Northumberland

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!

Train spotting

When our son was small we spent many an hour at model railway exhibitions.  I cannot say that it’s the most exciting hobby in the world, but even today I can’t resist taking a peak.  Books are an abiding passion of mine, so when I found that I could combine the two at Barter Books in Alnwick, I was quite excited.  You could spot the newcomers as, like me, they gazed at the overhead tracks as the trains rattled by.  Regulars were simply curled up in an aged chair, with a book or three.

Not everybody’s idea of action, I have to admit, but a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.  Patti is hosting the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week.  Are you taking part?

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!

Jo’s Monday walk : Cragside

I’m interrupting my Polish stories to take you briefly to Northumberland.  The reason being that it is rhododendron time of year at Cragside, and if we don’t go soon you’ll have missed them.  I managed to capture them in the last week of May, when they were looking truly fabulous.

Cragside is rightly famous for being the first home in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, and makes a fascinating tour.  My interest, however, lies in the acres of woodland walks and the formal gardens which surround the house.  Former owner, Lord Armstrong, is described as a landscape genius, and I saw nothing to make me dispute that claim.

To get the lie of the land you can take the 6 mile circular carriage drive around the estate.  On a sparkling blue sky day it is a sight to behold.  Within that there are a selection of waymarked trails and over 40 miles of signposted footpaths.  Enough, even for me?

As always I am magnetised by the water and my first stop is Nelly’s Moss, where there are two lakes to walk around.  Craggy boulders split the woods and some of the trail is made up of solid stone slabs.  No-one to disturb, but a curious duck or two.

No doubt you can tell I’m besotted by the rhododendrons, but the pleasures don’t end there.  In fact, they’re just beginning.  There’s even a Trim Trail, should you wish to test your fitness levels.  Perhaps I shouldn’t define that as a pleasure.  I’m content to drive back to the Visitor Centre, fronted by lovely Tumbleton Lake.  Parking and restaurant are close by, or you can simply picnic beside the lake.  Some folk like to travel in style.

The Armstrong Trail follows Debdon Burn, past the Archimedes Screw and the Pump House, through woodland leading to the Iron Bridge.  From here you can climb through the sea of azaleas and rhododendrons up to the house, or you can take a detour to the formal gardens.

I don’t remember these from my long ago visit, but the setting is superb.  On a truly radiant day, with the valley below rolling down to Rothbury in the distance, you just want to sit on a bench and breath deeply.  No such luxury for the gardening team, but they seem happy in their work, rooting out disobedient weeds.  I linger over tubs of tulips, beside a bedraggled rose and among the cool greys of the fernery.

Irridescent colours gleam at me, and it doesn’t really matter that many of the flowers are past their peak.  I can still luxuriate in their finery.

I hope you enjoyed sharing Cragside with me.  Full details are to be found on the website.  Meanwhile I’d like to share another great selection of walks.  It’s been a busy but wonderful couple of weeks and I won’t be posting a walk next week.  Instead I’ll be taking life a little more easily in the Algarve.  Among other things I have a wine tasting session that I need to attend.  Time to put the kettle on now, and settle in for a good read.

I always know it’s going to be a great week if it starts with a walk from Debbie :

Wandering around the park at Hellbrunn

Cheese anybody?  And don’t miss Jackie’s recipe for Slow Mongolian Beef :

Cheese platter

Let’s accompany Janet to the mall next, for some high end?

Monday walk…The Americana at Brand

Jesh is someone who doesn’t take beauty for granted, but often paints it, beautifully :

DON’T TAKE BEAUTY FOR GRANTED

And speaking of beauty, the happiest of memories brought back for me, from Lady Lee :

#SoCS June 9/18- “start with a noun”

Drake brought back more fond memories, of a long ago week at the Austrian lakes :

Idyllic Austrian colors

While Jaspa unintentionally brought back some not so happy memories of a Greek crisis for me :

Early Morning at The Parthenon, Athens

And Irene brought just a little more heavenly light :

Beams of Light

This post from Denzil gives you a choice of 4 walks and a lovely castle.  Not bad, hey?

