Jo’s Monday walk

Jo’s Monday walk : The last lap

At long last!  Finally reunited with my download cable, I am able to share a few photos from my 6 whirlwind weeks in the Algarve.  We landed back in the UK, at damp and drizzly Leeds airport, on Friday.  Despite the gloom I was delighted to see a last glow of Autumnal orange clinging to the trees.  One last hurrah!  Which is how I feel, as we are now working towards a completion date on our house less than 2 weeks away.  Laying, listening to the creaks of our old house at 5 in the morning, the check list of ‘to do’s’ tumbles around in my head.  Easier to get up, and start doing.

This isn’t a walk- more an update and a collection of swift reminiscences.  That tortoiseshell never did befriend me, though I fed her faithfully.  But at least I avoided spending the week confined with her in my neighbour’s lovely back garden.  The weather became less reliable, as it tends to in late October.  Which was a shame for my son, who wanted nothing more than to idle on a beach.  After a nightmare journey, where they almost failed to reach us and had us pacing up and down all evening, we finally all got to bed at 3 in the morning.  Nothing stops a 6 year old from being exuberant, especially when there’s a birthday in the offing.  Improving his minigolf handicap, an icecream almost as big as him, and a Bola de Gomos (‘cake’ comprised entirely of marshmallows wrapped around jellies and gummy teddy bears) all produced that heart warming smile.  The small science centre in Tavira kept him captivated as he helped to create a volcanic lava ‘eruption’, using vinegar, baking soda, washing up liquid and red food colouring.  The rain dripped off all our noses at Zoomarine, but what do dolphins care as they leap and glide, to enthusiastic applause?  And the giant seahorses in the aquarium didn’t seem to mind our awed gaping.  So many giddy patterns were run round the beach, whilst my husband demonstrated his castle building expertise.  Small person’s best bit?  Sharing the winner’s podium with my son at Karting Almancil.  To pilot a car on your own you have to be 7, but dual controls gave both of them a hugely enjoyable ride.  ‘Next year, Mum?’

As for my birthday, I cannot imagine a more beautiful setting for a wine tasting than Quinta da Tôr, in the gently rolling Algarve hills.  By then my son and family had reluctantly gone home, to be replaced by my lovely daughter and her husband.  Both were highly appreciative, of both the setting and the produce.  A great deal of wining and dining took place in the few days they were there; a little gentle strolling to a castle not made of sand, plus a ferry trip to pretty Sanlucar de Guadiana, across the river.  Serendipity had it that we were able to be joined by my good friends Becky and Robert, for a fabulous farewell luncheon at Vai e Volta in Olhão.  Seldom has so much fish been consumed at one sitting.  Huge thanks to José and Maria for being such generous hosts.

The fairy tale ended, as these things must, and Michael and me went back to scrubbing floors, painting and changing beds.  Our last evening was largely spent circling each other in the kitchen, trying to keep out from under the feet of the Man from MEO and his assistant.  Our Internet connection had been abysmal, but we thought we were stuck with it as we had been told there was a blockage in the duct.   Hoorah and 3 cheers for Marco, who laboured diligently to find a solution, while we wondered if we were ever going to have supper that evening.  Finally he went home to his wife and child, a successful connection made, and we wolfed down our food and went for a quick celebratory drink at our neighbours.  Great ending to another chapter.

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Meanwhile the walks have continued to arrive.  I cannot commit to a regular Jo’s Monday walk until I’m back in the Algarve at the end of this month, but I will continue to share and to visit you whenever I can.  Many thanks to all of you for your patience.

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Fabulous images from Tobias.  I first saw these sitting in a café in drizzly old Leeds.  A nice welcome home :

Les ocres de Roussillon

Goult – Morning Walk

Street art rules with Cactus Catz.  Do enjoy visiting her :

Monday Mural : Joe Pagac’s Borderland Brewery mural, Tucson, Arizona

Sharing a little fun and a stroll with Judy :

A Walk Around Town

The majesty of the Austrian Alps, in the company of Drake :

Naked peaks

In case I didn’t make it back in time to enjoy it, some lovely Autumnal colour from Eunice :

An autumn walk in Central Park

While Irene finds a squirrel in an arboretum :

What’s that Racket?

Some folk are wanderers for life and this certainly applies to my lovely friend, Cathy.  You can spend hours enjoying her travels, in her native America and abroad :

The Giant Logs Trail at Petrified Forest National Park

The Crystal Forest Trail at Petrified Forest National Park

Sincere apologies to anyone I’ve missed out.  It hasn’t been easy keeping track.  I have 10 days to pack our personal possessions, leave the house in good order, and say lots of goodbyes, and then we are gone.  Oh yes, and replace the washing machine.  It gave a mighty groan and subsided mid-spin the day we left the UK.  Definitely, the last lap!

