Wild Horses Run Free... Don't They?

“… the Angel of the Lord descended… A wind whirled toward him, scoring red sand with its feet, scattering the dust with the blast of its nostrils, screaming with ferocity. Jibrail stayed the thundering cloud with his outstretched arm and grasped the fullness of it with his hands… The wild element condensed in Jibrail’s hand and by the majesty of the Living God emerged as the steed of the desert – the Drinker of the Wind.” ~ a Bedouin conception of the creation of a Horse; Carl R. Raswan

Red horse in desert

I know I said last week that I’d be posting some of the research I did for my work-in-progress. But I’ve been reading about the wild horses in America and wanted to do a post to highlight their plight.

UPDATE 08 JUNE 2018:
The US House of Representatives yesterday approved the use of barbaric, dangerous and very inhumane sterilisation procedures on wild horses. “This type of cruelty should not be inflicted on wild horses and burros when BLM (Bureau of Land Management) can’t even prove overpopulation exists in a court of law.” ~ Freedom4Horses.
This declaration by Simone Netherlands, president of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, isn’t an easy read, but people need to know what these beautiful creatures are going to be subjected to.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love horses. I used to say when I grew up, I wanted to be a horse; that’s how obsessed I was. For me, horses symbolise wild, abandoned freedom.

Although I’ve never been to America, I’ve always wanted to see the wild horses roaming free. Next best thing, I watch them on tv and follow organisations like the Cloud Foundation.

A thousand horse and none to ride! –
With flowing tail, and flying mane,
Wide nostrils never stretched by pain,
Mouths bloodless to the bit or rein,
And feet that iron never shod,
And flanks unscarred by spur or rod,
A thousand horse, the wild, the free,
Like waves that follow o’er the sea,
Came thickly thundering on,…
” ~ Lord Byron, XVII, ‘Mazeppa’, 1818

Horse herd running

I’ve come to realise that not all see horses in the same way. The very organisation that’s supposed to be acting in their best interest – the Bureau of Land Management – is doing all it can, it seems, to wipe them out.

Lawmakers are told again and again that there is a “wild horse problem.” The truth is that wild horses have been mismanaged by the BLM, which clings to an antiquated, inhumane and expensive system of helicopter roundups and warehousing of wild horses and burros despite the existence of safe, proven fertility control vaccine’ ~ ‘Return to Freedom.’

The entire article on Return to Freedom’s website is an eye-opening read.

As is this, on the Cloud Foundation’s website – ‘BLM Scrambles to Write New Management Plan’.

But there are other ways, a more humane management plan that can be used instead – ‘The Cloud Foundation, the American Wild Horse Campaign, and 80+ Groups Release Unified Statement Against Horse Slaughter’.

At the end of the day, I guess it all comes down to money; wild animals have no profit, so replace them with something that can make a profit – livestock.

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
” ~ Cree Prophecy

That is no way to treat any living creature, especially one that has been so inextricably linked to human history and advancement.

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it.” ~ John Trotwood Moore

'Napoleon Crossing the Alps' ~ Jacques-Louis David

'Napoleon Crossing the Alps' ~ Jacques-Louis David

As I don't live in America, I am severely limited in the ways I can help; when I’m able to, I donate. And I am grateful that my recent contribution was able to help Grey Oaks Equine Sanctuary save a beautiful mare from the kill pen.

If you live in America and you want to help these magnificent creatures, please visit the Cloud Foundation and Return to Freedom, and others – they have links to the various ways you can help, including writing to your senators and representatives.

His is a power enhanced by pride, a courage heightened by challenge. His is a swiftness intensified by strength, a majesty magnified by grace. His is a timeless beauty touched with gentleness, a spirit that calls our hearts to dream.” ~ Unknown.

Wild horse in desert

Surely there’s no reason for any of this. Surely if wild horses were as numerous as the number of cattle, they would be easily found, easily seen; there would be no need to spend days trying to find them just to take a photo.

The ‘nation’ of human has no right to wipe out another ‘nation’ of animal just because it suits them; we’re not that big a deal.

Wild mare and foal

For no animal shall be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” ~ Henry Beston, ‘The Outermost House’.

Travel - Leamington Spa

I always do a ‘Travel’ post on Sunday but as I’ve got a busy Sunday coming up, I thought I might as well post this now instead of waiting another whole week.

