Trying hard to ignore the fact that this is the beginning of the end of this particular Epic Journey – we will head for home in a week – we are riding the rails again to the small village of Rowland’s Castle, about an hour south of London. We have come to meet a newly discovered second cousin and have a small sample of English village life.
There are about 3,000 people in the village of Rowland’s Castle and at last count four pubs. We stayed at one of them, the completely comfortable and welcoming Robin Hood. Really. But there is no castle here. It’s generally agreed that there was a castle but that it’s ruins have sunk back into the ground from whence it came. Ashes to ashes. The locals we met in the pub say they get quite a chuckle at the expense of tourists who wander into town in search of the castle.
This is indeed a very small and quaint village, really just a main road encircling a large, rectangular green with narrow lanes meandering away from the road at irregular intervals. A block or so of inns and pubs sits on one side of the green with the high walls of an estate opposite, running the entire length of the green. The center of town is at one end, a small cluster of shops and cafes and the delightful, stone Church on the Green is at the other end. And that’s about it.
The pride of Rowland’s Castle is it’s village green – the scene of annual flower shows and craft fairs, May Day picnics, Guy Fawkes fireworks and Christmas festivals. It’s proximity to London and the terrific train system in this country makes Rowland’s Castle something of a bedroom community. It feels like almost everyone clears out in the morning to go to work in the big city, leaving only a handful of people drifting around the village. We had the green completely to ourselves.
Our stop in Rowlnds Castle was very brief, just an evening really to meet our British relation in person and share a meal at the Robin Hood Inn. There was time the next morning to circumnavigate the village green, enjoying the beautiful weather, the quaint homes and gardens, and the peacefulness of the place. I imagine that this is how the quaint village of Bucklebury, in the same proximity to London might have been before it gained notoriety as home to the in-laws of the future King of England.
We are off again. We will retrace our steps a bit, heading west to Bath. We are very excited to be going there as we’ve heard and read so much about it that we decided to save it for last. We’ve booked our accommodation but we are not due to arrive there for another day. So we will make a completely impulsive and unplanned stop somewhere en route. Where will that be? Stay tuned!