Jo’s ‘not a Monday walk’

Hi folks!  Normal service is far from being resumed, but I’m aware of collecting lots of walks which I really ought to share, so here I am today.  Could I perhaps ask that you don’t send me any more links for the moment?  I have family arriving at the weekend and they have first call on my time.  I shall have a sixth birthday to celebrate, Halloween to avoid (my daughter more than makes up for me), and then the weight of numbers will come crashing down on my head.  A big one!

As if that’s not enough, I have a cat to feed.  One that hisses at me. (I do understand, I’m not the patient mistress of the house  🙂  ).  Actually, the mistress explained to me how I should place a doorstop to prevent me being locked out in the garden with said cat.  And then the door blew shut, as she was explaining, and both of us were marooned in the garden.  Life, huh?  Her on tiptoe, looking over the wall for a neighbour.  Balanced on the back of a chair.  “Christina?”  Nothing!  I holler too, but my husband is painting, in blissful ignorance.  Finally a workman a few doors down comes to see what the matter is.  ‘Er, could you open my back door and let us in, please?’  The front door is wide open.  Hopefully I won’t repeat the incident in her absence.

So, what else?  Todos a caminhar, the free walks programme aimed at encouraging a healthy population, has resumed.  On a sunkissed Sunday morning we lined up on the boardwalk at Cabanas, with music to enhance the enthusiastic warm up.  Good for a giggle if you’re an observer.  And then we’re off!  Out of the village on a back lane, past orange and olive groves.  Some of us chattering, some striding out determinedly.  At the halfway point, a bottle of water, an apple and a breakfast bar, thoughtfully provided by the council.  And afterwards, an invitation to lunch with a lovely couple.  Sunday became a celebration of life, as we boated across the narrow channel to the ilha, and strolled on the finest of sand.

I’m still dipping into the archives for today’s photos, but you can keep track of most of my doings on Instagram or Facebook.  It’s much easier to share to them straight from the phone.

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Please read and enjoy these, if you haven’t already.  I won’t be sharing any more for a while.  Many thanks to everybody.

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Seems ages since I shared a walk of Becky’s.  She’s back in Portugal later this week.  Whoop-e-doop!

A palace fit for an English Queen

A glass of wine with Drake?  It would be an honour :

Colors of mood

Rupali shares some wonderful colours too :

Leaves in Autumn

Was September beautiful for you?  It certainly was for Lady Lee :

The Changing Seasons, September

Alastair managed to find his way to my walks.  Please do visit and say hello :

My Walk this Week 127 – Autumn Morning

It’s never boring at Jesh’s place, no matter what she’s up to :

Vacation Busyness

Janaline has seen the world, and there’s nothing like the beauty of Ireland :

Why I walk to explore places like Rathmullen in Ireland

Raspberry heaven with Irene :

Take Your Pick

Someone who’s always living the good life- join Jackie for a slice or two :

Pizza toss 

You butter believe it

Let’s hear it for Cathy!  She’s completed the Camino- loud fanfare!- and still shared some beautiful walks with me.  This is just one of many:

Wupatki Pueblo

I’m back in the UK on 9th November.  I should just make it to a Girl’s Night and then it’ll be crazy while we finish packing and handing over our home.  Catch up with you when I can.  Take care till then!

Liverpool : From Cavern to Cathedral

“Imagine I’m in love with you, It’s easy cos it’s true…”  It’s a bit of a crazy leap from Terracotta Army to Beatles, but the Cavern drew me like a magnet.  I left the enthralling exhibition somewhat dazed and wandered in what I hoped was the direction of the Beatles’ old haunt.  Alone, and beginning to feel weary from an early start, I hovered beside Cilla, trying to find the confidence to descend those steps.  If in doubt, have a glass of wine?  Perhaps not the best motto for life, but I retreated to a nearby restaurant, overlooking the comings and goings on Mathew St., and gathered my courage over a very nice chicken curry.

I needn’t have worried.  It was early evening and the warm up ‘lad’, Tony Skeggs, was on, and what a very fine job he made of it.  I was soon singing away, balanced on my stool, without a care in the world.  Aside from getting back to the hotel afterwards, of course, but eventually I hummed my way ‘home’ without misadventure, and sang myself to sleep.

