My 1999 visit to Newstead Abbey, former home of Lord Byron ...
Here are the (edited) observations I made later in the day when I wrote in my journal on April 17, 1999:
I made one slight wrong turn, then proceeded down a narrow road (I saw only 2 cars the entire time) through fields & stands of trees. After about ½ mile, I came to an overpass with iron grillwork with little boys (9–10 years) peering thru the bars at me from the other side. “Help!” joked one.
“You’re in jail!” I quipped.
“I’m not in jail,” he replied with some umbrage. So I hurried on.
Shortly after, I came to a gate—iron between 2 short stone pillars with a stone house nearby. A German shepherd gave me a barking inspection, & the gatekeeper came out & charged me £2 to look at the grounds only. He wanted to know where I was from in the States: “Oh, yes, Cleveland, Ohio,” he said with blank eyes belying his vocal confidence.
I had a mile yet to go, he told me. So off I went; the only living thing I saw was a girl on horseback who trotted past me. “Trade you places?” I offered.
She laughed and trotted on.
Soon I came to another gate, similar to the other, and I followed the road up a slight incline & saw the Abbey to the right—a glorious sight—and what I took (incorrectly) to be LB’s house on the left. (After I took a photo of it, I saw it had a “For Sale” sign & was a private residence—oops!) I wandered over to the Abbey, wondering what was the source of the piercing cries I was hearing: rooks? crows?
Later—aboard the train to London. I saw a peacock & some other LARGE birds that I at first took to be vultures. (Closer inspection revealed them to be just various varieties of “peas.”) They looked firmly territorial, so I yielded ground whenever necessary. The cries seemed to be “Help!”—or, perhaps, “Hell!” I circled the Abbey, photographing in heavy overcast the gorgeous grounds and structure. (LB sold this for £140,000—not a bad deal, I’d say—but a bit remote.) I headed back in order to make the 10:49 from Newstead and thus the 11:24 to London.
As I neared the entrance gate (the one with the dog), I heard 2 horseback riders behind me; it became clear that I would just beat them to the gate, and when I did (by a few feet—the dog was less interested this time), I turned around and quipped: “Beat you!”
“To the gate, anyway,” one replied in good humor.
“Where was this sun when I was up there taking photographs?” I wondered. For, indeed, the sun had peeked out on my walk back—though the dark clouds were stubborn, yielding sky grudgingly.
“You caught a glimpse of it, then?” another said.
It took me a dull moment to figure out what she’d meant, and by then they were by me, so I surreptitiously photographed them from the rear. Boys were playing soccer in the field near the station, and I arrived in plenty of time.
The pictures below are from that day ... that cloudy, dour day ...