• Rachel Anne Baer

Lincoln Cathedral, Castle and the Imp

As children we always grew excited whenever a trip to Lincoln our nearest city was approaching. We didn't go too often as it was probably a daunting prospect for my parents taking three young children out for the day. We would usually take a picnic lunch which was always fun. A large basket with sandwiches and a few treats would be packed along with a thermos of coffee for the adults and juice for us children. Sometimes we went to the city for shopping but that was not until we were older and needed school uniform items that were not available in our village.

Our most loved trip was to the cathedral. In the cathedral we had to be on our best behavior and stay as quiet as possible. I still get that same sense of awe walking into a cathedral now. Then it was recognizing it as a holy, religious place, now it's more out of awe and respect for those that designed and built such an amazing piece of architecture, especially considering that they had none of the large pieces of construction equipment that we have now, it was all done by hand. I wonder about the true number of injuries and deaths that occurred during such an undertaking, one that could take decades if not centuries to complete.

As children we were most excited to seek out the famous Lincoln Imp. (Click to read the legend.)

Once we were in the section where the imp was "hiding" the three of us would run down the aisles, loving the sound our feet made, echoing as we went, making the sound seem so much greater. Everyone talked in whispers when really we just longed to scream as loud as possible to make the most of the acoustics, at least that was my secret longing. The imp was hidden up high, we needed an adult to point him out, I remember a thrill of excitement and a little fear when I finally spotted him. Not sure if perhaps he just might come alive again to punish any naughty children. I am sure that was a possibility my parents warned me of. Of course as a child it was easy to believe in such a magical possibility even if it was a scary one. One incident in particular was seeing the eternal candle for the first time. It was behind railings near the alter in the cathedral, a beautiful candle that was tended night and day. I'm not sure if this is still the case, however my youngest brother escaped his pushchair, slipped easily through the railings as he was so small, delighting in the fact that there were so many candles and proceeded to blow them all out! He had moved so quietly in a matter of seconds that we had not even noticed , only realizing when a fellow tourist pointed out the small boy in his element blowing out candles. To be fair he had just celebrated a birthday and blowing out candles is one of the best parts of a birthday when you are two or three years old. I am sure he can't have been the first or last person to commit the crime of extinguishing the eternal flame. It still makes me smile thinking about it. My poor mum was very apologetic, I am sure people were kinder then about such things, I hope so.

Our next stop would be Lincoln Castle, the first stop would be to find a suitable picnic spot. If the ground was really wet it would be at a bench, otherwise our parents would spread out a large thick striped blanket for us to sit on. Picnics were the one time we were allowed the freedom to get up and run once our sandwiches were eaten. If we were lucky a bag of crisps (chips) would be among the snacks available. These were a rare treat, saved for picnics, parties or celebrations, the same with chocolate biscuits which today we take all these "treats" for granted and are disappointed, feeling deprived when they are not available. When I think how much we played outside then I realize how lucky were were, getting a chance to run off our energy, staying fit and healthy, exploring our surroundings. We did our best to be the same way with our boys although it was not until we moved the States that we had a large yard for them to play in. We did get outside daily at the local parks, friends gardens and the local woodlands, most outdoor activities were within easy walking distance.

I digress - those were the days at the castle where we could still climb on the old cannons and pretend to shoot the "baddies" in the distance. We would roll down the castle hills, getting covered in grass stains and take ages struggling to climb back up to the top, only to do the same thing again and again until we were exhausted, we would be bundled back in the car for our eighteen mile drive home. Usually too tired to argue as to who got to sit near the window.

My favorite castle visits were the special reenactment days, knights on horseback jousting, beautiful maidens and queens waiting to be beheaded. The costumes were incredible and fed our young imaginations, perhaps that's one reason for my love of history.

I have taken my boys as children to the same haunts, I even have a small model Imp on the wall our front room. Once married we lived in another part of the country, still with old castles, some ruined but they were great places to take energetic young boys and their friends to get rid of their energy. Often as many as eight or ten boys would be charging around ruined castle grounds dressed as knight, often wielding wooden swords, much to the amusement or perhaps horror of other visitors. It was a great time for me, now a mother myself to chat with friends as we enjoyed our own picnics, even going in weather that was pretty chilly just to get energetic boys out of the house for a few hours.

On a recent visit to see my dad I enjoyed walking around the castle grounds again. Taking in the history of the place, imagining how it might have been so many years ago, I had recently read the incredible trilogy by Ken Follett which describes the castle and some of the battles that took place in it's ground in amazing detail. I could almost picture the armies gathering behind and before the castle walls.

Do you have a special place you visited as a child? Have you been back there as an adult? If so has this changed your perception? Feel free to comment below.

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