Headed towards the Midlands last weekend, Leamington Spa to be precise. It’s a direct train ride from Bournemouth, just under 3 hours. The weather wasn’t very good; it was raining when I got there but at least it was still warm. Thanks to the weather, headed for cover. Checked out the church, which was hosting a historical exhibition ... 

Then walked to the museum/library/information centre/café. The building used to be the Royal Pump Rooms. The museum is to the right of this main building...

In the museum, next to the exhibit room, is the Hammam or Turkish bath, which had been part of the Royal Pump Rooms, restored after being closed for many years.

The view outside the Museum, and the path leading to a riverside walk...

I've refrained from doing my usual write-up; there isn’t much about it from a historical perspective. I did like the town, it’s small-ish, compact and pretty, and parts of it reminded me of Bath. The whole place had a very nice feeling, from walking around the town to spending time in the gardens. I didn’t realise that the hotel – The Regent Hotel – had had its fair share of famous guests. Officially opened in August 1819, it had its most famous visitor in 1830 when, aged 11, Princess Victoria stayed overnight with her father.

The photos are a mix of some taken during the day and in the evening when the rain let up. It was a very pleasant walk from the hotel to the gardens and back again ..

The hotel is the cream building on the extreme left of the picture

This refers to the base of Queen Victoria's statue, as can be seen in the picture below...

A famous circus man and elephant trainer, Sam Lockhart, kept 3 of his Ceylonese elephants - 'The 3 Graces' - at Leamington Spa...

One thing that struck me about Leamington Spa – the number of restaurants! Every road seemed to have at least one; a couple seemed to be filled with nothing but eateries!

Entrance and interior of the hotel...

Again, as in in Arundel, I was most taken with the gardens. The Jephson Gardens are named after Dr. Henry Jephson who had built houses for the town’s poor and had also helped promote the healing properties of the town’s spa waters. 

This Temple contains a very large marble statue of Dr Jephson ...

The setting sun and clouds on the walk back to the hotel... and looking across the green to the museum building with the church behind it

The next morning, had a light breakfast at the most delightful tea room next door to the hotel, called Rosie’s – everything was vintage; none of the crockery matched and I loved the whole experience!

Decided to spend more time in Jephson Gardens, which is the largest public garden I’ve been in and it is gorgeous. I was struck by the copious number of benches! Usually, you’re lucky if you find one. There are fountains, a glasshouse, tea rooms, a clock tower and so much green! Not to mention the river. Just the sort of place to spend a lazy Sunday with a book and a coffee …

Inside the glasshouse...

This is called 'pink powder puff'! Never heard of it but I like it.

Back out again...

The Sunday Section: Travel - Magical Medieval Arundel Castle

The reason I didn’t post last Sunday was because I was away. Finally, after 3.5 months!! Finally, I got the chance, and I was going, regardless of the weather; the preceding week had been pretty dismal. But, come the Saturday, the sun shone, and it did for the whole day; in fact, the weather all weekend was wonderful.

Arundel Castle - the view just after leaving the train station

Arundel Castle - the view just after leaving the train station

Just saying – this is a pretty hefty post as I didn’t stint on the picture-taking :)

Arundel was and still is a bustling market town. It also used to be an important port, with ships sailing to and from the town along the river Arun to the sea, about 5 miles away. With a formidable-looking castle and a magnificent cathedral, I expected the town to be quite large but it wasn’t; most everything was within walking distance. The quaint little hotel was only yards from the train station, by a fairly busy road, but with a gorgeous view of fields and grazing cows. And the town was about a 5-10minute pleasant walk away.

I hadn’t done my ‘homework’ as I wanted to be surprised by the place. In hindsight, I wish I had as there’s so much history. Arundel Castle was granted to Roger de Montgomery on Christmas Day 1067 by his cousin, William the Conqueror, as a reward for keeping the peace in Normandy while William was busy conquering England. It was a package deal – Roger was also granted extensive lands in the Welsh Marches, including one-fifth of Sussex. The portioning off of Sussex was referred to as the Arundel Rape.

After the death of Roger de Montgomery, the castle reverted to the crown under Henry I who left it to his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain (present-day Belgium). 3 years after Henry’s death, she married William d’Aubigny, also known as William d’Albini. Having fought loyally for King Stephen, he was made 1st Earl of Lincoln and then 1st Earl of Arundel in 1138. In 1139, Matilda, Adeliza’s step-daughter, stayed at Arundel for some time while attempting to win back the crown from her cousin, Stephen.

