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It is the last day of our weekend away and so we visited the Heritage Centre in the middle of Ross on Wye (we were looking for a historical place to visit). As it was a Sunday it was very quite in this quaint little town, the lady at the centre gave us some tourist ideas and one of these was Goodrich Castle, so armed with a pile of tourist leaflets we left the centre and headed for the castle.
You might think we are mad as it is the 1st Feb 2009 and the weather forecast says freezing weather and heavy snow falls for later that day; and we were heading for the ruins of a 12th Century castle, plus I left my gloves and scarf at home.
Once you get near to the castle it is easy to spot the brown tourist signs that lead you to your destination. As we drove up the lane towards the castle the road split in two, the left hand lane taking you to the lower car park and the right hand lane took you to the disabled car park which is right outside a rather modern building which hosts the gift shop, café and toilets.
~~ GIFT SHOP ~~
Surprising enough you have to walk though the gift shop to get in and out of the castle grounds, so twice the temptation. Although the gift shop is relatively small it appeared well stocked; It offered the usual gift ideas, and Heritage books on offer; I did notice that they sold a fair selection of toys depicting medieval characters. When we purchased our tickets and guide book the lady asked us if we were interested in joining the English Heritage for £73.00, but we turned down this offer as we don't get a lot of free time together to get the full value.
Just off the gift shop were the toilets, including a separate disabled toilet, I had an occasion to use these facilities on our return from the castle; they appeared very clean and tidy, with no nasty odours, or messy toilets. We did visit in February, so if they would be as clean and tidy during the height of the season I could not comment, but most English Heritage are like the National Trust take great pride in looking after their facilities.
We were just about to leave the gift shop to walk the 400yrds up the hill to the castle when the same lady that served us noticed I use a stick and suggested we took the car up to the castle to save me the walk. We took up this offer and parked the car in one of the two disabled spaces outside the castle.
~~ THE CASTLE ~~
This spectacular Medieval Castle was originally built in the 11th Century; it ended up in its ruined state during the civil war in the 17th Century.
As you walk up the approach towards a semi circular area called 'The Barbican' you notice the wonderful stone work and imagine the grandeur of its day. I did also notice a stained glass window which due to its state I was quite surprised so I was looking forward to a closer inspection during my visit. The Barbican would have been the area where visitors would have disembarked off their horses before crossing the draw bridge into the castle courtyard.
My excitement grew as I crossed the drawbridge; I darted about (well walked as best I could) into every nook and cranny. I went up a couple of steps and was given the option of left or right; I did investigate both, but it was the tiny room (not big enough to swing a mouse, never mind a cat). This small room which was literally only big enough for one person to sit or stand in, as they stood guard looking through a small window, only big enough to put part of your weapon through (maybe your arrow).
From here you move into the courtyard and the first thing I noticed was the lovely arches to the north range and a cannon called 'The Roaring Meg' which was forged in 1646. Although it looked in very good condition we could not see too much as it had a very modern green canvas cover over the end, protecting it from the elements.
As you walk around the castle you go in and out of various rooms and up and down stairs to different levels, so it would be hard for persons with limited mobility and it would be impossible for wheelchairs to get to the different levels.
Other points that really stuck out for me were the outstanding views across the Wye Valley across to Symonds Yat from the top of the castle ruins; you could actually imagine soldiers of the realm standing there on guard looking out for potential attacks and defending the castle in battle.
When you looked at the walls you could also see the remnants of the wooden beams that once supported the next level. There is also trefoil-headed basins around, one in particular being in excellent condition, with a surviving pipe which bought water up from the castles well.
The Chapel had a fairly modern stained glass window, which was put in for the Millennium; unlike the modern one I saw at Hereford Cathedral this one was quite pretty to look at.
I got carried away with my enthusiasm and dragged my poor hubby around most of the castle ruins. I even managed to get up and down the stairs with my husbands help; although he did draw the line at one stairway which led into the grounds of the dry moat, as the stairs were extremely steep with no support for me to grab hold of; all in all I was really proud of myself for managing to complete the tour as I would not have been able to 18mths ago.
As you go round you can either listen to your audio tape (which you pick up when you get your ticket) this tells you the history of the castle; or you can read the information boards which are strategically placed around the castle grounds. I do think these boards are great as they not only give you some history on the room you are in, but they give you a visual picture on what it would have looked like when it was operational, this was especially good when you saw the kitchen, as you good look around and visualise it with the help of the board.
~~A LITTLE HISTORY ~~
Reading up on a little history on this castle; I discovered that it is believed that it was built pre 1101 as documents found from that time, mention the name Godric Castle which was already in existence. Godric refers to Godric Mappeson landowner of that time. History shows he possibly died before 1100 and passed his inheritance on to his son in law William Fitz Baderon and then subsequently on to his son of the same name. None of this original castle stands today.
Hereford in the 1130's was going through a turbulent time in politics and King Stephen at that time bought about the transfer of the now known Goodrich Castle to Gilbert Fitz Gilbert de Clare and made him Earl of Pembroke.
Moving on a century later, the new owner was to be a knight of the Royal household William Marshall; It is possible that he renovated the castle and made changes, but as there are no records this cannot be confirmed; he was known for his work on castles during his lifetime and became quite infamous for them. Each of the Marshalls four sons inherited the fortress until the last one died childless in 1245.
The castle and the Earldom was then passed to William De Valence, who was the half brother of Henry III, he went on to rebuilt the castle, improving its defences and bringing the interior to the most up to date style of the era.
There were many changes to Goodrich Castle and it was lived in and enjoyed right up until it was destroyed in the civil war in 1646 where it was reduced to the ruins you see today.