I had a rough plan for the following day, part of which included a Magical Mystery Tour.  The forecast wasn’t great and I ‘imagined’ I might be better on a bus, but with a dry start I thought I’d do a little exploring on foot first.  Restless always comes naturally.  But first I had a bit of a treat.  The lovely lass on reception in Sleep Eat Love informed me that their new bistro was opening that morning.  Their first ever customer, I was greeted like royalty.  Fortified with scrambled eggs and coffee, that smile still on my face, I ventured forth.

I did try to plot a course to the cathedral on Google Maps, but I’m a pretty hopeless case and soon ended up following my instincts.  That can be disastrous, but I was lucky this day.  Signs for Lime Street Station kept me on track, and right opposite, magnificent St. George’s Square.

Passing the busy station, I paused to gape at the frontage of a grand looking hotel.  I was peering inside, with my usual curiosity, when a cheerful voice said ‘Come on in, love, and have a look!’  I can’t get over the friendliness of the locals.  The cleaner was still hard at work and there was a lovely smell of polish in the air.  I had entered an Aladdin’s cave of Art Deco, being transformed into, of all things, a food court!  I know my daughter would have revelled in the extravagant curls and swirls of Barcelona Bar.

Seeing church spires ahead I thought I might have reached the cathedral, but it turned out to be the Bombed Out Church, a rather forlorn relic, whose railings were adorned with poetry.  A sad looking tramp had made it his home.

Strange how such a very large cathedral can become invisible.  I had to ask for directions, but soon I was gazing upwards at the rosy might of the Anglican Cathedral.  Not sure if it was open, I noticed a couple coming through a narrow gateway and went to investigate.  I’m so very glad I did because, for the next half hour, I wandered beneath the greenery of St. James’ Gardens.

I was intrigued to discover that the gardens had once been a quarry, from which the stone for most of Liverpool’s public buildings had been cut, in the 18th century.  From 1825 to 1936 it became the city’s main cemetery.  Today it wraps around the cathedral like an ancient skirt.

And what a cathedral!  Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and built almost entirely of the local pink sandstone, it is the largest in Britain, and the largest Anglican Cathedral in the world.  The foundation stone was laid in 1904 by King Edward VII and it was finally completed 74 years later in 1978.  For me the Lady Chapel was the most beautiful part of the church, and I paused to light a candle in the gallery overlooking this quiet, lovely place.  The stained glass panels depict women of significance from the bible, and important Liverpool women who were missionaries or worked for the poor of the city.  The central space of the cathedral was vast, and laid out at one end was an array of beautifully dressed tables and chairs.  I had read somewhere of a cafe in the cathedral and wondered if I was appropriately dressed to grace one of these tables.  But first, the Tower!

I never can resist a view, even though it usually involves a climb.  There are 3 stages to this one.  First by lift, followed by a narrow corridor that overlooks the bells, then a second lift and 108 steps to the top.  All worth it!  You can, apparently, on a fine day see Blackpool Tower in the distance, but I was more interested in closer range.  And yes, we’ve finally earned a cuppa, so it’s back down again, via the embroidery exhibition, and over to the mezzanine cafe.  I was half disappointed to find that those grand tables weren’t for the likes of me, but I had a lovely chat with a young woman and her daughter, enjoying both the fruity Liverpool cake and listening to her wonderful ‘Scouse’ accent.

The weather had finally caught up with me and, as I headed down Hope St. towards the Liverpool Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, the first spots of rain arrived.  Just time to scurry up the steps for a quick look.  I remembered seeing it on TV when Paul McCartney conducted the Liverpool Oratorio from there.  Originally the cathedral was to have been a Lutyens design but World War II intervened and in the 1960s ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’, as it is affectionately known, was completed, to the design of Sir Frank Gibberd.

All thoughts of a Magical Mystery tour had long since been abandoned and, as the rain began to pelt down, I headed back downhill to the Waterfront and a world class selection of museums.  I was beguiled and saddened by John and Yoko in the Museum of Liverpool, and spent an hour or so absorbing modern art in Tate Liverpool.  As I looked out on Albert Dock in pounding rain, I reflected on the brilliant couple of days I’d spent.  I hope you enjoyed them too.

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This isn’t officially a Jo’s Monday walk but, as I’m taking time off to get settled in the Algarve, I thought I’d do a round up of the walks I received this week.  Please take a few minutes to visit if you can.

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Lady Lee is sharing churches too.  She says to make a wish in each :

Visita Iglesia

We all need a little peace sometimes.  Irene has a lovely spot too :

Place to Read

Murals are always popular.  How about these?