Adeliza of Louvain

Adeliza of Louvain

It was at this point that I wished I’d read up on the castle’s history – I know this story, of Henry I, Adeliza and William, and of Matilda, Henry’s daughter – it’s the basis of the first Elizabeth Chadwick novel I’d read, ‘Lady of the English’.

Arundel Castle descended directly from the d’Aubigny family in 1138 to the FitzAlans in the 13th century, carried by female heiresses. There was the occasional reversion to the Crown, like in 1176 following the death of William d’Aubigny; first under Henry II, it then passed to Richard I, the Lionheart, who offered it back to the Aubigny family. After the death of the last male Aubigny, the castle and earldom passed to John FitzAlan of Clun through his marriage to Isabel Aubigny. The castle remained with the FitzAlan family until 1580.

With the marriage, in 1555, of Mary FitzAlan, the youngest child of the 19th Earl of Arundel, to Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, the castle eventually passed from the FitzAlans to the Howards, who hold the dukedom of Norfolk. The castle has been the principal seat of the Norfolk family for over 400 years to the present day. Sadly, Mary died a year after marriage, following the birth of their son.

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

The Howards featured largely in English history, especially during the latter Plantagenet and Tudor period. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was one of the founders of English Renaissance poetry; he and his friend, Sir Thomas Wyatt, were the first English poets to write in the sonnet form that Shakespeare would later use. He was a first cousin of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Unfortunately, he and his father, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, were imprisoned and sentenced to death by a paranoid and very ill Henry VIII who was convinced they were planning on usurping the crown. Surrey was beheaded but his father escaped execution only because the king died; however, he remained imprisoned. Surrey’s son, Thomas, inherited the dukedom of Norfolk on the death of the 3rd duke in 1554. Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk, having gained Arundel Castle through marriage, lost it when he was executed for conspiring to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1572. The castle was later returned to the family.

During the Civil War, Arundel Castle was badly damaged. In December 1642, it was captured by a small force of Parliamentarians. One year later, it was captured by Royalists after a short siege but they then had to defend it against parliamentary troops; the Royalist defenders surrendered in January 1644.

The damage was gradually repaired over the years, with most of the restoration carried out by Henry, the 15th duke, and completed in 1900.

Walked down a footpath, by the river Arun, into town ...

Opted not to go into the castle rooms; not allowed to take photos and, to be honest, because the day was so glorious, didn't want to spend too long indoors ...

The FitzAlan Chapel, in the castle grounds, was the idea of Richard FitzAlan, the 10th Earl of Arundel, who’d fought at Crécy with Edward III, the Black Prince. The Chapel was built posthumously according to his will. The size of the building is deceptive; although large, on the inside it is split – it is one of the very few church buildings that is divided into 2 worship areas. The eastern end, the Chapel, is Catholic and the private mausoleum of the Dukes of Norfolk, and can only be accessed from the castle grounds; while the western side, with a separate entrance, is Anglican, occupied by St Nicholas Parish and Priory Church.

The Chapel’s main features are the beautiful seven-panel window, and the wooden vaulted roof, which, although rebuilt in 1886, still incorporates the medieval roof bosses. The brass ‘figures’ on the floor date back to the 15th century, while the tombs are 16th century.

The gardens … I personally think the gardens are worth the price of entry alone; I enjoyed them more than the castle. The garden by the Chapel is called the White Garden, and it’s filled with white flowers. Not to mention palm trees! That plus the balmy weather gave the impression of being somewhere on the continent.

This is named the Collector Earl’s Gardens, after the 14th Earl who was dubbed the ‘Collector’. Most of the treasures in the castle were collected by him including tapestries, clocks, and portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and Anthony Van Dyck.

The gardens include Herbaceous Borders and the Cut Flower Garden...

Wildflower Garden ...

This ... I wasn't sure what to make of it - it's a crown 'floating' at the top of a fountain!

View of the Cathedral from the castle gardens ...

The Rose Garden ...

Some of the buildings around town … Had lunch at a pretty little restaurant, called Belinda’s; the building dates back to the 16th century.

