Jo’s Monday walk : Finchale Priory

The ruins of Finchale Priory

The ruins of Finchale Priory

My walk this week, much nearer home, takes me along the banks of the River Wear, four miles from the city of Durham.  I hear that a heatwave is forecast and you might be glad of a little shade.  I was dodging showers on my walk, so the trees proved extremely useful.

The Grade 1 listed ruins of Finchale Priory began life in the 13th century as a Benedictine priory. Today they are managed by English Heritage.  The only details I could glean from their page are that the Priory was founded on the site of a retired pirate’s hermitage (!) and was later used as a holiday retreat for monks from Durham Cathedral.

The approach is through peaceful countryside, covered in rapeseed early in the season

The approach is through peaceful countryside, covered in rapeseed early in the season

The clouds are a little menacing so we need to be quick!

The clouds are a little menacing, so we need to be quick!

We might just make it!

We might just make it!

St. Godric of Finchale was an English hermit, merchant and medieval saint who was born in Norfolk.  After many pilgrimages around the Mediterranean, he spent the last 60 years of his life as a hermit in these idyllic surrounds.  To find that same peace and serenity you need to visit out of season, as today a caravan park adjoins the site.

As so often, I turn to Wikipedia for my knowledge.  For instance, I had no clear idea what a piscina might be, though I was assured that there was a double one on the south wall.  It’s a shallow basin, placed near the altar of a church, used for washing the communion vessels. Hunting through my photos, I discover that I have some evidence.

A scilla

A double piscina

A view through the ruins

A view through the ruins

But this is the sight that intrigues me most

But this is the sight that intrigues me most

I cannot seem to find a reference that explains this ‘chimney’ with a conical point, and I can’t recollect seeing one before.  If any of you can help me on this, I’d be grateful.  Now, you remember that we are beside the river?

Click on a photo for a closer look

The ruins with the farmhouse/cafe alongside

The ruins with the farmhouse/cafe alongside

And a closer look at that 'chimney'

And a closer look at that ‘chimney’

While the sky is blue I think we should cross over the bridge.  Got your brolly, just in case?

In places the River Wear flows swiftly

In places the River Wear flows quite swiftly

Across the bridge, you can look back at the Priory

Looking back, a view of the Priory

Choices next, for a short, circular walk through Cocken Woods.  You can climb the steps, rather steeply, or follow the river bank for a short distance and then climb, a little more gently, up through the woods.  No contest, really!  Just past bluebell season, there was the thickest carpet and a deafening aroma of wild garlic!


It had to happen!  Just about then the skies opened and the rain battered the river.  My back pressed close to a tree trunk, I watched the steady tattoo and inhaled deeply.  When the rain eased a little, there was just time to cross the bridge and slip quickly inside the cafe.

You’re probably thinking that that’s enough for the day, but I never want to waste an opportunity. Beyond the picnic benches, a path follows the river, on the same shore as the Priory but in the opposite direction.  There’s a little climb before it levels out so I won’t make you walk again.  Stay here and I’ll just show you a couple of photos.

Just one last look at the Priory, before it’s time to go.

Probably my favourite shot

Loving the shapes and the shadows

And a surprise beneath the Priory!

And one last surprise, beneath the Priory!

I hope you enjoyed my ‘traces of the past’.  I’ve included the English Heritage link for directions and opening times, and the other links for history and background.  There is a special link too. Many of you will have seen Paula’s traces of the past, in Slovakia.  I hope I’m not too late with my offering of Finchale Priory.

One cup of coffee down, two to go?

walking logo

For any of you not used to my ramblings, can I direct you to my Jo’s Monday walk page or the logo above?  It will encourage you to join me.  For all you other lovely people, can I just say a huge thanks, both for your support and your wonderful contributions.  Please make time to visit the posts below.  You won’t regret it!


Drake’s always a winner- in more ways than one!  First with his contribution again last week :


Back on home turf with Anabel, in Scotland.  Do you know this one?

Loch Ardinning

Jude apologised for ‘another flowery walk’.  Is she mad?  Good old King George V!

Kerdhva Gov Jori V  (didn’t know I could speak Cornish- did you?)

You can always rely on Paula to find true beauty, even when she’s sleepy.  This is exquisite!

Sing me a lullaby

A guy with a wicked sense of humour, Cardinal’s style is unique :

Fitness and Relax Toilets

I have a cousin in Toronto. Maybe I should pay him a surprise visit one day?

Junkboat Travels: Monday Walks

Will I EVER tire of the beauty of the Grand Canyon?  I doubt it!