8 mural project Downtown Tucson

You think I walk a long way?  You should try accompanying Geoff and Dog :

Ring of Walking – #CapitalRing#Crystal Palace to #Richmond

There’s always food on offer at Jackie’s.  And today’s accompaniment is…

Relish

Jaspa takes us on a wander in another beautiful city :

Prague Pastels

That’s it from me for a while.  I’ll pop in whenever I can.  Take care of yourselves, and bye for now!

Jo’s Monday walk : Wild on the Waterfront

As the coach raced west into the oncoming storm, buffeted by black clouds, I had to wonder what windy Liverpool had in store.  But I needn’t have worried.  On the edge of the city the sun suddenly appeared, and I received a right royal welcome.  Liverpool One bus station is perfectly placed if, like me, you’re on a whistle stop visit.  Simply cross over the Strand and you’re face to face with the grandeur of the Waterfront.  The wind might have tugged at my coat tails, but I had a permanent smile on my face.  And everyone smiled back!

There is no doubt that Liverpool is a maritime city.  The River Mersey rolls choppily away into the Irish Sea, part of a long history of seafaring.  The Industrial Revolution established Liverpool as a major port, trading in coal and cotton, and also in slaves.  In the 19th century it was a chief point of embarkation for North America, flooded with the mass of Irish immigrants resulting from the Potato Famine.  The trio of the Royal Liver Building, Cunard and the Port of Liverpool buildings, collectively known as the ‘Three Graces’, dominate the Waterfront, an enduring symbol of the city.  Since its decline, the dockland has been handsomely converted to tourism.  Albert Dock is now home to Tate Gallery, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum and The Beatles Story, with shops and restaurants galore.

The fierce looking cat, chasing those rats, is made from around 1000 recycled milk containers, collected by employees of the Cunard Building and sculpted by local artist Faith Bebbington.  The Leeds-Liverpool canal terminates at the small marina in Canning Dock.

Like most people, I seem to see pink everywhere I go these days.  I hope you’re In the Pink this morning, Becky?  Waffles for breakfast?

Does anyone remember Billy Fury?  He played my home town once and I was an excited member of the audience.  Now his statue stands by a small green in front of the Pump House, his back to the river and the elements.  Keeping him company, a hopeful family of emigrants.

The Museum of Liverpool thrusts its nose towards the river, the words Imagine and Peace pleading to be heard.  I know I will have to return later, but for now I have a different destination.   The main purpose of my visit is to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the World Museum.  The wind continues to whip round corners as I try to orient myself.  High on the skyline I have spotted the Radio City Tower.  Officially St. John’s Beacon, created as a ventilation shaft for the shopping complex below, in 1970 it was home to a revolving restaurant.  Radio broadcasting transferred to the 140 metre high tower in July 2000.  What an exciting place to work!  I should just have time to whizz up the tower in the high speed lift for that panoramic view.  With rain forecast the following day, it’s now or never.

From the tower I observe the Waterfront in miniature, and the two cathedrals- part of tomorrow’s itinerary.  Almost directly beneath me, the World Museum.  I have only to cross the small green park and I’m there.  But first I have to check into my accommodation, chosen for its proximity to the exhibition.  From the photo on the website I imagine I’m sleeping in a cupboard in Sleep Eat Love, but my ridiculously cheap single room, with ensuite, is amazing value for a city centre stopover.  I sleep well after my exertions.

I don’t intend to share all of my Terracotta Warrior images with you today.  I really feel they deserve a post of their own.  This is just a glimpse of what captivated me, and if you’re quick you may still have time to see them for yourself.  China’s First Emperor and his warriors are on display till 28th October.

I’d like to leave you with an exhibition that moved me deeply.  Liverpool will always have a place in my heart as the birthplace of the Beatles.  No-one was more horrified than me that day in October 1980 when John Lennon was shot dead.  In the time since then his widow has done an amazing job at promoting world peace and keeping his memory alive.  Yoko and the Museum of Liverpool present Double Fantasy.

As you can probably imagine, life is a little hectic right now, but I do hope to share my Warriors with you, and a glimpse of my second day in Liverpool, before I head for the Algarve next weekend.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed this one half as much as I did.  And now to share some walks.

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Debbie starts us off with some brilliant street art, and videos to show how it’s done :

Off to a Wonderful Wedding in Berlin

Banactee finds a little more, in hidden corners of Hamburg :

The Color Palette in the streets of Hamburg

Humble apologies to Shelley.  I neglected to include this beautiful post last week.  Please pay her a visit!

