Tuesday, 17 September 2019



Thanks for calling in.

It's amazing what you can fit into a couple of days, even without a car!  Newcastle's Metro began operation in 1980 and was the ideal mode of transport to get us to the seaside at Tynemouth, the mouth of the Great 73 mile long Tyne River, so vital for the coalmining and shipbuilding industries.  There was none of the crush of London's tube and we were there in about 20 minutes, arriving at a glorious station obviously used to hoards of visitors, possibly for its weekend markets and which looks a lot older than it is.  I found some street art too.

The pretty town was festooned with bunting.

Surprisingly, the church had been turned into the Green Ginger Arcade full of shops and cafes.

At the end of the street, the grassy moat leads up to the motte where the 7th Century Castle and Priory sit, right on the coast. Three Kings have been buried there - Oswin, King of Deira (651), Osred II, King of Northumbria (792) and Malcolm III, King of Scots.

There are fabulous wide sandy beaches and a pier complete with lighthouse.  It's my kind of pier made of solid stone with none of those gaps you get with wooden slats.  It took 40 years to build.

You can see four lighthouses, in fact, the red and white one in the distance is the National Trust's Souter Lighthouse at South Shields.

Looking back at the land, a monument to Lord Collingwood, who was Nelson's second in command at the Battle of Trafalgar and is buried at St Paul's Cathedral in London, surveys the sea from his tall column, flanked by four canons from his Ship The Royal Sovereign and a seagull (there's always one!)

A couple of other famous names who both attended the Kings Priory School, previously known as the Kings School, were Stan Laurel and Ridley Scott (not at the same time though!) and Giuseppe Garibaldi also visited the town.

Luckily,  there's an excellent path along the River to North Shields which we'll take next time as we watch the large ships enter the River and head off down the Tyne.


Monday, 16 September 2019

Durham Castle


Thanks for popping in.

Our trip to Durham coincided with an open day at the Castle, which was a stroke of luck as we were able to self guide ourselves around the building that is used by Durham University.

Entering through the gate, the grand building looked beautiful in the sunshine, the keep still on the grassy motte where its been for over 900 years.  It was lived in by the Prince-Bishops of Durham who were among the most powerful and wealthy men in the country and had both religious and political authority.  As long as he remained loyal to the King of England, he could govern as a virtually autonomous ruler, reaping revenue from his territory but remaining mindful of his role of protecting England's northern frontier.

The Tour inside starts with the Norman Chapel which is the oldest building in Durham City dating from 1080.

Entering the Tudor clock tower,  the Tunstall Chapel with its black and white floor, stained glass window and notable misericords contrasts with the Norman Chapel.

Walking through the Tunstall Gallery, the beautiful Norman Arch which have been on the outside of the building at one time.  It's on the site of a second Great Hall which was later divided into smaller rooms.  The Arch is a main reason for Durham gaining World Heritage status.

The Black Stairs were built in the 1660s and was originally designed to be free-standing.

Up the stairs the Norman Hall is used for functions and has student bedrooms off to the left in the photo below, which have double doors.  If the outer door is closed, the student is not at home but if the outer door is open, you can knock in the inner door.

Downstairs is the impressive Great Hall with two stone minstrels niches, together with Cromwellian armour and pole weapons.

Needless to say, there are some good views from the windows.

The Castle was given by the Bishop as the foundation of Durham University in 1830 and now houses University College which has 1,200 students associated with it.

Definitely worth a visit.


Friday, 13 September 2019

Five Around Durham City


Thanks for popping in.

Yesterday we visited Durham Cathedral and for my five this week, we'll have a look around the City.

1.  Colourful Umbrellas

2. Market Square and old streets

Statue of Neptune

Statue of Durham Light Infantry soldier

Statue of Lord Londonderry by Raphael Monti - a landowner, coalmine developer and founder of Seaham Harbour

3. Beautiful River Wear walks

4. Unusual sights!

The back of the Storyteller's chair near Prebend Bridge

Serpent bench

5.  Durham Lumiere Festival takes place between 14th-17th November 2019 when many artworks, like this silver heron by the river, and buildings will be lit up. Have a look here for the 2017 gallery.  It looks amazing but too far away for me.

I hope you have a brilliant weekend.