After many months of hard work and miserable weather, it was wonderful to find time at long last to take a short break in late August. We went to Northumberland to see David's parents, and also to see a few more of the many varied and interesting aspects of the North of England.
ON THE WAY
On the way, we stopped at the Angel Inn (appropriately) for lunch. It is a lovely old inn in Blythe, just off the A1, with good food and a nice garden where Charles could burn off some energy before embarking on the second half of the journey. Much further on, we also stopped at Penshaw Hill, site of the activities of the infamous Lambton Worm. The monument, which dominates the surrounding landscape, is much later than the legend.
On the second day, we went to Seaton Delaval Hall, near the Northumberland coast. This is a very interesting old building, designed by Vanburgh, but destroyed inside by fire over a hundred years ago. Amazingly, the outer shall is still intact. There are lovely gardens and some very fine statues to be seen in the demesne. Unfortunately, David's plan for a game of cricket and exploring rock pools on the coast afterwards was scuppered by a chilly East wind, which sent Ivy and Oliver scurrying for cover!
The third day started with the obligatory visit to Hadrian's Wall. We went to Housesteads, one of the major forts which has been thoroughly excavated. We joined a tour given by two actors, one portraying a Roman governor and the other an ancient Briton, which was very informative about how life used to be on what, two thousand years ago, was thought by the Romans to be the very edge of civilisation. (Anyone born north of the wall, such as David, is likely to disagree with that; many people from other parts of the world might have a certain sympathy with this viewpoint even today. Plus ca change ...)
We also visited Alnwick Castle. Seat for many centuries of the Dukes of Northumberland, Alnwick is in excellent condition and houses some first class art (including several by Canaletto, one of David's favourite artists), architecture and (regrettably from the point of view of Charles' behaviour) weapons. The gardens were laid out comparatively recently by the wife of the present Duke, and contain many imaginative features. Note the supernumerary monkey in the foreground of the last picture.
Cragside is the home of Lord Armstrong, a famous Victorian industrialist who operated several engineering companies in Newcastle. He was involved in shipbuilding, including many orders for the British and foreign navies. He was responsible for the innovative `swing bridge', a bridge over the river Tyne which is mounted on a central pillar about which it can swing so that it lies parallel to the flow of the river for large vessels to pass either side. And Cragside was the first house in Britain to have electric light, powered by its own generator. The gardens are also excellent. The only problem was (surprise, surprise) the weather!
PHOTOGRAPHS BY: CHARLES