To be a traveler, or not to be

Ever been to Lake Ontario?  Jackie is always good company! :

Toasting Marshmallows and Movie Popcorn

This is how beautiful the Philippines can be.  Lady Lee shares precious time spent with family :

Hidden Valley Springs

Haven’t you always wanted to visit Savannah?  I have!  Let Alice show you around :

Factors Walk

Live in the north west of England?  Sharon has some great walks for dog owners :

Ten fido-friendly Country pubs you can walk to from Clitheroe

Yay!  Mel has finished the Via Francigena.  Time off for good behaviour :

Day 40 – FINAL DAY – Via Francigena- La Storta to Roma

Lovely Cathy keeps trecking, but posts about the native American’s survival methods, in an extremely difficult climate :

The Sandal Trail through Navajo National Monument

That’s it for Jo’s Monday walk for a little while, though I will keep in touch.  Please look after yourselves till then.  I’m off out into the sunshine for a last walk with my Hartlepool group.

Jo’s Monday walk : A Tale of three Castles- 3. Dunstanburgh

Our last day on the Northumberland coast got off to a gloomy start.  Persistent drizzle clung to the windows and rooftops.  Worse yet, my husband announced, limping down to breakfast, that he thought his gout might have returned.  The medication was something I had neglected to pack, this being just a short break.  We had planned to drive further up the coast to Alnmouth, where we last stayed when our son was small.  And, selfishly, I could not bear to be this close to Dunstanburgh Castle without at least taking a look.  Armed with the golf brolly, he agreed to give it a go!

Alnmouth, though charming, did not invite us to linger, despite the determinedly cheery exterior of the Sun Inn.  Memories of sitting amongst the dunes, in strong sunlight, warmly wrapped against the breeze, and with a small, ‘happy as a sand’ boy, seemed very far distant.

Given the situation, driving was easier than walking.  The wide ranging views I’d hoped for were swallowed up in the gloom, but a surprising number of people were parked in the tiny village of Craster.  The walk along the coast, from here to Dunstanburgh, is deservedly well known.  I had scarcely left the car park when I was captivated by the soft webbing of droplets, clinging to these hardy plants.

It was obvious that he could not limp far but, given a slight break in the rain, I was keen to walk this dramatic coast.  We agreed that I should sprint ahead, while he took it at his own pace, hanging on to the umbrella for support. There, in the distance, was the prize.

The sheep were quite oblivious to its beauty, us walkers far more susceptible to charm.  On the shoreline a sequence of cairns had me hovering with camera for a while.  A mother and daughter, close by, were gleeful in their discoveries.

Almost there now, it’s time for a little history.  Dunstanburgh Castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, the most powerful baron at the time of Edward II.  Begun in 1313, it was a mighty statement of Lancaster’s intent.  Unfortunately for him, the earl failed to reach the safety of Dunstanburgh when his rebellion was defeated.  Kings not being very forgiving in those days, he was executed in 1322.  John of Gaunt, 4th son of Edward III, inherited the castle on marriage, in 1362.  He subsequently strengthened the castle, converting the twin-towered gatehouse into a keep.  Fierce fighting took place during the Wars of the Roses and the castle was twice besieged, falling into Yorkist hands.  In the late 15th/16th century Dunstanburgh fell into disrepair, too far from the Scottish border and a main road to be of strategic importance.  Over time it became a romantic ruin, famously painted by landscape artist Turner.

Although I’ve done this walk before, I had never been inside the castle ruins.  The sky had brightened for a little while and I simply had to grab the opportunity, while I could.  The layout and scale of the site took me completely by surprise.

Climbing gently away from the gatehouse, you come to Lilburn Tower, with sweeping views across the fine sands of Embleton Bay.  The curtain wall along the coast is still largely intact.  Beyond it a steep cliff drops to shore, then tapers down to meet the sea.

Again I’m taken with the droplets of rain, this time on wildflowers scrambling along the top of the wall.  It turns at right angles, and climbs back up to the keep.  I am amused to see a notice suggesting we take care not to step on the frogs.  Sure enough, there in a puddle, a lively looking chap!

Just time to scoot up the tower, and then I need to get back down and find the other half.  It’s starting to mizzle again, and he’s got the brolly.

That’s quite enough of ‘weather’, for a while, isn’t it?  And probably of castles too.  Today English Heritage manages the castle and National Trust are responsible for the coastline.  Full details of opening times and how to get there are available on the link.  Oh, heck!  No cake this week.

Many thanks to all of you for trekking out with me, in all weathers.  It’s very much appreciated.  Time to put the kettle on and settle in to read some more great walks.  Join me whenever you can, here on Jo’s Monday walks.  You’ll always be welcome.