Walk on a Timeline (One Long Step= 1 Million Years)

I get to sit alongside Paula while Lucile pedals this week!  Don’t miss this!

Virtual Bike Ride with Jo and Paula

You can always depend on Debbie for variety!  I wonder where next?

A Walk along Berlin’s Landwehrkanal

Laia’s post simply shimmers with colour and beauty (and blue ice!)  Another one not to miss!

Fox Glacier and lake Matheson : do not believe in postcards

And while we’re in that part of the world, here’s a fascinating walk in Tasmania, with Ruth :

Waterworks, pipelines and falls

Jaspa keeps on going back to Venice.  Well, why wouldn’t you?

The Irresistible Lure of Venice

Lots of shares again this week.  I expect you’ve seen a few of them around the blogs, but please make time for any you’ve missed. There are some fabulous contributions.  And if you have any spare time, Monday Escapes are acquiring a steady stream of followers.  If only I could find more time!

Have a happy week and watch out for that heatwave!  See you next Monday?




  1. Even if you had a little rain this looks the perfect ruin to explore – was it really as quiet as it looks? Your photos take me right there but unfortunately I can’t taste that dessert!

    1. I’ve done some great English walks this year, Ad. (in the enjoyable sense I mean- not my brilliance 🙂 🙂 ) Must be time I was abroad again! Thank you for your lovely company. Sorry I ate the last scone 🙂

  2. Hi Jo, Just want to let you that I’ll be on vacation, so will skip Monday Walk the next two weeks. See you when I’m back. Have a great weekend.

    1. Hi Ruth! 🙂 I try to provide variety in the walks. I’m always surprised at just how many places there are, not too far away. And when the sun shines it’s a beautiful world, isn’t it? 🙂
      Many thanks for your company again.

  3. Like stepping through the screen, straight into your lovely and interesting outdoors, Jo. Thank you so much. The Finchale Priory is definitely on my list to visit.
    Stay cool!

  4. What a fabulous walk Jo! I adore every single shot of that priory. So beautifully framed! The sheep and the gorgeous wild garlic are bonus. And you always leave room for dessert! What more can one ask for? 🙂

    1. It was a moody old day, Madhu, and it was a last minute decision to go to the Priory but I was glad we did. I hadn’t been for many a year and my memories were hazy. Much clearer now 🙂 And it was lovely and peaceful.

  5. I love ruins! This place is stunning, and your pictures look amazing!
    Funny, because piscina means swimming pool in Portuguese 😀

    Thank you for linking up with #MondayEscapes once again Jo!

    1. Very welcome! I’m trying to find time to visit a few more of your other participants, but what with our glorious weather, helping my son to move home and watching Wimbledon… not enough hours in the day! I’ll get to it 🙂
      Yes, language is a funny old thing 🙂 Thanks for the kind words.

  6. A fascinating and atmospheric priory ruins Jo. Interesting history and I’m so pleased we stopped for those yummy looking scones and cream before heading on. The garlic has really taken over hasn’t it… I’m a bit late for last week but maybe early for next week!!! We are at the beach again. Jack literally forced me out of bed at 6-30am…I moaned and groaned but really loved it once we got there…

    1. It really doesn’t matter when in the week you post your walks, Pauline. It almost always appears in the next week’s walk so that everybody who doesn’t already follow you gets a chance to see it. A few people post their walk every Monday but a lot don’t and they arrive as and when. It’s fine either way. I just appreciate you thinking of me. 🙂
      Is it good weather for the beach, or just nice for strolling? We’re having a meltdown here, which is most unusual, but very nice. 🙂

      1. It is school holidays at the moment and after a week of drizzly weather the sun is now out for this week and all the Mums are saying “Hallelujah”…

  7. I didn’t think it would rain but that’s why it’s always a good idea to carry an umbrella – I’m glad you do the walking and I can just enjoy the pictures. Thanks Jo!

  8. This has everything I love in a walk Jo, woods, water, lovely countryside, and the scent of garlic!A café too – what kind of cream is that the wrong way round on a scone???

    1. Do you know Gilly, I never noticed! I just ate it 🙂 And it’s exactly the right way round in my part of the world 🙂 Are you recovered now? I hope so! Cooking hot today but we’ve been in Leeds, moving our son into a new flat.

  9. A beautiful atmospheric walk. Thank you Jo. I love visiting old priories/abbeys, a sense of mystery and timelessness. All good walks have to feature a cafe – glad this one didn’t let you down!

  10. Love the “Traces of the Past” walk my friend. Beautiful, nostalgic, full of life and adventure. Each picture is stunning…the nature so breathtaking. Wonderful post! God bless and your family.

