This watercolor of Starlight Castle was painted for me by my sister-in-law
It shows the castle as it is today which unfortunately is somewhat less than it was fifty years ago.
It all started out as a blackberry picking mission.
Seaton Sluice had a river bank that was absolutely overgrown with wild blackberries and once a year a bunch of us would take the bus the few miles up the coast to pick as many as we could and put our mothers through the misery of making blackberry jam and jelly.
On this particular year we found that someone else had been there first and the pickings were slim. There were only enough to eat and not enough to take back although I dare say we ate enough to make an adult sick to the stomach.
The river bank was probably about 50 feet high and steeply sloped so going was slow as we looked for better places to pick. I had reached the top of the bank and walked along a little way to see if I could see anything when I got a good lesson in the expertise of nature's camouflage. I also learned to watch where I stepped. As I took a step toward the edge something exploded from under my foot and knocked me on my backside in the thorns. The sight of that huge thing flying off across the river has stayed clear in my mind ever since, Its angry calls of Hoo Hoo echoing in my brain. I never realised how big owls were until that moment but it seemed almost big enough to have carried me off on its back.
When we reached the end of the blackberry patch we were at a bit of a loose end so a trip to Starlight Castle seemed in order. To get there we needed to cross the river which was not a big deal except that its narrowest point was a little way up and the river banks were sort of steep and then someone made a dare to cross by the pipe.
There was a large pipe that crossed the river quite high up on the banks. I have no idea what it was but by the size it was probably a sewer pipe. It created a bridge about 50 feet long and was about 40 feet above the river. The river was no more than a small stream so falling into it was not an option. Geordie took the first go and I was hoping he would chicken out but no such luck. Getting on and off the pipe was difficult because there was a lot of barbed wire around it but once on he managed to crawl safely across.
Now I am not afraid of heights but I am afraid of falling from them so I was still hoping for someone else to chicken out and let the rest of us off the hook but alas my turn came and I was forced to crawl across or be classified a sissy for the rest of my life. Pete was the only one who looked down in the middle and froze but with enough taunts and name calling he completed the crossing. Luckily the pipe was large and not slippery so it really wasn't dangerous but for the sake of our future freedom we never told our parents about the shortcut across the river.
Once on the other side it was a short walk to the castle but on the way we all searched for suitable branches to be used as swords because no self respecting kid goes to a castle unarmed.
The castle was small and in ruins but it had history and we all knew the story.
Long long ago, when they actually used to build castles, lord Delaval was drinking with some of his friends and in the heat of the moment wagered that he could build a castle for his mistress in a weekend.
Although he actually won the bet the castle was never occupied but the ruins still remain.
We spent a wonderful afternoon as king Arthur and the knights of the round table climbing all over the castle.
Historians are now of the opinion that King Arthur came from our area but that would not have surprised us.
We always knew he must have been a Geordie.