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Tales around the campfire first, with lovely Miriam :

Walhalla Walkabout

Followed by a gentle riverside walk with Alice :

Following the towpath

While Banactee shares a natural bridge, connecting 2 countries :

Pravcicka Brana- Gate to Czech Switzerland

A little fashion, a little cooking, an air show… a typical week with Jackie :

Drinking stories

Nicole loves hiking with her Dad.  Why not join them?

Superior Hiking Trail: Hike to Leveaux Mountain

Mel is into her last day or two of walking in Italy.  There’ve been highlights!

Day 32 Via Francigena, Radicofani to Acquapendente, 25.7km

A link to a beautiful part of the world, about which I know very little.  Please meet Subhasree :

HAMPI- Morning Tea by the Tungabhadra

Shazza’s been jangling a few of my memory chords.  I’d so love a canal cruise!

A stroll along the Crinan Canal, Britain’s most beautiful shortcut

A walk through truly ancient history, with Candy :

The Path of the Megaliths, Erdeven

While Carol’s Canadian exploits take her to beautiful Butchart Gardens :

For the Love of Flowers

Yay!  Denzil’s back, with a new look and some interesting facts about ‘under the radar’ Belgium :

How to spend a day in Diest

And lastly, Cathy, though still doing a grand job on the Camino, takes us to Navajo territory :

A hike in Hovenweep National Monument

I’m off to Liverpool on Wednesday, so next week’s walk could well be there.  Hoping for sunshine, but anything other than rain will do.  A word of warning that next Monday’s walk will be my last for a little while, so if you have a walk you’d like to share please do it this week.  I’ll be in the Algarve from the end of the month.  Meanwhile, have yourself a great week!

Jo’s Monday walk : A tale of three castles- 2. Alnwick

I knew it was too good to last!  Last week’s walk in beautiful Warkworth was the start of a wonderful weekend.  But our friendly landlord in the Hermitage Inn wasn’t wrong with his weather warning.  Gentle drizzle gave way to big, fat splodges of rain!  So, we ate a hearty breakfast, grabbed the golfing umbrella, and off we went.  It was the day of our wedding anniversary and we had a date with a very fine castle, not to mention water gardens!  A little rain wasn’t going to spoil it.

‘A day out to fire the imagination’ is how Alnwick Castle describes itself.  I wouldn’t argue.  That someone has a sense of humour and playfulness is evident the second you set foot on the estate.  Sadly it all looked a little grim from beneath that umbrella.

No worries!  The castle opened its doors to visitors at 10.30, and for the first hour or more I was lost in a world of grandeur and elegance.  Not for nothing was this place selected as the setting for the TV drama ‘Downton Abbey’.  A sweep of softly carpeted stairway led up to the State Rooms.  I gaped in wonder at the richly carved ceilings and the sumptuous furnishings.  Exquisite Chinese cabinets vied for attention with the most imposing of fireplaces.  Porcelain from Meissen glowed with colour.  The long dining room was just that, and the library… it’s no wonder that the family should choose to spend time in such opulent comfort.  Best of all, for me, the Canalettos gracing the walls.  I have never felt closer to perfection.  You’ll have to use your imagination, or visit the website because, of course, indoor photographs were forbidden.

Alnwick Castle has been home to the Percy family for over 700 years.  You may remember them from my Warkworth post.  They owned that castle too.  Like Warkworth, Alnwick Castle overlooks a river. The Aln, this time, but there the similarities end.  Begun in 1096, following the Norman Conquest, it has been remodelled numerous times since Henry Percy bought it in 1309, as a simple motte and bailey.  In the next 40 years he and his son converted it into a mighty border fortress, with strong gatehouse and towers.  A full history can be read here. Today it is a castle that earns it’s keep magnificently.

The grounds were all set up for Medieval games and the antics of a jester or two.  Sadly they did not transpire.  Alnwick Castle-0, Weather-1!  But still, we refused to be disheartened.  There were nooks and crannies to explore around the walls, and a lot more history to get to grips with.  Children couldn’t fail to be happy here.  Their very own Dragon Quest to take on, broomstick lessons and dressing up!  Harry Potter seems to have left a little magic behind.  An activity trail should keep them interested, while you look around.

I found the museums within the castle walls very interesting, with the advantage that you could take photos.  An illustrated ballad of the Hermit of Warkworth caught my eye, and a circular ‘cursing stone’, believed to be from the island of Inishmurray- one of 16 places in Ireland where prayers were said whilst on pilgrimage.  The respective roles of the Percy family and what they brought to the castle over time are the main focus.