Four walks starting from Horst Castle

Cathy hopes to be fit for the Camino in September, but meantime shares some fabulous views of her native America :

A hike above Wedding Canyon

As always, thanks to you all for walking with me and for sharing such wonderful companionship.  I need a little time out but I’ll be back as soon as I can.  Take good care till then.

 

Jo’s Monday walk : A lady and a folly

We’ve got our work cut out today, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.  We’re off to see a Northumberland garden with an Edwin Lutyens touch, but first I need to take you back in time.  It’s a warm, muggy day, totally unlike my last visit here when the biting winds cut through me and hailstones peppered my umbrella.

I was meeting a lovely lady, a poet and a craft worker whom I’d many times chatted to on the blog.  Though living in Brittany, Viv had a daughter in Northumberland and had suggested we might meet on one of her visits home.  Her choice of venue was Northumberlandia, at that time newly opened to the public.  In a particularly bitter March it wasn’t an inviting place, but the company was great and we valiantly struggled up the domes.

I wrote about that encounter with a smile on my face, little knowing that we’d never meet again.  In July 2016, Viv died suddenly, and my thoughts were full of her when I returned, to a much sunnier Northumberlandia, last week.

I hadn’t planned to visit, but the garden I had come to see belonged to the Blagdon Estate, who donated the land for this project.  The Ridley family have owned the estate since the 17th century, and Northumberlandia is in part an attempt to give back to the community some of the profits made through Shotton Surface Mine.  The story of the landscaping is a fascinating one, but now I’m going to leave the lady sleeping quietly and turn my attention to the magnificent gardens, just across the road.

You know you are amongst the landed gentry when the drive sweeps past a private cricket pavilion, with perfectly manicured lawn.  In the distance, russet coloured cows graze, the house sheltered from prying eyes by a stand of ancient trees.

Something entirely magical was about to happen.  Strolling beside the beech hedges which run the length of Lutyens’ canal, a rustling suggested a presence beyond the hedge.  Imagining the gardener not quite finished his chores in time for this Open Gardens event, I barely had time to register what was happening when out from the undergrowth burst a deer, in full flight mode.  With a graceful leap, he was beyond the canal and disappearing again into the woods.  I stood transfixed.

Nothing to do but continue into the formal garden, but I found it hard to concentrate.  My eyes were trained on the woods beyond, watching for movement.  Finally the walled garden distracted me.  Hard to ignore a couple of the beauties there.

But the fun was just beginning.  Behind a row of cottages, the Dene tumbles down to a stream.  Wild garlic carpets the banks and, following the tangled path through the undergrowth, your reward might just be a jewel burst or two of colour.

The path continues beneath the bridge, rounds a corner and there before you is a stately old viaduct.  A lovely fragrance surrounded me and I stopped to admire the vivid yellow blooms.  A gentleman asks do I know what they are and, with reasonable confidence, I declare them to be azaleas.  A lady disagrees, assuring us that these American rhododendrons are the only ones to have fragrance?  Jude is my expert.

Through a gate designed to keep out rabbits, the quarry lies in wait.  A sign declares that 6000 tons of stone were excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries to construct buildings on the estate.  I love the way it has been turned over to nature, with just the odd quirk or two.

The gardens were extensively remodelled in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, whose daughter Ursula was married to Matthew White Ridley, the 3rd Viscount Ridley.  Some have stood the test of time, while other areas are a little unkempt.  It must be an enormous task, taming a 27 acre estate such as this.  One more treat in store, before we retire for that hard-earned cuppa in The Clockhouse .  A figure of eight walk takes you around the lake and across the stepping stones.  A chapel folly peeps through the trees, and in the distance a Grade II listed temple.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our walk this week, and I’m sorry if it was a little lengthy .  There are some extraordinary photos of Northumberlandia you might like on the Blagdon Estate website.

No walk from me for the next 2 weeks, because I shall be in Poland and then visiting my daughter in Nottingham.  I’ll try and keep up with you where I can.  Meantime I have lots of lovely walks for you to browse.  Many thanks to you all!

