First stop will be Llangollen were we shall spend two nights in a hotel (what luxury!). If the weather is kind, we’ll go to the seaside (childhood nostalgia) at Llandudno where there’s an Alice in Wonderland exhibition (because Alice Liddell spent her holidays here) and “Professor” Codman’s Punch & Judy Show (pictured), of happy memory. Then we’ll visit a castle or two, perhaps Conwy or Caernarfon. I’d like to climb Snowdon again (Yr Wyddfa to those of us who have read and loved Rosemary Sutcliff‘s Sword at Sunset), but time will probably not permit.
Then on to Alderley Edge, my childhood home in Cheshire to visit my family. Here on the high sandstone escarpment above the village there are traces of the copper mining that began in prehistory and also legends of King Arthur, alluded to by Alan Garner in his children’s novel The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. And here’s a site devoted to the history, people and landscape of Alderley Edge.
In the 19th century, wealthy Lancashire millowners, known locally as “Cottontots”, made their palatial homes on the wooded slopes of Alderley Edge. Nowadays, some of these houses are owned by even wealthier Manchester United footballers.
Only a few miles away in a place called Lindow Moss where we used to play our childhood games of Cowboys and Indians (or Brits and Romans!), the ancient bog body known as Lindow Man was found in the 1980s.
Finally, we head down into Dorset, to my mother-in-law’s Hardyesque village of Child Okeford in the Blackmore Vale (The Vale of the Little Dairies in Tess of the D’Urbervilles). Over Child Okeford looms Hambledon Hill, a multivallate Iron Age hillfort, a slightly smaller version of Maiden Castle near Dorchester. Nearby is another fort, Hod Hill, which was taken by the Romans shortly after the Claudian invasion in AD 43, reputedly by the future emperor Vespasian. The Romans built a fort in one corner making use of the British earthworks. The hill is now a nature reserve where rare wild orchids grow on soil that has never been ploughed.
Child Okeford and Hambledon Hill are both mentioned in Julian Rathbone’s novel about 1066, The Last English King. His hero Walt grew up nearby and Rathbone knows the area, having been at school in neighbouring Shillingstone.