Diary Diary on the Net….

… I’ll get round to updating you yet!

I don’t know why I’m often so slow to complete the last post of a trip… It’s like a bad case of school homework syndrome!

The last few days of our trip took us back across to France for our Dover – Calais ferry crossing then home via Salisbury.

The “castle” near Mönchengladbach that we were parked outside at the end of our last post turned out not to be very castle-like at all…. Nice car park though, and very popular with motorhomes…

After a travelling day, we spent Monday night at another popular spot, Richebourg. We were back in World War 1 country now, with cemetery after cemetery dotting the landscape. There are two unusual ones right on the outskirts of the village of Richebourg: the only Portuguese WW1 cemetery in the region and the Neuve-Chapelle memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, which commemorates 4700 Indian participants without known graves.

It was a short drive of about an hour from Richebourg to La Coupole near Wizernes. We’d decided that, having visited Peenemünde and Mittelbau-Dora already this trip, we may as well continue with our V2 rocket theme…..

La Coupole is one of a number of installations that the Germans started constructing in 1943 for the storage and launch of V-weapons. It’s a concrete dome 71 metres in diameter and 5 metres thick, built in a chalk quarry. The idea was that 500 V2 rockets could be stored in it and brought out onto two launch platforms, from where they would be fired at London.

News was very quickly passed on by the resistance that something was afoot in Northern France, and the La Coupole site (among many others) was identified on aerial photos within a couple of months of construction starting.

Over 3000 tonnes of bombs were dropped on the site over sixteen air attacks between March and July 1944, after which the Germans abandoned the idea of fixed sites and switched to mobile rocket launching, with the first V2 attacks on London taking place in September 1944. No rockets were, therefore, ever fired from La Coupole in the end although the concrete dome itself survived the bombing and now houses a museum.

We entered via the old railway tunnel:

There was lots of good information in the museum – again, much better than at Peenemünde. We spent the full afternoon in there (until they politely told us they were closing soon!) but if we’d watched all of the films, we’d have been there all day.

This was interesting – a “Reichenberg” manned V1 rocket. The idea here was that the pilot would guide the rocket before bailing out shortly before impact. The concept was supposedly inspired by Japanese kamikaze pilots – the pilot had an estimated 1% chance of survival. A few hundred prorotypes were built but none were actually deployed.

Another great thing about La Coupole is that if you ask, they let you stay overnight at the picnic area above the car park:

So overall, La Coupole was very good. We’ve still got the Blockhaus d’Éperlecques (a big concrete bunker, also built for the V2 rockets) and the Forteresse de Mimoyecques (an underground launch site for the V3 “super gun”) to visit in the same area at some point……

Wednesday was shopping day. We loaded SOK’s Norway locker (now empty as we’d eaten the extensive food supplies it had been stuffed full of whilst in Scandinavia) with wine and other French goodies then retired to the port at Calais for the night.

After a very early but uneventful crossing, our first stop on the British side was Battle Abbey.

The abbey itself was founded in 1070 on the orders of William the Conqueror and completed in 1094 during the reign of his son William. Like so many others, it was dismantled after the dissolution in the 16th century, but a stone on the ground marks the location of the high altar, which was supposedly placed on the exact spot where King Harold was hit in the eye with an arrow during the Battle of Hastings…. Yeah, right….

A few parts of the abbey, dating back to the 13th century (when the abbey’s coffers were full and they embarked on a spending spree), survive:

The main thing that people come here to see, though, is the battlefield:

There’s a small modern museum to explain what every schoolchild already knows about the Battle of Hastings in 1066:

After that, a very good audioguide explains the unfolding of the battle as you follow a short trail around the battlefield itself.

“Hände hoch!” squealed Mark. I think part of his brain was still back in World War 2…

Our destination on Thursday night was East Preston in West Sussex. Whereas in the past, we’ve just parked on the road outside Mark’s uncle’s house when visiting, SOK is a bit fatter than Kampington was and we decided he’d be in the neighbours’ way on the road. A bit of research found the Coastal Caravan Park, a small camp site just down the road. You can’t get nearer to the beach than this!