The view from the walls of this Capability Brown designed landscape should be beautiful, but I didn’t see it at it’s best.  I had planned to walk to the Lion Bridge but, as the rain puddled around me, I abandoned the idea.  Time for a change of scene.

What next?  Water gardens, of course!  I last visited The Alnwick Garden on a rainy day, soon after it opened in 2001.  Jane Percy, the current Duchess of Northumberland, has a visionary approach to the restoration of the gardens, laid down in 1750 by the 1st Duke, with Capability Brown as his gardener.  During the Second World War, supporting the slogan ‘Dig for Food’, the gardens were turned over to production.  With no money to renew them, they subsequently fell into disrepair, and closed in 1950.

With the ground breaking Grand Cascade at it’s heart, the Alnwick Garden covers approximately 12 acres of a carefully nurtured vision.  We started our visit with a garden tour, during which a very pleasant young man explained the ethos of the garden.  Let’s start, as he did, in the rose garden.

The rain battered roses still clung to their fragile beauty, and isn’t that clematis an amethyst jewel?  We stopped off to enjoy the stained glass irises on the Duchess’s gate, then on to the Ornamental Garden, up beyond the Cascade and the water gardens.  Remember Playing with Patterns?

Up at the top, we wait patiently for the fountains to begin their light-hearted dance.  In prime position this year, the ‘Tommies’, commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War with ‘There but not there’.  They are in place till 11th November, Armistice Day.

All the elements of fantasy are held in this garden, but there are strong ethics too.  The Poison Garden is used to warn our young people of the dangers of drug abuse, and how easy it is to find the wrong path in life.  Though beautiful, some of these plants are deadly.

There is an inclusiveness to these gardens that I find very endearing.  It has classical style in abundance, whilst not forgetting the community that surrounds it, and the issues of today.  Though an expensive day out, I felt that the money was well spent for the joy it brings.

And like all the very best days, it ended with cake!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this special day with me.  Full details, including how to get there, are in The Alnwick Garden.  Definitely time to put that kettle on!

Many thanks to you all.  I have some great walks to share.  Join me any time here on Jo’s Monday walk.  You’ll always be welcome.

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Fabulous start!  I’ve got a part 2 from Debbie, about an amazing place :

Salt of the earth

And then, some wonderful paper sculpture, from Lisa :

“Rock Paper Scissors” at the Tower of David Museum

And some beautiful Norwegian sculpture from Rupali :

A walk in Vigeland Sculpture Park

Mundane, and yet not, from Jackie!

A taste of the theatrical

No matter how many times you see this, it’s always beautiful.  Thanks, Alice!

A walk in Central Park from 8th-5th Ave

I do like a smile on a Monday!  I expect you do too!

Fun downtown Tucson murals

Whoopee!  A walk I’ve actually done.  Lucky lady got sunshine.  It rained on me!

Randonee/Hike to Aira Force, Lake District

No walk is too short or too long to appear here.  Here’s a nice gentle one :

Enjoying a Little Stroll at Mattick’s Farm

But I’m still keeping track of Mel, romping long distance in Italy :

Day 22 Via Francigena, Avenza to Pietrasanta, 31km

And the calm, morning scenes at Irene’s place :

One Sunrise, One Morning

Next I’d like to introduce you to Dawn-Marie.  She’s new to me and has a beautiful blog :

Hiking Ben Arthur (The Cobbler)

Privileged to present a wonderful piece of history, from Tish.  The telling is as much of a treat as the place itself :

Traces Of The Past ~ An English Moated Farmhouse and why it’s still here

While Eunice takes advantage of the Heritage Open Days to take us ‘behind the scenes’ :

An attic tour and a bit of bell ringing

Carol has found me my perfect new home.  I’m restless again!  🙂

A Change of Plans

Lovely Cathy keeps on trekking!  Our thoughts are with her on the Camino this week :

The Owachomo Bridge Trail at Natural Bridges National Monument

A little grey today, but I’m hoping for better as I head out with my walker friends.  Wishing you all a great week!

Jo’s Monday walk : A tale of three castles- 1. Warkworth

Standing tall and proud, looking down the hill on its village, Warkworth Castle in Northumberland is a thing of beauty.  Romantically situated on a loop of the River Coquet, Warkworth has a lovely riverside walk, with a surprise in store.  The perfect setting for an anniversary weekend.  Too long since we’d visited the combination of castles and beaches that tell this county’s story, though it’s only an hour and a half drive from home.

