Making the most of a quiet day on the roads, we made the trek down to Dover today. Our destination was Dover Castle – a fortification with a very long history. A Roman lighthouse is probably the oldest structure on the site, but this strategic vantage point has been used for many purposes since then.
In the twelfth century King Henry II built the Great Tower, creating what we think of today as the archetypal castle. The tower is decidedly confusing inside, with stone spiral staircases on both sides of the building. I think we visited the whole castle, but I could be wrong! The Castle has been furnished using modern reproduction furniture and, in places, it’s a riot of colour. As one of the volunteers told us, we often have this vision of medieval England as being a very dull looking place. However, we also know that many vibrant sources of colour were available to the rich (lapis lazuli from Afghanistan for instance) and we have samples of vivid colour furniture and wall hangings from the time.
Elsewhere the castle is quite muted in its appearance, but still as atmospheric. I found the light in many of the spaces (often softened by simple cream blinds at the windows) very photogenic and I took masses of photos.
Our first port of call when we arrived this morning was the maze of tunnels which run through the chalk cliffs beneath the castle. Originally built during the Napoleonic wars, they were pushed into use again during World War II as a strategic base. They played an important role in the plans to rescue thousands of troops from the beaches at Dunkirk. Photography isn’t allowed inside the tunnels (although we weren’t told why) but I found a couple of photos in the areas beyond the initial guided tour where I could shoot.
At the end of the afternoon we made our way up onto a wartime building which stands on the edge of the White Cliffs. This was used as a watch post for incoming enemy attacks and the view from the roof is amazing. Looking down on the modern docks, you understand how high up you are when you realise just how miniscule the cars look as they wait to board cross-channel ferries!
1 January 2019