Off the Beaten Path to Bodium Castle

by Jessica on March 6, 2009

I’ve always wondered what it was that made travelers want to explore off the beaten path. Everyone seems to be trying to get there, even reading books that tell them where to go. But just what is off the beaten path, and why should I want to go there?

Today, we ventured off the beaten path in East Sussex, and discovered Bodium Castle. The castle itself is relatively small, and very little is known about the history. It is of interest to most people because it has a perfectly well preserved exterior with all the major components of castle architecture. Our interest in Bodium castle was merely photographic. I am currently working on curriculum project that includes Bodium castle in the lesson plans and some research and photographs were needed for that purpose.

If you conjure up an image of a quintessential medieval castle, it is likely to look something like Bodium Castle, complete with a spring fed moat. Although it is lovely from the outside, I had read reviews that the interior was somewhat destroyed, and expected that we would make a very short visit before continuing on to Canterbury.

Let me just say, the castle exceeded all our expectations. Upon arrival, each of the boys was given a backpack that was filled with goodies to help them explore the castle. They excitedly dug into their backpack, pulled out the bright red costumes, and marched into the castle. The backpack contained a laminated kid friendly map of the castle. At each stop, a flip chart in the backpack instructed which items were to be taken from the backpack, and gave suggestions for free play with each item.

Our first stop was the kitchen and dining hall. Although the walls were somewhat damaged, it was easy to see where the large stone ovens and fire pits had once stood. The boys needed no instructions. Backpacks went flying off their backs, and they pulled out the wooden bowls and spoons. Soon, Mom and Dad were the honored guests at a ten course medieval feast. All of the boys hustled back and forth between the kitchen and the dining hall, serving us bowl upon bowl of medieval delicacies. The broken walls were no hindrance for their imagination. In fact, the interior state of the castle seemed to make it easier for them to explore.

After stuffing our bellies in the dining hall, we climbed the spiraling staircases up to the bedrooms. A brief exploration led us to a garderobe (a toilet, for you modern folks) and a couple of the boys were brave enough to take a seat. Because it was a slightly windy and cold day, it was not hard for us to imagine the chill factor involved in actually using a stone toilet. Hand puppets were pulled out the backpacks for a bit of impromptu theatre in the castle bedrooms before we headed back downstairs.

Before we knew it, our brief stop for pictures had turned into hours of exploring the castle. Interestingly, the boys all agreed that it was the best castle we had seen so far. Both Warwick and the Tower of London had by far more hands on and polished exhibits. On paper, either one of those castles would by far be more impressive. But Bodium Castle offered a freedom of exploration that made it the winner in the eyes of a child.

So, if ever we have the opportunity to travel off the beaten path again, we certainly will. In fact, we might go out of our way to find where the path ends and some hidden gem begins.

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