While walking around the town, stumbled on this little gem, tucked away from the main road. I stared at the sign that said ‘Public Garden’, wondering if there was a catch … not that I’m cynical or anything. But it’s as the sign says – a genuine public garden, for the enjoyment of anyone who wants to use it! If I lived in one of the houses close by, I’d be out there every fine morning and evening, with my coffee and a book.

The building in the next picture and the one below it is, apparently, the cinema!

Walked around to the other side of the castle, to the road leading to the Cathedral. Before the cathedral is the entrance to the Church of St Nicholas, another beautiful building. It still bears traces of wall paintings inside.

The Cathedral Church of Our Lady and St Philip Howard is fairly new; it was commissioned in 1868 by the 15th Duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan-Howard. The architect was Joseph Hansom, the same man who invented the hansom cab. The Duke wanted a building that would complement the castle. Dedicated in 1873 as Arundel’s Catholic parish church, in 1965 it became a cathedral, serving Arundel and Brighton.

Henry Fitzalan-Howard

Henry Fitzalan-Howard

I have never seen an 'old' police lamp like this outside of films!

The view from the hotel room ...

The next day, had time to walk around after a late breakfast ...

Dominican friars were in Arundel, probably in the mid-13th century. Friars didn’t withdraw from the world like monks but went out to preach. This is the ruin of the Blackfriars Dominican Friary. Dominican friars were called ‘black friars’ because of the colour of their habits.

There's a path up the side of the castle that runs alongside the river ...

Although a popular tourist destination, and there were people about, nowhere felt crowded. That surprised me as the town is fairly small. It is definitely worth a return visit, and I am so glad and so lucky that it isn't far; methinks it would make for a pleasant day trip.

The Sunday Section: Travel - Hellfire Caves, Riverside Walk

A while back, in conversation with a dear friend, a series of caves called the Hellfire Caves was mentioned.  I wondered if it had anything to do with the Hellfire Club, which I’d read about in the X-Men comics.  In the world of the X-Men, the club was for the pleasure-seeking rich and it hid the ‘Inner Circle’, which was a powerful criminal organisation.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realise the Hellfire Club was an actual gentleman’s club, which had nothing to do with criminal activity.

Entrance to the Hellfire Caves

Time to discover the Hellfire Caves, which I duly did last weekend.  It’s about a 20-minute drive from the town of Maidenhead, which wasn’t too long a train journey for me.  There’s a taxi rank at the station, which was convenient.

The caves, also known as the West Wycombe Caves, being near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, are a network of underground manmade caverns extending about a quarter of a mile.  They were excavated between 1748 and 1752 for the 2nd Baronet and 11 th Baron le Despencer, Francis Dashwood.

Sir Francis Dashwood

At the time, there was serious local unemployment in the area due to successive harvest failures from 1748-1750.  When he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1762, Sir Francis had introduced proposals for stimulating the creation of work to relieve rural unemployment.  Putting his own ideas into action, Sir Francis decided to extend the ancient open-cast quarry on the side of the hill to provide, not only employment but also material for a new main road between West Wycombe and High Wycombe.  The existing road had become so deeply rutted that carriages tended to overturn, especially in wet weather.  For whatever reason, Sir Francis also decided to have a long, winding tunnel dug into the hill, filled with caverns and passages.  All dug by hand, the caves are rightly regarded to be an incredible feat of engineering.

Sir Francis was the founder of the Dilettanti Society, made up of noblemen and scholars, and which sponsors the study of ancient Greek and Roman art.  He was also co-founder of the Hellfire Club; in truth, there was more than one such club, which was exclusively for high society gentlemen, usually involved in politics, who wished to indulge in ‘immoral acts’.  But the name tends to refer exclusively to Sir Francis’ club although, in his time, it was not known as the Hellfire Club.  It was known by a few names, including ‘The Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe’; ‘The Brotherhood of St. Francis of Wycombe’; and ‘Order of Knights of West Wycombe’.  Members of Sir Francis’ club included the painter, William Hogarth; the politician and journalist, John Wilkes; and John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.  Although not believed to be a member, Benjamin Franklin, a close friend of Sir Francis, visited the caves more than once.

It is thought that the unusual design of the caves was inspired by Sir Francis’ Grand Tour when he visited Italy, Greece, Turkey and other areas of the Ottoman Empire.  The entrance, built around 1752, echoes a gothic church and is built from flint and chalk mortar.