Lady Lee was very swift away this week :

Skywatch Kew Gardens

Melodie has some quite beautiful walks.  I’ve selected this one because I haven’t done it and I love coastal walks :

Hike Whitehaven to St. Bees, Cumbria, UK

Suzanne finds a quiet corner of England for us to join her for a wander :

Neighbourhood Walks : Windlesham Arboretum

Debbie travels to the most interesting places, and we’re very lucky- she takes us along :

Arty Wanderings in Hongdae

Susan has a knack for taking me just where I want to be :

Walking Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Short and sweet, with Janet :

Monday on the Riverwalk

Lots of recipes at Jackie’s place, in case you’re hungry :

Baked goods

You never know what you’re going to find at Jesh’s, and that’s part of the fun :

City Walk

Another city, and one that’s always full of action.  Let Indra be your guide :

Hong Kong…..Walks

Fast or slow, you can’t go far wrong with Drake :

Quick steps in Strasbourg

I was followed recently by Tamar at Hike O Therapy.  Doesn’t ‘a Cornish gardener hiking through Northern Spain’ sound interesting?  Take a look!

Urkulu : A nature reserve and lake in the heart of the Basque Country

I have enormous respect for long distance walkers.  This week I had the pleasure of meeting John, for a friendly drink.  Cheers, John!  :

Nimrod

Eunice has a scalded foot so walking must be painful, but still she takes us to a lovely spot :

A local walk to Smithills Hall 

This one from Candy just scraped in before I hit the Publish button :

Serpa in the Alentejo

And this is a lovely way to finish, hand in hand with Pauline and Jack :

Surprises on the way home….

Enjoy your last day of the Bank Holiday if you’re in the UK, and to all of you, enjoy your walks!  Take care till the next time.

Jo’s Monday walk : Vindolanda Roman Fort

Knee deep in history this week, I spent a fascinating day out at Vindolanda, on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.  Come and walk with me, in Roman footsteps.  Can you believe, this tiny child’s boot, found here on this site, is from Roman times?

At the edge of the Roman Empire, the Wall was to stretch 73 miles across Britain, from coast to coast.  A formidable undertaking!  The garrison at Vindolanda was the first of a series of bases enabling the Wall to be built, and then defended.  The name means ‘white field’ or ‘white moor’, and I can testify that freezing conditions are often to be found at the border in winter.  On a warm Spring day, the beauty of the surrounds was what struck me first.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s build the suspense a little.  What might I find here?

I had, of course, heard all about the Vindolanda Tablets– telling scraps of bygone lives, written in ink on wafer thin slivers of wood, they are the oldest surviving hand written documents in Britain.  But what would they look like, and how did they come to be still intact after almost 2000 years?  This UNESCO World Heritage Site has ongoing live excavations, and it was incredible to watch history being unearthed before my eyes.

Meet Graham, and his merry team, and let him enthrall you with tales of some of the finds from the 14 years he has been helping to excavate this site.  The twinkle in his eyes can’t disguise the passion he has for this very special place.  The stories will give you goosebumps.  It was from Graham that I first heard the explanation as to how well preserved everything was.  The first 4 forts here were made of wood, but over time they were demolished and 5 new stone forts were built over the top.  Each layer of new building sealed the previous levels, creating anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions, effectively preserving them from decay.  An unbelievable 6000 items have been recovered so far.  As they continue down they hit further pockets of discovery, adding to the already amazing haul.

Throughout the site information boards help you to reconstruct what once stood there.  The Romans were very resourceful, channelling water from nearby streams in stone aqueducts or timber pipes.  They had underfloor heating systems, steam rooms and communal but comfortable toilets.  It was a well-ordered society with a recognised chain of command and luxurious, for the times, quarters for the Governor and his guests.  It is believed that the Emperor Hadrian himself once stayed here.

On the Vindolanda website there is a detailed timeline and enough information to keep you reading for a considerable time.  I can only skim the surface here.  The Romans arrived in the mid AD70s and were here for more than 300 years, building and rebuilding a sequence of forts and, from AD120, Hadrian’s Wall.  When the Romans withdrew from Vindolanda it continued to have a life for a further 400 years, before falling into decay.

