Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hastings and Beachy Head

The hill, where the abbey is now, occupied by Harold's
English; William's Normans had to charge up-hill

Battle Abbey ruins

Beachy Head

On Beachy Head

Sunday we drove the short distance to Battle, where the Battle of Hastings occurred. The pope directed William (the Conqueror) to build an abbey on the site of the famous battle, penance for the sin of spilling blood. It was a small battle, by 20th century standards, but perhaps 10,0000 were killed. Since the pope had directly authorized the invasion, I am sure William probably considered suggesting that the pope himself build the abbey. Oh well. William's brother, Odo, was a bishop, and therefore carried only a club into the battle so as not to commit the sin of spilling blood. OK to bash skulls, but don't spill blood.

Anyhow, Vicki and I toured the exhibits and gift store and then walked the battlefield listening to the audio guide. It was quite good, actually. Best of all was the video introduction in the visitor center, a mixture of narration-over, stills, video from re-enactments, and animated extracts from the Bayeaux tapestry, the last being extremely cool. William and Harold would not have recognized the place, the hill mostly obliterated by the abbey and its grounds. But the basics are still there. We think Harold was rash and over-confident. He should have collected more troops, rested those who had just repelled the major Danish invasion in York, and let William's communications get further (over-) extended. Maybe also call in an air-strike.

From Battle we drove on south and west to Beachy Head, taking a few pix, and then on to Brighton. We have been driving the rural bits mostly now for months, so it is interesting to get back into urban congestion and density. Brighton is 55 miles south of London and has long been known as London Beach. The Brighton holiday park was full--the first time on our travels that there was no room at the inn--and so we rough-camped a half mile down the road in a huge public park (18 soccer fields).

Later: no, there was one other time the inn was full, at Loboche, on the Everest trek, just about a year ago. The inn there was full--floor space, benches, rooms, everything, rented. All they could offer us was a tent out in the corral. By our standards, the tent was fairly opulent, and warm, for 16,000 feet in October in Nepal, but the yaks' bells kept ringing all through the night. Those animals never bed down.

Fortunately, England is yak-free.

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