  11. That last photo is really something – what a strange, haunted looking place. Your entire walk sounds wonderful – apart from the rain. What a glorious landscape to walk through. I enjoyed travelling along with you.

  12. Today, I especially enjoyed your walking-guide voice, and your concern about keeping us dry. The ruins are splendid, and the bluebells, and I love that last bit of forest. And the blogosphere seems to be haunted by cream teas, dammit, just when I decide no dairy. Thank you.

    1. Knew you’d like the woodsy bit, Meg 🙂 Greek yogurt is my downfall. I’ve resolved to give it up but it’s Wimbledon fortnight! Got to have something on my strawberries 🙂

      1. Is there any other sport? 🙂 Unlike Jude I can’t stay glued to the screen all day (even though Rafa’s playing 😦 ) Going to Leeds to help James move.

      2. It astonishes me. Four members of my small blogging community all watching a ball hit backwards and forwards – and backwards and forwards – and backwards and forwards. To me, a mystery!

    1. Hi Jude, and thanks! (I’d just gone in the bath when you arrived- new book! 🙂 )
      It being Monday I was out walking this morning but back in time to see Novak. I can sometimes manage the tennis and laptop (though obviously not when Rafa’s on screen). I always find it’s a contest between the weather and watching! If it’s sunny I’m hankering to be out there. Got to go to Leeds today to help James move so I’ll be on tenterhooks when R starts his campaign. Trying not to have expectations, and I suspect that’s the way to go for him too. 🙂
      Will join you soon 🙂

      1. Has James finished uni now then? What’s he got in mind for the future? Leeds is not a bad city, I rather liked it, but spent more time in Bradford as a teenager as it was easier to get a bus home from and the pubs stayed open longer 😉

        I know what you mean about the tennis – I try to get out in the sun before it starts, and I’m busy re-reading books from years ago as I want to start de-cluttering and can then consign them to a charity shop!

      2. He’s been working for a couple of years but just rubbish call centres. Now started audio work with Scriveners the specs people and very much enjoying it. Phew! Firstly flat on his own. We’re just heading home now x

      3. My middle boy worked in a call centre (goodness knows how he got the job as all I ever heard from him on a phone were grunts!), eventually he created his own job there in web design and has done very well – no formal qualifications though so he’s lucky to have got as far as he has. We keep encouraging him to try for Australia, but he’s too much of a home boy, more’s the pity.

      4. Nice boys are good. My youngest is a nice boy, but that caused problems when he was a teenager. Gosh the troubles our kids put us through!!

  13. Now I know what a piscina is, Jo. You’re the best tour guide ever. But I have no idea what the ‘chimney’ with a conical point is for (and I looked through the comments and can’t find an answer). It’s a mystery – if you find out can you give an update? 🙂

    1. I always remember following a little lady with a pink umbrella in Venice, many years ago, Dianne. That’s me- tour guide Jo 🙂 Funny how nobody ever has the answer when you really want to know 😦

    1. We had a peacock wandering around squawking and a flock of young grouse (I wasn’t swift enough to get a decent shot as they scurried away). It really was a lovely day, Seonaid. Glad you enjoyed it and I hope you’re getting out and enjoying summer too. 🙂

  14. Love all the look-through views – is there a specific word for in English? wonder if wild garlic smells like normal garlic? Sorry no walk this week – maybe on Saturday…but for now,, almost each day around sunset we run out of the house to catch and shoot the sunset:)

    1. I don’t think there is, Jesh? If so, I can’t remember it 🙂 Yes- it’s the same smell. Quite strong when there’s this much of it 🙂 Sunset was lovely here last night.

  15. What a beautiful walk Jo. That priory is huge – it must have been a progressive town with plenty of people around. That river must have played an important role for commerce at that time.

    1. My understanding is that it started very small, Bebs, and then was added to over time. I think that it’s ‘heyday’ was when monks from nearby Durham were using it as a retreat. 🙂

  16. Wonderful writing of the ruins – what better way to present the scene than with the menacing storm clouds!! Perfect timing – a most enjoyable Monday walk Jo!

  17. This is lovely. Despite living in Co Durham for part of my youth I don’t remember ever going here (though I’ve just shown it to my mum and she says they visited before I was born!) Thanks for including my walk in your links. Nothing to offer this week – maybe next week.

