Took advantage of the incredibly splendid weather in England to visit Odiham Castle in Hampshire. Getting there was an experience in itself, as the GPS had us snaking through the tiniest country lanes, even inviting us to ford a creek at one point. No doubt it was the same track Simon took on his way to the castle, but we opted to get back on the main road and have a petrol station attendant show us the modern way to it. There wasn’t a single signpost to assist us even after parking as close as we could get. The footpath along Basingstoke Canal that leads you there is simply marked Footpath, which is fair enough, but it took a passerby to make sure we found the ruins. (Many thanks to Milan Hrabec for later pinpointing the location on Google Maps.)
And there it is! Not much is left except bits of the octagonal keep. The information boards point to remnants of the original condition: joist holes for timbers arranged like the spokes of a bicycle wheel to support the upper floor, the chimney for the great fireplace, even the inset for an aumbry, or cupboard. An excellent site for learning more about the castle can be found here: http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/1285.html.
For the Montfort enthusiast, this was the site where, in April 1265, Simon and Eleanor were together for the final time. Edward and Henry of Almain were the first to arrive, brought there by Henry de Montfort, to await for Simon’s arrival and their ill-fated departure for the Marches. The stables must have been large, for they left with nearly 300 horses in their train. Apparently Simon enjoyed fish, for, according to Eleanor’s household roll, attendants were sent off fishing throughout the course of his stay. As for taking leave of each other, those who see only a quarrelsome pair united in their grievances against the world perhaps also see only businesslike tones in their taking leave of each other. Indeed, a marriage fraught with the contention suggestive in the letters of Adam Marsh might bear this estimation out. Few, in any case, would hardly see anything mawkish about these two. All that can be said with any certainty is they were one of history’s more unique couples.
Afterwards we went to Odiham town centre and found this excellent pub called Next Door. Nothing like a cold lager on such a day, but just as delightful was the absolutely best bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich I ever had, better than any BLT from a New York deli. The honey-basted ham sandwich with cheddar cheese was an extremely close second. The staff was quite pleasant as well. All in all, a truly great day in the search for Simon.