As well as a beautiful castle and stunning flower displays there was even more to enjoy at Leeds Castle – lovely gardens, an exhibition of dog collars through the ages, a brilliant maze and lots of excellent activities for children.
On arrival at the castle the weather looked ominous, but it soon brightened up to be a lovely warm day.
After lunch I went to have a look at some dog collars.
Dog Collars Through the Ages
The oldest collars in this collection come from the Tudor period (1485 -1603).
These iron spiked collars were used to prevent the wearer's throat from attack by wolves and other wild animals while hunting or guarding flocks.
At this time dogs were primarily used for herding livestock, hunting and for brutal sports such as wolf and bear baiting. Hunting was a favourite pastime of King Henry VIII, he spent many hours each day engaged in the sport. His favourite hunting dogs were spaniels and greyhounds - considered to be a particularly noble breed. He gave hundreds of dogs as gifts, including some to the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of France, all "garnished with a good iron collar". Henry's own dogs wore sumptuous velvet and leather collars, embellished with silver and gold spikes, pearls or the royal crest.
The Renaissance Period
Leaving the Tudor period the collars begin to look less brutal and more elaborate. Hunting remained a popular sporting activity for the aristocrats of the 17th century whilst smaller breeds brought in from overseas became increasingly popular as domestic pets.
A collar for a pampered favourite had a purely decorative function, and a handsome collar was an important way of demonstrating personal wealth. Some breeds such as the Italian Greyhound were viewed as luxury objects among the ruling European families of the time and were dressed as lavishly as their owners.
In Germany and southern European countries leather or iron collars were often decorated with large brass initials, coats of arms and decorative scalloped hinges. Spikes still appeared on some collars but only for decorative purposes.
From the 18th century onwards the ownership of dogs, cats and birds extended out into a wider society.
The most common form of collar at the time was a plain brass circle with either a rolled or serrated edge and stamped with the name and location of the owner. Silver collars were also popular but more expensive which probably explains why most of the the silver collars in this collection appear to be designed for the smaller breeds. Collars were enhanced with soft leather linings, trimmed with bells, secured with padlocks and decorated with engraved pictures or patterns.
Into the 20th Century
The 20th century saw a much greater variety of canine collar fashions than had been seen before. A new range of materials were now in use, plastic, wool, felt, beads and modern textiles such as polyester.
Several of these collars had been donated by people with fascinating stories to tell about the dogs who wore them, from prizewinning puppies to canine heroes from both World Wars.
I think either one of these would look quite fetching on Rufus :-)
When the dog collar collection first arrived at Leeds Castle in 1979 it quickly became one of the castle's most popular attractions. Within a few short years many more collars had been donated to the Leeds Castle Foundation. Decades later dozens of enquiries and offers of collars arrive each year from across the globe.
The grounds and gardens were beautiful, in summer they would be stunning.
I don't think I’ve ever seen a female peacock before, she was the proud mum of four babies and must be used to people, she was very relaxed with me sitting on the bench next to her.
If you zoom in you can see the eggs this swan is incubating.
I finished my wonderful day in this amazing maze. With just over an hour to go before returning I was confident that I would have plenty of time to get to the centre, and then a 20 minute stroll back to the coach.
I started by trying to visualise which way to go, mmm that was a dismal failure so I did what any respectable pensioner would have done - followed some school children! some of their fellow students had already made it and were guiding them, but after seemingly going round in circles I suspected the students in the centre were having a bit of fun with their friends. Some ladies asked if I knew which way to go, I was only able to reply "not that way" I was well and truly lost, no high tech satnav or smartphone could help me here. I wasn't panicking but I could sense anxiety creeping in and just then a man's voice behind me asked "Would you like some help madam?" he was a maze guide, I was so relieved. "Follow me" he said, which I gladly did. After a few turns he directed me which way to go and said "stay right" In no time at all I was in the centre. That's the lovely man there behind the hedge. The way out was through an underground grotto. Plenty of time left for a leisurely stroll back, and an ice cream before boarding the coach.
It's the best maze I have been in. I really wanted to do it without help and if time hadn't been limited I would have kept trying.
I thoroughly recommend a trip to Leeds Castle, there's something for everyone, allow plenty of time to enjoy it all.