~~ The Café~~
After walking around the castle grounds and it was snowing on us, we felt the need for a light snack and a hot drink. The café is set in the same building as the gift shop which was built and opened in 2007. It has a small compact area with seating inside and patio doors leading outside where you can find another seating area which will be great in the summer months.
They do offer a range of sandwiches, cakes, soups and flatbreads to tempt you, also a choice of hot and cold drinks. We both had a toasted teacake and a hot drink each with was fairly reasonably priced, I think it was around £5.00 for the two of us. We were both a little disappointed with our little snack as the butter was rock hard and unspreadable and the teacake ended up being very dry and crumbly, covering both us and the table with crumbs, which was a little irritating to say the least.
~~ OPENING TIMES and PRICES ~~
21st March - 31st May 1000 - 1700hrs every day
1st June - 31st Aug 1000 - 1800hrs every day
1st Sept - 31st Oct 1000 - 1700hrs every day
1st Nov - 29th Feb 1000 - 1600hrs Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun
1st Mar - 31st Mar 1000 - 1700hrs Every day.
They advertise that the last admission is 30 minutes prior to closing. The only closing days are 24th to 26th December inclusive and the 1st January (would you really want to visit on these days).
Prices as of Feb 2009 are
Adults £4.90 ea
Children £2.40 ea
Concession: £3.90 ea (ie wheelchair users)
English Heritage members get in free and if you join English Heritage your entrance fee is refunded to you.
Family Ticket is available at £12.20 this is usually for 2 adults and 2 children under 14yrs
~~ HOW TO FIND IT ~~
Well you heard all about it now, so if you feel like visiting here is some helpful info.
For you sat nav it is Herefordshire and the post code is HR9 6HY, which should get you close enough to see the brown tourist signs.
It is actually approx 5 miles south of Ross on Wye off the A40.
Contact phone number for any enquiries; especially as disabled access is limited ring 01600 890538 prior to visiting.
You can take dogs with you but they must stay on a lead and remember to clean up after them and respect your heritage.
Normal parking is approx 330m from the entrance, disabled access is on the right next to the visitor centre and there is only room for two cars near to the castle and limited room to manoeuvre so disabled visitors will need to keep that in mind.
They have special audio tour for the visually impaired which is provided free with your entrance ticket.
There is also an audio tour with hearing loop for the hearing impaired visitors also included in your admission price.
There are group discounts available for groups of 11 or more, but it is advisable to ring them ahead of booking to make arrangements.
~~ Conclusion ~~
If you love old buildings and a little history then you will love visiting these ruins. I adored it; admittedly I do prefer stately homes and cathedrals as they provide more to look at. But here with the help of the audio equipment, the information boards and your imagination you can walk around and simply basque in years of history; imagine the people that have lived and worked here, the grand parties they had and the every day lives that they lead. The views were outstanding even in the winter, I can only imagine that they would be much more beautiful come the spring and summer months, when the countryside comes to life again.
I would recommend a visit, I think we should all learn a little of our heritage and keep it alive. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to build these buildings and a lot of love and care to keep them going.
If you live around Herefordshire you will know about this already I’m quite sure but if you don’t or you find yourself visiting the area let me introduce you. Goodrich castle, 5 miles south of Ross-on-Wye in beautiful Herefordshire is well worth a visit. I had been there many times with my three children as we often visited Ross where my parents lived. Every time we went we had a great time and I have so many happy memories of time spent there together, as I hope they do too. As my ‘children’ are now 28, 26 and 21 they don’t really need me to take them on outings anymore, but my three foster children certainly do. My Dad still lives in Ross-on-Wye (though sadly my Mum has now died) so on a recent visit to see him we took the girls to Goodrich Castle for the first time. In fact none of them could ever remember visiting any castle before so this really was a new experience! There is still quite a lot of castle standing; including a 12th century keep, infact I think more of it was accessible to the public than on previous visits. I went armed with my new digital camera (FinePix 1300) and had a great time taking shots of the castle, the children and the magnificent views. The castle overlooks the beautiful countryside and the winding River Wye, breath taking. The children loved going up into the high spots and down into the lower levels. Personally I managed to run up and down considerably less steps than they did, well I did have the excuse of wanting to take photos of them at funny angles! The oldest parts of this red stone castle date back to the 12th century and there are parts from 13th and 14th century too. There is even a window put in to celebrate the recent millennium and it actually fitted in pretty well. The castle is looked after by English Heritage and of course there is a charge to get in though they do a family ticket, which made the visit more reasonable. English Heritage also l
oan free headsets, which can be worn to give information about different parts of the castle as you go around. A small guide (that’s a book not a person!) is available for £2. They have a few souvenirs for sale, cards, pencils etc but they are certainly not pushed. The castle is well signed locally and there is a large, free car park with picnic tables along side it. There are toilets and a shop selling drinks, ice creams etc. There is a little walk from the car park but it really is part of the visit as you catch sight of the views around and of the castle itself. On a fine day it is a great place to visit, it is in such a relaxing setting yet there is space enough for even the most boisterous child’s imagination. When you are walking round the castle look up from time to time and you will almost certainly see House Martins flying around or in one of their nests. If you are strapped for cash it is worth taking a picnic to the car park and just enjoying being by the castle, honestly it is a lovely site! This place just holds loads of good memories for me and I’m sure if you visit it you will begin to make memories of your own. It is a place to let your imagination run wild and the kids too! Entrance costs 3.60/2.70/1.80 or a family tickets (two adults and up to three children) £9 Tele: 01600 890538 www.english-heritage.org.uk Open 10-6 (differs out of season) ring to be sure