    1. The site has indeed been there for a long time, Anabel (I guess that’s stating the obvious 🙂 ) but it is very well maintained and a lovely location, especially when it’s quiet. No worries, hon- you’ve earned a rest! 🙂

  18. You absolutly a lady worth follow on a walk – not because it often ends at a well provided table – not only – but it is always interesting, fascinating and inspiring walks you set up – this building just need at brick or two, a few nails or three and a hard day’s work – so it would be an amazing framework for a cozy evening in front of the fireplace with a good book and a good whiskey… 😀

    I really love those “never give up” architectures – amazing… 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Drake. 🙂 I’ve not been home long (from walking, of course) and am just responding to my comments now (and keeping an eye on Wimbledon).
      Yes- a roof would be good! But the location is beautiful 🙂

  19. very much enjoyed your traces of the past, Jo! as always, thanks for sharing your lovely walk! just love it – awesome pictures and interesting history 🙂

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts, Amy. It’s a nice site and we were lucky that it was peaceful that day, with just enough sun 🙂 Thanks again for the walk, and all your support.

    1. It’s quite a small site, Andrew, and it has so much competition, let’s face it! But it’s a lovely location. The odd peacock and guinea fowl wandering around too 🙂

      1. I have a couple of visits shceduled to Durham this year (I have never been there before) maybe I could sneak it in and surprise Kim with my local knowledge.

      2. Sly dog! 🙂 I hope you’re going to catch Lumiere in November? Plenty of riverside walks anyway. Give me a shout if you need to know anything.

  20. St.Godrick couldn’t have chosen a more idyllic place to live. The ruins and their woodsy surrounding are beautiful. My grandsons leave for Ireland in the morning and the 11 year old says he just wants to see real sheep. I hope he sees pastures full. The chimney looks somewhat like a stone spire, perhaps of religious significance. Just a guess. Hope you didn’t get too wet, Jo. 🍰 Dessert helps.

  21. Old ruins are so interesting to explore, imagining what life & the families who lived here. A very interesting & beautiful post Jo!

  22. I just looked at the forecast for Durham. It’s going to be 27C by Wednesday! Goodness, Jo, what a heatwave. 😀

    Can’t help you with that delightful chimney, I’m afraid. Maybe they built it just to bewilder photographers?

    1. It’s pretty warm even now, H 🙂 There was a lot of cloud cover when I was walking this morning but the sun has broken through. I’m watching Wimbledon but with a hankering to be outdoors. 🙂

  23. I love this walk though the ruins of the Priory, Jo. You start out with such blue skies, but then they seem to become threatening from time to time. So, if St. Godric was a hermit in these parts, did he have this priory all to himself? If so, that’s quite a home for a hermit! These are really beautiful and I love all your pictures, especially the first one with that impossibly blue sky, the rapeseed, the lambs, and the shapes and shadows on that green lawn. Lovely walk, Jo. 🙂

    1. I think there were only 8 monks sharing and even fewer at one time, Cathy. There was quite a lot of adding on of buildings done when it became a holiday retreat for Durham Cathedral monks. I would have included more history but my posts are a bit long already. I put the links in so that if anyone is interested (or has time!!!) they can read them.
      Did you have a good weekend? I’ll pop over later. 🙂

      1. It certainly seems like an interesting history, Jo. Thanks for sharing!

        I had a wonderful weekend! I went back to the Longji Rice Terraces one last time. It was a long journey but I really wanted to see them once more in a different season. They were beautiful and it was great to get out for some very long and challenging walks! That was my last trip, as I have just over two weeks left and lots of days of marking papers and proctoring exams ahead of me!

      2. Glory be! Good job you’ve edited as you’ve gone along 🙂 Posts for years to come! You’ll have to stay home in order to catch up 🙂

    1. It’s a nice site for little ones. There are peacocks and guinea fowl in the grounds, and they can skim stones on the river (if you keep an eye on them!) and picnic.
      You’re welcome 🙂

  24. I chose the site that intrigues you most, though I would happily display those sheep too. You guys are so lucky with all these gorgeous ruins.

    1. Hi Paula! 🙂 I was making my way to yours to leave a link and a comment but you beat me to it 🙂 I should probably have done a piece on the priory separately and linked it to yours, then done the walk, but you know that me and foresight don’t get along. Glad you don’t seem to mind 🙂

      1. It’s beautiful here today. I’m just going to have my grapefruit and toast in the garden and then off walking… of course 🙂 Catch up with you later. Big hugs! Hope the infection is properly cleared and you are feeling “chipper”?

      2. Yes, thank you. The only problem are nightmares that I had over the weekend – will be OK. Enjoy grapefruit, toast and walk 🙂

      3. 🙂 yes, and a sleepless night last night – that’s why I am lazy at work now. I have published something called nightmare tomorrow, but don’t bother to look at it just yet. Have fun on the veranda Jo!

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