So we'd decided at fairly short notice to go camping this weekend. Frankly, the weather forecast was so awful that we considered postponing the trip, but we're hardy souls and besides, we were both really excited about getting the tent out again.
It did rain, a lot, but we stayed in such a beautiful spot that I didn't really care. At least we had a non-leaking tent (something we forgot to check before going to Iceland... I don't remember whether I've told you that story!) and it's actually quite pleasant to lie and listen to the rain when you know it's not going to soak you.
And when we woke up on Saturday, the sun was actually shining:
We took a drive up the Long Mynd, by which time it was raining again and visibility could have been better, but it was still pretty stunning to climb so high into the Shropshire hills (which, I'm sure, have a name - but geography has never been my strong point).
We decided to go for a late breakfast in Church Stretton, where we also wandered around an incredible indoor market-slash-jumble-sale. Some of the unbelievable things on sale included an optician's testing case, a fully-funtional dentist's chair, a copper bed-warming pan, a pike.... really more bizarre things than I could enumerate here. If you get the chance to take a look around, I'd suggest you seize it.
After breakfast (really, more like lunch) we headed over to Stokesay Castle which is in the care of English Heritage and, unlike many of their properties, benefits from having a well-preserved roof.
Indeed, the unusual construction of the roof is one of the distinguishing features of the castle.
They call it a castle, but it's actually more of a manor house - although the building is fortified, the garrison surrendered immediately on the one occasion that the 'castle' was attacked. This probably contributed to the property surviving in one piece!
There's even a small area in one of the rooms where the original wall paintings are preserved, if a little faded:
The Great Hall at Stokesay was probably my favourite room - you could just imagine having a medieval banquet here.
But from the outside, the most impressive building is actually the gatehouse:
The house is set in lovely cottage gardens, which were in full bloom this weekend.
From the upstairs windows, you can see the neighbouring church, which is independent of the castle and apparently still functioning.
Of course we went to have a look inside the church, too:
And looking back from the churchyard, is another great view of the gatehouse and the main castle building:
We returned back to another night under (dripping) canvas, and this morning packed up the tent - in under twenty minutes - and made our way slowly home again. It was a damp weekend, indeed, but a thoroughly pleasant one.