted a lot of his fantastic knowledge, and we all learnt some new facts. We learnt that a few modern day expressions actually come from this period of history. A swash buckler, which often gets used in reference to pirates now days, came from the small shield that are called bucklers, and the swash, is the noise made as sword hits the shield. 
The expression ‘a cock up’, came from archery when arrows used cock feathers, if the feather wasn’t in the right place, then the arrow didn’t fly properly, so it was a cock up.
Also in these times, after a battle, the children and women would go round the battle field and kill off the severely injured, by hammering a stake through their eye socket/armpit/groin. Then it was too difficult to drag all the bodies back. So they would cut the dead persons hand off, to keep a count of the death toll. Obviously they needed to transport these back to the camp so were given a bag to carry the hands back in. This was called, have a guess, yes that’s right a ‘handbag’. Nice ay?! Lovely thought for all ladies and your handbags, you’ll never look at one in the same light again.
We had a look around the garden too, which was split into different areas, I loved the veggie area, which had flowers intermingled, good wildlife, hoverfly and bee friendly plants, lots of the varieties we have in our garden too, limanthes(poached egg) and borage to name a couple.. There was also more formal areas, with ponds, and a fab section the children loved, Oberon’s palace, where prince Oberon’s crown is kept up on a spout of water, a stalagmite fountain.

We also went round the inside of the castle. As you approach the castle entrance to start looking round, it looks truly impressive and looks so big even to an adult, so it must seem even bigger to the children. They did indeed respond with “wow” as we approached it, got up close and saw the magnitude.

Inside we took a trip up the 100+ steps to the keep. There is a sign warning you about how many steps there are. Honestly we didn’t find the number of steps a problem, as it’s split into sections anyway. It was more that in places the passage was tiny, dark, and with uneven steps, as you would expect in a building of this age. The children were nervous on a couple of occasions, but did great. We took a steady pace and made it to the top. The views were definitely worthwhile.
Fantastic view from the keep
Walking through the other rooms, some were very grand in places, with lots of items to spot and look at. We had brought a guide book, and one of the children spent the tour of the rooms, trying to match up the arms shown in the book with those all round the castle. She also played match up the Duke of Norfolk paintings.
I would highly recommend a visit to Arundel Castle, if you live nearby or are visiting the area. If you have children, I suggest that you try and visit when they have a special event on, I think the children get a lot out of the living history. They have several events on each year, here are the dates for 2011. If you can’t make these dates, don’t be put off, the castle and gardens are worth a visit in their own right, and there is still plenty to see. 

Not one but two hedgehog visitors!

Saturday night I was on my first hedgehog watch. Dusk arrived, the food, and water was out, and it was watch and wait time.

Sometime after 10.30pm I needed to head to bed, as I was so tired. So instead of watching from downstairs, I thought I would have a quick last check from the upstairs bedroom window. This actually gives a better overall view of the front garden as you are looking down on it.
Initially it all looked normal, and then I spotted a shadow. When the shadow started moving, I realised it wasn’t a shadow but an animal, and actually a hedgehog.
It scurried up the side of a bed, and then disappeared but I didn’t see it leave the garden. A couple of minutes later I saw another hedgehog arrive, it came down the path and in, and I was convinced it was a different one, as it seemed bigger.
This one also had a wander around, it focused below the bird table for a while. I think they like eating the bits of sunflower hearts that have fallen down. Then it headed into one of the beds, the one that is pretty much covered in plants. So I couldn’t see it while it was in there, but I knew it was still in there because I could actually hear it snuffling, so cute.
Eventually it appeared back out of the bed on the gravel, quickly followed to my surprise by the initial hedgehog. There were two hedgehogs in the garden at once. I was delighted not just one, but two of these lovely creatures.
When I told the children the next day, they wanted to name the other one, Foo Foo, to add to Tiddlywinks. They are very excited and have decided they are a male and female, and that there will be baby hoglets. It’s amazing having wildlife in your own garden, and for the children to be exposed to it.
Neither of the hedgehogs found the saucers of food and water, and we realised that we hadn’t put them in the best place. So for the next night the saucers were moved to the corner nearer the bird tables.

So, onto Sunday night, 10.30pm saw the arrival of the first hedgehog, it headed in and up the side of the boards, straight to the saucers, and had some food and water, headed off for a quick snuffle around and then left. Over the next 45 minutes another two hedgehogs visited, all individually, so I’m not sure whether we had three different ones, or whether they could have come back. Do hedgehogs come back again in the same night to feed? 
I was also prepared with my camera too, and I managed to get a photo. It’s a bit blurry, but you can definitely see the hedgehog shape tucking into the food.
While I was watching I also happened to see a fox last night too. I really enjoyed the animal spotting last night, there is something therapeutic about feeling the cool air, waiting, quietly watching, almost meditative. I actually think I slept so much better than normal as a result.

I Think We Have a Hedgehog

About a week ago I noticed some tar black poo in the front garden. I wasn’t sure what it was, as it didn’t look like anything I had seen before, it wasn’t cat, fox, or rabbit. So after a bit of trawl of the internet, I have come to the conclusion we have a visiting hedgehog.

Hedgehog Poo
I’m so excited, we have been trying to make the garden very wildlife friendly, and we have a hedgehog house down the side of the house, which I didn’t think had actually been used yet. This past week I have found more of the poo in the garden, so it’s definitely stuck around, and keeps coming back. We don’t use any pesticides, and I don’t use slug pellets in the front garden, so a hedgehog will be a welcome addition.
Apparently hedgehogs are on the endangered list for the UK, and most places I found advised supplementing their natural food to help them survive. So while they seem to have been attracted to our garden for the insects to eat for their tea, we have decided to put out some additional food for them, to give them a helping hand.
We have brought a special hedgehog food, made by Chapelwood. It contains a mixture of ingredients, including, meat biscuit, kibbled peanuts, raisins, sultanas, papaya, pineapple, and rowan berries. This was the only variety of hedgehog food sold locally, so we thought we would try it and see if it gets eaten. We decided against putting out cat food, as we have lots of cats in the neighbourhood, who I’m sure would get there first. We know bread and milk is not recommended any more as it’s not good for their stomachs. So felt a special hedgehog food was the best option.
So tonight, at dusk (the time they are most likely to visit apparently), we will be putting out a saucer of hedgehog food and a saucer of water. The water is important especially because of the dried biscuits. Then we will be watching eagerly to see if the hedgehog pays us a visit. I have been looking out for it other nights this week, but have failed to see it yet. I’m hoping having the saucers to watch, and a specific feeding place will make it easier to spot. If I’m really lucky we will have more than one, or is that being greedy?
I’ve given it a name, Tiddlywinks, and we’ve become attached to it already, even thought we haven’t even see it yet! The children are very excited too, particularly the one that helped build the hedgehog house, who really loves animals and all things wildlife.
So have any of you got hedgehogs in the garden? Do you feed or not? If you do feed what have you found most favoured?