After visiting Mark’s rellies on Thursday evening and Friday, we continued on our way to Salisbury. We’ve had the Salisbury Museum on our to-do list for quite some time….

Everything in Salisbury turned out to be within very easy walking distance of the central car park where we’d stayed overnight. The cathedral is certainly impressive:

We popped in to have a look at the best-preserved of the four remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta (we’ve previously seen the one in Lincoln). Wow – it really is so well preserved that it looks fake. Jet black ink and very neat but tiny writing on creamy paper. No way can that be over 800 years old – but we were assured that what we were looking at was indeed the original.

It’s housed in the little white booth in the photo above in quite dim light. No photos are allowed, but I could take a photo of this in one of the other display cases:

It’s an indulgence dating back to around 1235 which covered you for 40 days of sin in return for a contribution towards the cost of building the cathedral. I’m really surprised that indulgences haven’t come back in modern times. The church could even sell them online? It’d solve the problem of what to get the relative who has everything for Christmas….

Our main reason for wanting to visit the Salisbury Museum (above) was the famous Amesbury Archer (a burial dating back to 2400-2200 BC).

This chap gets lots of publicity as the archer, who was 35-45 years old when he died, turns out to have grown up somewhere near the Alps. His grave goods include the oldest gold and copper items found in Britain.

Three small copper knives; one can be seen here next to his shoulder:

He also has two very tiny little gold hair ornaments:

I felt sorry for this guy, the Salisbury Archer (burial dating to a similar period, 2400 – 2100 BC):

He’s probably seething in his cabinet as all the visitors rush straight past him to goggle at Fritz the Amesbury Archer with his bell beakers and his bling…..

We weren’t convinced by the National Trust’s Mompesson House:

It’s a Queen Anne house within the Cathedral Close. Other than that, there’s not really a lot to say……

Back at the car park, we had a bit of a shock when a load of, erm, folk with Irish accents and very large caravans rocked up…. We decided they were trying to make a point when a caravan appeared about a centimetre from SOK – they wanted the nice corner of the car park that we’d chosen….

We decided to oblige them, as you do in these situations. Mark just about managed to get out. Luckily it’s a huge car park so we managed to find another corner well away from them…..

We had a look at Old Sarum on Sunday morning., which is the original Salisbury. It’s absolutely great if you like history as it’s got a bit of everything – a neolithic gathering place, iron age hill fort, some Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Viking history, and then the Normans rocked up and built a motte and bailey castle and a cathedral around 1170.

The model (from the Salisbury Museum) shows what would have been there in Norman times:

There isn’t a huge amount left of the medieval buildings on the site, but information boards did a good job of explaining what was where and which of the Norman / Plantagenet kings was responsible for the construction. It’s one of the few sites with enough going on for me to actually buy the English Heritage guidebook to read later…..

The site of the cathedral is marked out on the ground:

It must’ve been very impressive in its day…. By 1220, the difficulties of having army and clergy in close proximity reached a head and the clergy upped sticks and moved, founding the modern city of Salisbury nearby.

Old Sarum soon declined as the city of Salisbury flourished. By 1377 there were 3226 taxpayers in Salisbury but only ten remaining in Old Sarum. Nevertheless, Old Sarum continued to elect members of parliament right through to 1832 (when it was one of the most notorious “rotten boroughs” abolished by the Great Reform Act). All fascinating stuff – Old Sarum had WAY more to offer than we’d expected.

Sunday night was spent on another car park, this time at Builth Wells, from where it was an easy drive home on Monday. And there our trip ends….. 😦

The next three weeks will be busy with all kinds of boring stuff – SOK needs to go for his Ford service, habitation check and two more new tyres, car repair /service /MOT, some new windows being fitted to the house etc etc. Fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly so we can be back in SOK for another adventure sometime in October….


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