Paul Whitehead's Chamber, named after the steward, Paul Whitehead

Lord Sandwich’s Circle is named after the Earl of Sandwich; and Franklin’s Cave, after Benjamin Franklin.

'Benjamin Franklin' on the right in Franklin's Cave

The Banqueting Hall is thought to be the largest man-made chalk cavern in the world.

The Banqueting Hall

Across a subterranean river, named the Styx – after the river in Greek mythology, which forms a boundary between the Earth and the Underworld -  is the final cave, the Inner Temple.  It is here that the meetings of the Hellfire Club were held, and the cave is said to be 300 feet directly beneath the Church of St Lawrence at the top of West Wycombe hill.

Following the death of Sir Francis Dashwood in 1781, and the Hellfire Club’s demise, the caves fell into disuse and disrepair until the 1940s.  Plans to use the caves as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War came to naught as the area was too rural to be targeted by enemy planes.

The 11thBaronet, also named Sir Francis Dashwood, renovated the caves and reopened them in 1951 as a local visitor attraction.  He used the profits to refurbish West Wycombe Park, the ancestral seat of the family, which was built between 1740 and 1800.  Although now in the ownership of the National Trust, the family still live at the house.

At the top of the hill is the Dashwood Mausoleum, which is more of a walled enclosure than an actual mausoleum.  Next to it is the Church of St Lawrence, the tower of which is capped with a golden ball.  The Dashwood family are buried in a vault under the church.  Across the valley is West Wycombe Park; the cave entrance can be seen from the house.  The park is unique in its use of Classical Greek and Italian architecture, and the gardens are said to be among the finest 18th century gardens surviving in England.

The path that leads up from the caves to the mausoleum at the top of the hill

The Mausoleum

View looking down the valley, away from the Mausoleum ...

West Wycombe Park, seen from near the top of the hill

The Mausoleum, and the golden ball at the top of the church

The gates to the Mausoleum was locked; took pictures through the railings ...

Path leading away from Mausoleum, around to the church

Church wall

Top of war memorial by the church and Mausoleum

Back down the path, back to the entrance to the caves

The caves were definitely interesting, though I can only imagine what it must have been like in the 18th century with only lamps to light the way.  Now, there are strategically placed electric lights but parts of the tunnel were barely lit, and that was a little unnerving.  My one complaint about the lighting is that they were almost at eye-level, which I found almost blinding.

Can you imagine lugging food and stuff along the tunnel to the Inner Chamber at the end?  There were times when it was difficult to stand up straight.  With all the alcohol that must have been consumed, how on earth did they find their way out?  Female companions – not only prostitutes but also local women, wives and ‘ladies of society’ – were smuggled in dressed as nuns!

The caves are supposed to be one of the most haunted sites in Britain.  The ghost of the steward, Paul Whitehouse, is said to wander the tunnels, looking for his heart.  When he died in 1774, he asked that his heart be placed in an urn and kept at the Mausoleum.  Unfortunately, it was stolen in 1829!  Visitors and staff have reported seeing a man in old-fashioned clothing; when faced, he vanishes into thin air.

The other ghost is that of a young woman, believed to be Sukie, a 16/17-year-old barmaid, who worked at the local inn in the late 18th/early 19th century.  An attractive girl with many admirers, she rejected them all as she wanted to marry into ‘society’.  After she started dating a local aristocrat, she received a message from him to meet in the caves wearing her best white dress as a wedding gown.  But it turned out to be a hoax, perpetrated by 3 of her rejected admirers.  Angered by their teasing, she threw stones at them; one of the boys responded in kind.  Hit by a stone, Sukie fell unconscious.  Scared, the boys carried her back to the inn, but she died during the night.  A girl in a white dress, called the White Lady, has been seen wandering the tunnel and chambers.

Display by the River Styx, showing 'Sukie' and a 'lady of the night' dressed as a nun

Sunday was sunny but the wind was cold.  Honestly! It’s almost the end of April.  Anyway, it was nice enough for a walk.  About 10 minutes from the town of Maidenhead – a well-signposted route – is the Thames, and a nice walk it was too.

Plaque reads 'The Ada Lewis Trough, Erected November 1908'; she was a local benefactor

Male mandarin duck - love the colours!

Oh ... had to take a picture of the toilet roll dispenser in the ladies at the Hellfire Caves!