Four years had passed since my previous appearance at Sudeley Castle. FOUR YEARS! And I get back there yesterday and they STILL haven't finished it. I had been invited back by the very charming and delightful Kim Gibbons who now does all the booking of this sort of thing at Sudeley. The drive up from Somerset to the Cotswolds was going to take just a smidgen under two hours according to my sat nav, so I left home at about 7.30am aiming for a 9.30am arrival at the castle, for a 10.30am start. I would be working with The Tudor Roses, previously seen at Leeds Castle last year, and also Diane Collings also late of Leeds Castle, Hever Castle, Barrington Court, and the photo above.
It was a brilliantly bright clear morning as I left Crewkerne - dazzling spring sunshine and a Canaletto blue sky. Something that always surprises me when I work at Sudeley Castle is the almost complete lack of any road signs indicating it's existence outside of the small town it's in (Winchcombe). When you go to the area around Leeds Castle and Hever Castle you are left in little doubt as to the location of these charming sites. But Sudeley seems almost to hide itself on purpose, which is a real shame as it is delightful and in the most charming typical Cotswold countryside of rolling hills and quaint views. It's amazing Liz Hurley found it for her wedding.
I was greeted by Kim and shown to my dressing room - an office on nearly the top floor of one of the castle's towers. A lung bursting climb at the best of times, made even more strenuous by hauling half a hundred weight of Henry VIII clothing in a bag behind you. I was soon changed and sitting out on the terrace at the rear of the castle, taking in the views and awaiting the appearance of the Tudor Roses and Diane. With them all assembled round me I was now Henry VIII complete with a Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Jane Seymour, Katherine Parr, Princess Mary and, thanks to an appearance by Diane's step daughter, a nine year old Princess Elizabeth. There were lots of other attractions for the punters including a circus skills training group, archery and a falconer - everything you could possibly need for a wild Tudor weekend.
Henry and his entourage walked round the castle estate, meeting and greeting any punters we came across and posing for limitless photographs. The sun, when out was very warming, but any time some clouds came across, there was a very keen wind which whipped across the castle grounds and reminded you we were still several weeks from May.
We all lunched together in the Castle cafe, which prompted much mirth and interest from our fellow non-Tudor dressed diners. After much more walking about and being photographed, we paused at one point to watch the falconry display, but this nearly ended in disaster as a customer's dog, for some stupid reason off it's lead, roared into the display area and began trying to attack the falcons. I was just waiting for the owner to run past screaming "FENTON! FENTON! JESUS CHRIST!"
We changed and headed back to our cars, and I was soon on my way home. Again the journey was relatively easy and the only unpleasantness occurred when I was nearly home on the A358 between Taunton and Ilminster, where some complete dick wad in a Ford Mondeo decided he was going to weave in and out of the traffic, regardless of what was coming in the other direction. How come you NEVER see a traffic policeman when you want to!?
Right, off to Kent today for a Henry show at Tunbridge Wells tomorrow, then later this week up to Northumberland for an appearance at a Shakespeare festival (and an excuse for a long weekend away). Thanks to the Tudor ladies this weekend, it was a delight.