North East (Part One)

We left my house on Friday night and travelled as far as Little Roodee, Chester. Although not that far from home, it got the packing up out of the way on Friday and gave us a good start on Saturday morning (and at £1.50 the overnight parking was hardly likely to break the bank).

Saturday saw us head up the M6, stopping off at Lowther Castle near Penrith before parking up for the night on a small site near Gilsland. Lowther Castle itself is a ruin. The gardens are being slowly restored, with interesting information boards in each area showing photos of how it once looked and describing what has been done so far and the final plans for the restoration. The highlight for Mark was being able to rediscover his (not very well hidden) inner child on the rope swings! The snowdrops along the limestone escarpment at one edge of the gardens are a supposed highlight. There were certainly a lot of them, though they were perhaps slightly past their best when we visited.

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On Sunday we crossed from West to East along Hadrian’s Wall, stopping off whenever we found anything interesting to look at along the way. Stops included Housesteads Fort and Brocolithia Mithraeum, a Roman Temple of Mithras near Carrowburgh Fort.

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We also stopped off to see George Stephenson’s birthplace. You only see one room, that’s all the Stephenson family lived in (with the rest of the tiny cottage occupied by three other families). The contents are all “of the period” rather than “of the Stephensons” as no-one realised at the time that little George was going to be famous… This was more than compensated for by the talk given by the guide, who was very good and answered all our questions without hesitation and in great detail. The local village car park at Wylam didn’t really cater to anything much bigger than a Ford Focus, hence some creative Kampington parking was required using every inch of grass to hand…. Luckily no-one seemed to mind.

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We’d booked in for two nights at Nunnykirk, a Caravan Club site. It was cheap, at £12.50 a night. The downside was that there is no mobile ‘phone reception, no site wifi, and no houses nearby to “borrow” any from, so you really are cut off from the World (which is one reason the blog page hasn’t been updated until now).

On Monday we visited Wallingon, a National Trust property. It didn’t sound their most enthralling from the book, but it was actually really good. We had a nice circular walk round the grounds which Mark was pleased to see took him past the kiddies’ playground and later on crossed a stream using stepping stones…… The property, previously the home of Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, a socialist MP, is supposedly one of the largest estates ever given to the National Trust. We then made a loop via Otterburn and back to the camp site later in the afternoon, seeing some spectacular scenery along the way.

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Tuesday saw us visit Cragside, the former home of industrialist Sir William Armstrong and the first house in the World to be lit by hydroelectricity. The parts I liked best were the power house and pump house in the grounds, with their explanations of how it all worked including photos of the construction of some very large-looking lakes to contain the necessary reserves of water. There are over 40 miles of paths around the grounds, including some that take you up and around said lakes, so we’ll have to return at some point….. The third photo is of an Archimedes screw near the pump house, which instead of being used to lift water was used “in reverse” to generate power. The fourth photo is of Mark making full use of the interactive exhibit in the hallway……

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So here we are, half way through the week. We spent last night at Fowberry Farm near Bamburgh then this morning visited Bamburgh Castle, which ai thought was more impressive from the outside than the inside…..

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We’ve got plenty more planned for the rest of the week – I’ll post some more as and when I have an internet connection and a few minutes to spare….

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