It is a spectacular site, built on a hill, and would have been easy to defend.  Follow me down to the reconstructed Temple of the Nymphs, in the valley below.  The Romans worshipped a number of gods, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Neptune among them.  The wall paintings inside are based on examples at Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The museum is in a beautiful setting, in what was formerly Chesterfield Cottage.  It was purchased by Vindolanda Trust in 1974 and has been extended and modernised, and includes a very friendly little restaurant.  If you can make it here, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  One of the collections that I found extraordinary was the shoes.  I had no idea that the Romans had so much choice in the range of footwear available to them. (especially if they had plenty of money)  Coloured socks are believed to have been worn with the latticed style, to highlight the pattern.  The soles were studded to prolong wear, children’s shoes being a smaller version of adult footwear.

Whatever attracts or interests you, I’m sure you can find something to marvel at, be it fine bronze armour, worn by the legionaries, oyster forks, a range of keys, painted glass from the Rhineland or the military standard and horse brasses of a cavalry troop.

Goods were made locally by craftsmen but were also trafficked throughout the mighty Roman Empire.  Leather for clothes, shoes and tents for the military was produced at Vindolanda, and woodworking was an essential craft.  A workbench belonging to ‘Atto’ bears his carved name and the punch marks from his tools.  Another compelling recent find is a pair of ancient ‘boxing gloves’, probably used by a soldier during fitness training.

In a darkened corner I finally find what I’ve been looking for.  Described as ‘postcards from the past’, the Vindolanda Tablets inspire awe.  I peer into the illuminated cabinets, trying to decipher the writing from a world 2000 years ago.  Defeated by language, I gaze numbly through the glass.  Many hours have been spent transcribing these events from everyday life, and many more could be spent reading them.

Finally I pull myself away, and head back outdoors.  Clouds have scudded in and I feel the chill that must once have settled on Roman bones.  I linger just long enough to climb one of the wooden forts, hoping to find a degree of shelter from the wind.  Looking down on the remains of a bathhouse, I shiver and then march briskly, back to the car.

I hope you enjoyed this venture back in time with me, and can only urge, if ever you have the chance, that you visit.  The rewards are rich.  Full access details for Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum (to follow) are on the website.

Another bumper crop of walks to share with you this week.  Many thanks to everyone for their efforts, and for many hours of pleasure.  Join me any time on Jo’s Monday walk.  You’ll be very welcome.  Definitely time to put the kettle on!

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Drake was swift off the mark with a bit of fun this week :

Garden party

Closely followed by Lady Lee, with a garden of her own :

The moon, apple blossom and our garden

And then Lisa took us all the way to Israel :

From Crocodiles to Tarantulas

Always fascinating to see where someone lives.  Let Suzanne be your tour guide, with quiet atmosphere:

Morning walk

And, not to confuse you, a very different Suzanne takes you on a forest walk :

A saunter down GRAND AVENUE

Grab a coffee next, and go look at some books with Janet!

Monday walk…book walk

Then check out life with Jesh :

Between bricks or rocks

And a few thoughts on life from Geoff and friends :

Walking Talking Reminiscing…

My good friend Pit takes you on two, quite different, sculpture walks :

Sioux Falls/SD : A stroll along Sculpture Walk

Galveston 2017 – Impressions #2 (Tree Sculptures)

Wonderful to find yourself alone in one of the world’s most popular cities- a lovely photo walk with Jaspa :

The Calli, Campi and Canali of Cannaregio, Venice

And talking of popular cities, I wish I could join Susan in this one :

Walking Lombard Street in San Francisco

Two Susans this week, and it’s so nice to have this one back :

A Jane’s Walk in Douglaston, Queens

I love a lady with wanderlust, and you can certainly describe Pauline that way :

Reasons to return : Preview…

It’s always pleasant to see a bit more of Belgium with Denzil (and a daughter too!) :

Walking around Lavaux-Sainte-Anne

And what is it about villages with a stream running through?  Join Eunice on a sunny day!

Bank Holiday walk round Barrow Bridge

It’s another sunny morning here in the north east, and I shall be making the most of it.  Have a great week, everybody!