I lean in between the two huge stone walls, which conveniently meet here that I could be sheltered from the breeze whistling through the ruined windows--which of course would never have had glass in them anyway. Out of the one on my right I can see the river, with pleasure boats moored and waiting for a warmer day; on my left I can see the castle walls, houses, a construction site, and there on the horizon a large squat building with chimneys, which looks to me like a power station.
This is Rochester Castle, and I am sitting on a wooden bench which I was glad to find situated where the two wall form a corner in the Mural Gallery. If I stand up, and walk a little way along a crridor before climbing a short flight of crumbling steps, I reach another level, and through the windows I can see the cathedral. On the other side, the inside of the castle--minus the floors--is clearly visible and I can see right down to the lowest level. It is dizzying.
More stairs, more windows ... one final flight and we are on top of the walls in the sunlight which has decided, two days before the end of the holiday, to show up. I am looking out over the riverside, where a lage road bridge crosses the water, a train travels across the line. Down below a young girl is buying ice cream at the kiosk we may visit later today.
These are the battlements, surrounded by four towers, three of which are square and one of which has been rebuilt to be cylindrical, although square on its inside wall. Young children are running around shouting, gleefully telling the parents about the '100ft drop' that the warning signs declare to be there.
I walk a little further and find myself inside a tower, which unfortunately members of the public are not allowed to climb. The flagpole, patriotically flying a Union Jack, comes right down inside. As I reach the next tower I find that it contains a flight of stairs, but a gate has been built to prevent visitors like myself from trying to descend, for they are broken and unsafe. I walk back the way I came in order to visit the other towers.
Inside the next tower--which contains the stairs that brought us here--my french friend Alison is taking photographs.
As I walk towards the final, cylindrical tower, I can see the city of Rochester set out in front of me, an eclectic mix of old and new, churches and houses, picturesque and ordinary, and through it all run cobbled streets.
I am now in the circular tower and, peering through the narrow slit of a windoow I can see a white, palatial house, although I am sure that by now it will have been turned into flats. A little further to the right there is a children's playground.
Now I am sitting on a bench in the corner, having come full circle. Is there more of this castle that I have yet to see? Let me find out.
I begin my descent. Down and down, spiral staircases making me feel dizzy, and past the Great Hall, now down to the Constable's Room and out into the gift shop, which sells the usual castle gaff, now down the steps to the grounds and through the old archway ... and away.