It was last Summer when I first came upon Bede’s Heritage Trail, quite by accident, in the sleepy hamlet of Whitburn, on the north east coast. A 12 mile walk, it links the church of St. Paul’s in Jarrow with St. Peter’s, down the coast at Wearmouth. I had inadvertently arrived, right in the middle.
Benedict Biscop, a Northumbrian nobleman, had travelled to Rome 6 times and was inspired by the Christian life he found there. In 674 he approached King Ecgrifth of Northumbria and was given a large estate on which to found the monastery of St. Peter’s, in Wearmouth. It’s twin, St. Paul’s, was begun 8 years later, further north at Jarrow. They were among the first stone buildings in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, and St. Paul’s contains the oldest church dedication stone in England. Part of the Anglo-Saxon monastery survives today as the chancel of St. Paul’s. A good place to start, I think.
The Venerable Bede was educated in the monastery from the age of seven, and became the most important European scholar of his era. (born 673- died 735) The founder of medieval historical writing, his works give a unique insight into life in the monastery. The two buildings were regarded by Bede as ‘one monastery in two places’ and ‘bound together by the one spirit of peace and harmony’. Monks would have traveled between them on foot, or by boat, using the small tributary of the River Don, which links to the Tyne.
I had scribbled details of the first part of the Heritage Trail on a slip of paper, intending to follow the route of the monks for at least a little way before returning to explore the museum dedicated to Bede. As so often happens, a signpost created confusion. Perhaps I should have ignored the cyclist. In any event, Bede wouldn’t have had to tackle flyovers and underpasses. And certainly not graffiti!
It was something of a relief to return to Jarrow Bridge, spanning the Don, alongside of St. Paul’s. Gyrwe, the Anglo-Saxon name for Jarrow, means ‘place of the marsh dwellers’. Arrows pointed me in the direction of Bede’s World, and from there I couldn’t go wrong. A wealth of information, pleasingly displayed, I found the museum imaginative and entertaining.
Benedict Biscop was keen to build in the ‘Roman manner’ and spared no expense, importing skilled masons and glaziers from abroad, to accomplish this. Over 1,000 fragments of coloured glass were discovered during excavation of the site of the monastery. The Jarrow Figure was reconstructed using glass found under a collapsed wall.
The community of monks was very industrious during Bede’s lifetime. One of their most notable achievements was the Codex Amiatinus, a complete Bible in a single volume. It weighed over 34 kilograms (75 lbs), being made with 2060 pages of vellum – calf skins washed in a bath of lime, stretched on a frame and treated with pumice.
Bede Museum shares the grounds with Jarrow Hall, and the lovely old building provides light refreshments in its cafeteria. (and cake, naturally!) With the sun shining brightly, it was time to take a stroll through the Anglo-Saxon farm. Curly-coated pigs, Dexter bullocks, goats, ducks and chickens share the 11 acre site with reproduction thatched farm buildings.
A gentle green path, fringed with primroses and blossom, leads to a mound topped by a cross, and a viewing point over the industrial River Tyne.
It’s a nice green space in an urban setting. I hope you enjoyed it with me. I’ll take you to St. Peter’s another time. Meanwhile, this leaflet contains details of the whole trail, and here is a link to Bede Museum.
Great to have so many of you sharing walks with me again this week. I really appreciate it. Please find time to visit each other. I know it’s a struggle sometimes but it really is worthwhile. Join me any time here on Jo’s Monday walk.
Starting with a fabulous hike in Japan, with Celia. The vistas are wonderful :
Much flatter, but still full of interest, join Anabel in Holland :
Coffee and Leonard Cohen – I find both irresistible. And where there’s Jackie, there’s always food!
Where would you expect to find an English garden? In Munich, of course! Thanks, Lady Lee :
Standing stones are always fascinating, aren’t they? Suzanne has found some most unusual ones :
Drake finds me an idyllic piece of Greenland to share this week :
And Gunta has immense Redwoods and Trilliums!
A city I’m to visit soon, but just in passing. I wish I could take this tour with Meg :
Emma is tireless when it comes to the Welsh coastal footpath. Her love for it shows in her paintings :
Something I’d really love to do. I wonder if Susan would like company?
From one iconic sight to another! Hit the heights with Rosemay :
That’s it for this week! Distinctly cool here, but in England there’s another Bank Holiday coming up. I’ll be taking you to some wide, open spaces next Monday. Take care till then!