Grand though it is, the castle at Warkworth has indeterminate beginnings.  A settlement existed here right back to 8th century, but the motte and bailey (an artificial mound surrounded by a fortified enclosure) and first stone buildings are generally credited to Henry, son of King David 1st of Scotland, after he became Earl of Northumberland in 1139.  The castle is first documented in a charter between 1157 and 1164, when it was granted by English king Henry II to Roger fitz Richard.  It is entirely possible that this Henry was responsible for the castle being built, one of a number intended to secure his position in the north.  In any case, the mighty keep was not added till around 1400.  The lengthy story of the Percy family and their influence in this area can be read on the link above.

The tower is in the shape of a Greek cross, the four wings arranged over three storeys around a central light well.  Stepping inside, the building appears solid and sombre, the ground floor being used largely for storage and service.  Glancing at the floor plan, I bypassed the mighty chimney place, drawn to the lovely views beyond the window.  The coast is just a mile away, along the sinuous curve of the river.

The first floor comprised kitchen, buttery, great hall, great chamber and chapel.  The chapel had an upper level where the earl could worship in private.  The varying size and ornamentation of the windows indicate the importance of the rooms they light.  Prominent within the grounds, the Lion Tower, with flamboyant heraldry, once gave access to a further grand residence.  The Curtain Wall surrounding the bailey and the Carrickfergus Tower date from 13th century.

My guide book had given details of a circular walk, taking in riverside and beach.  It also mentioned a hermitage.  The path drops invitingly down to an idyllic riverside setting.  Looking back, the castle, sitting atop the trees.  All that was needed was fair maiden and a knight in shining armour.

We followed the path until it opened out.  And then, the strangest thing!  Across the river there was just visible a building, built into the rock face.  With a splash of oars, a friendly face appeared.  The ferryman, all set to row us across the 40 foot span of river.  How strange to hire your very own hermit to say a prayer for you.  The Percy family had wealth aplenty to do so.

It gave me goosebumps.  I was glad to see the smiling ferryman, with his next cargo.  Back over the river a track headed uphill, in what we hoped was the direction of the coast.  I was happy to see the sea across a cornfield, and do a little spying over fences, as the trail led us back to the village.

The door of St. Lawrence’s Church was a wide open invitation for a few moments serenity, sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows.

The heart of the village is small and pleasingly intimate.  Weathered stone and tubs of riotous colour a happy blend, encircled by the ever present river.  A gateway heralds the 14th century fortified bridge, beyond which a narrow lane leads to the beach.

Families trek to and fro in the still, warm air, the lighthouse on Coquet Island just visible across the expanse of sea from the river mouth.

At my feet, a mingle of unfamiliar shells and pebbles. The beach is emptying as we walk along, clouds gathering.  A few hundred yards ahead we find the path that leads up through the dunes and beside a golf course.  The sign on the bell dangling beneath the bridge makes me smile, the evidence of danger visible as a golfer hunts in the rough.

Our adventure is almost over now, as we rejoin the path back to the village and, much later, a well deserved reward.

I know that Paula won’t have time to read all of this, but it does fit rather nicely with her Traces of the Past.  Go and linger by the water with her, then follow the link to the English Heritage site for more of the fascinating history, and details of how to get to Warkworth.  A joint ticket can be purchased for the Castle and Hermitage.  My next two walks will continue to feature Northumberland castles, but I hope you won’t be bored.

Many thanks to all of you who labour so patiently beside me.  I just wish I could share the cake!  Never mind, it’s kettle on time.  There are walks to share.  Join me any time here on Jo’s Monday walk.

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Excited to start us off with Debbie and a place I visited and loved, many years ago!

A walk worth its salt

Suzanne gives us a privileged first glimpse of her new environment :

A wetland walk

Janet was cycling and walking this week, with a happy other half :

Monday walk (cycle)… Moraine Hills State Park

Swedish platter, anyone?  You never know what you’re going to get with Jackie!

A Smorgasbord of Sights

Irene has some beautiful close-ups of the Sandhill Crane :

Three in One

And Eunice invites us on another lovely countryside ramble :

A walk on Smithills Moor and a bit of local history

I’m also sharing a wonderful, spiritual experience with Cheryl and Basil :

Walking from Darkness towards Light in Borobudur

And ‘whoop! whoop! whoop!’  Becky’s back!  Join us in the beautiful Algarve countryside :

A splendid walk in the hills

Cathy won’t have started walking yet, but soon!  Meanwhile, let’s grab a quesadilla :

The Mesa Arch Trail & Shafer Canyon Overlook, topped off with a treat from Quesadilla Mobilla

I made it!  Glad you could keep up with me.  See you all next week?  Wishing you a good one!