When I was very young I had a castle in my backyard. A part-time home to say the least, it towered over me in its enormity. The dampness of one too many monsoons had left it perpetually moist, a feeling that embraced me for every moment I stayed inside its slatted wooden plants. I felt encased by it, timber grain and the feeling of childhood royalty, and for just a few moments every day I would exist like that, between my own imagination and whatever book (and snack) I was consuming. I was a four-year-old princess, and this wooden castle was my dominion.
Such was the memory I revisited as I walked the hill to Carisbrooke Castle. Smiling a secret smile to the girl who once lived in a wooden cubby-house and called it a castle, I wondered what she would think when faced with this stone monstrosity. Of course, nobody had ever told her that castles were made of stone, thick and strong to keep out the enemy. Her castle was all about fairies and friendship, not siege and imprisonment. But in her defence, it’s hard to understand this English mindset in the middle of a tropical Australian childhood.
To both young and old versions of myself, the Carisbrooke Castle impresses. It has a grandness about it that remains even though it lies in relative sections of ruin. Around it rolling green hills and pastures epitomise the English rural stereotype, and Dean and I have fun pointing out the areas of weakness in the castle’s placement amidst the farms. Wandering around its edges, we plan our own siege tactics.
“That dip would be perfect for a night-time ambush.”
“You’d be invisible behind the rise.”
It is an imaginative step back in time, not uncommon for me in encountering something like this place, so old it seems impossible that is remains standing, in whatever form is left. To be quite honest, I’m surprised so much of it remains, considering it was built in the 12th century. My own hometown is devoid of any kind of ruin, thanks of course to the fact that it sits in a recently colonised country, but also because bombs and storms have torn apart what remained of the past. But Carisbrooke Castle is a medieval dream, and we wander around it in a kind of old-timey daze, enjoying the feeling that we might be Charles I. If course, there’s no threat of execution, but there’s an interesting feeling of imprisonment within the high stone walls, inside which we discover what the castle hides.
There aren’t many visitors, thanks to our early arrival, so we’re able to explore most of the castle without too many other human meetings. We skip the wheelhouse, the donkeys that operate it are loud enough from the outside, and instead walk up to the castle’s highest point to start our expedition along the walls. In one of the ceiling-less rooms we find a well. It’s so deep that even our voices are swallowed, and so old that as Dean leans over the metal grate to try and see the bottom, I’m on the lookout for the rust that’s sure to be his demise. We escape without a fall into darkness, but lose a few pennies in the process.
From the castles walls everything seems clearer. The shape of it, the purpose and how everything fits together. It’s illuminating on the top of those walls, pretending to be royalty once again. With century old stone at my feet, looking out onto a sunny Isle of Wight day I feel like I could stay just a while longer. But I admit the stone walls have none of the warm embrace of my wooden predecessor, although it is substantially less mouldy. So instead we walk off into an almost warm morning, enjoying the sun on our skin, with the shadow of Carisbrooke Castle fading in the distance.
This post originally appeared on BarefootBeachBlonde.com, the pre-evolved version of Maps And Mandalas. I’ve republished it here with its original date because I love it that much.