17 July 2011 (Sunday) - The Cellars of Winchelsea

I must admit to having a wry smile this morning as I pegged out the washing. Next door (the side who speak to us)’s dogs were staging a mini-riot. For all that the nice lady shouted and hollered at the dogs, they just carried on doing their own sweet thing until such time as it suited them to do something else. They do that a lot.
Whilst we were picnic-ing the other day we watched a woman demonstrating a similar level of (lack of) control over her dog. A month ago at Teston my brother’s dog bolted for no adequately explored reason and would not respond to any order or instruction. Many years ago my father’s dog decided to go off on a mission and was only stopped when (having been chased for a mile or so) the dog chanced to run past a friend who, on seeing the predicament, grabbed the dog.
Dogs don’t have to be like this. And not all are: I have seen dogs that are trained - trained well. Is it unreasonable to expect that all dogs have some basic level of training?

And then after a quick bite of McDinner we set off to Winchelsea. The village has loads of houses with cellars, and whenever we’ve walked around the place I’ve been intrigued by the cellars. So much so that I’ve often openly noseyed inside any which have been open.
Some time ago we saw that there were walks round the cellars organised by their local arky-ologee club, and so we planned to go there today. We had advertised the day at our arky-ologee club, and four club members turned up. I was disappointed at the low turnout from our club, but having said that, there were about forty people along for the tour anyway.
After a crafty half in the New Inn we all met up at the village pump, and the nice man who was our guide introduced himself, and gave a really good talk about the history of Winchelsea and the Cinque ports. The chap spoke with knowledge and enthusiasm, and really brought the subject to life as we walked round the village. We came to our first cellar, and all crowded in and listened to the chap tell us about how they were built. The poor speaker found himself having to ad-lib somewhat: just as we were about to leave, torrential rain started, and people were understandably reluctant to get soaked.
The monsoon passed, and we moved on to the second cellar, and then the third. It transpired that there are only two places in England with more medieval cellars than Winchelsea: Southampton and Norwich. And far from being used for smuggling (which I always thought they were); the cellars in Winchelsea were used as posh wine cellars from which merchants would sell wine.  
As is so often the case with any lecture it’s not the subject matter which captures the imagination; it’s the speaker. Today’s chap was really good, and the two hours flew by. The photos of the day are on line here.
We’re already thinking of going on a larger organised tour of Winchelsea itself. If any of my loyal readers are up for it, do let me know.

It was a shame that we couldn’t have spent longer, but as luck would have it the last cellar we investigated was next to the village tea rooms. So we popped in for coffee and cake. And then wandered up to the church to have a look at Spike Milligan’s gravestone.
We had a shock – it wasn’t there. We checked, and checked again. It’s gone! We came home and checked the Internet – nothing! So we phoned the organiser of today’s tour who told us that Mrs Milligan had recently died, and so the stone is being revamped accordingly.

And so home where I got the washing off the line – thanks to the rain it was far wetter than when I pegged it out. I popped it in the washing machine to spin it off; that washing machine doesn’t sound very good. I suspect that will need replacing soon. And then the evening was spent ironing. Dull, but then life isn’t all beer and skittles.
Except for ‘er indoors TM , who’d gone ten pin bowling for the evening….

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