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“Jerusalem”

My first visit to Castle Drogo happened in the 80s. You may be more familiar with Lindisfarne, Sir Edwin Lutyens other “castle” on the opposite end of England. Drogo—not the Dothraki warlord from “Game of Thrones”!—is in Devon, a county southeast of Greater London and the site for, among other things, Conan Doyle’s “Hound of the Baskervilles”. The house itself is attached to the village of Drewsteignton, or is it the other way around, for the house may actually occupy more square meterage than the village. In both cases I recommend a visit to Drogo and Lindisfarne be added to your bucket lists.

Both houses are dramatically sited, one grafted to a rock outcrop on Holy Island in the North Sea, the other precarious on the edge of the Teigne River gorge. What I recall about my visit to Drogo was its likeness to a pilgrimage: train from London to Exeter (where you should see the cathedral), then a bus into the countryside, where the driver will cheerily deposit you at a country crossroad and bruskly wave you on to a rendezvous with Dorothy, Toto and their other traveling companions.

It was an ektachrome day, cloudless and so still I could hear wheat ripening in the fields. A mile or more into my trek, singing seemed the proper thing to do; it was like the alone-ness of singing in the shower. I chose “Jerusalem”:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills?

As rendered by Monty Python, of course.

If anyone other than the local wildlife had heard me, I’d have been hastily returned to the care facility from whence I’d escaped. If there’s an expeditious way to reach Castle Drogo, please keep it to yourselves, for this was the stuff of a five-minute movie.

Though the hedgerows and underbrush weren’t thick, like they are in these postcards, their solitary stillness took me back to that day in June and reminded me how a walk through the countryside around Agincourt might evoke a similar reaction—a step back to an afternoon in June thirty-five years ago and to a summer day a century before that.


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