North East (Part 2)

Wednesday afternoon was spent wandering around Bamburgh and nearby Seahouses. We saw Grace Darling’s grave in the churchyard at Bamburgh and opposite, a small RNLI museum which contained a huge amount of information in a tiny space. The boat in the photo below is the very one in which Grace and her father, a lighthouse keeper, went out to the rescue of survivors from the wreck of the “unsinkable” 4 year old paddlesteamer Forfarshire in 1838.

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I found it intruiging that Grace helped row nearly a mile to the Forfarshire through a storm then had to manage the boat on her own while her father went onto the rocks to get the survivors. He and a survivor then rowed back to the lighthouse, and he and two survivors then went out in the boat for a second trip to rescue the remaining survivors (the boat not being big enough to rescue everyone in one go). Grace got national acclaim; dad’s contribution was pretty much ignored (presumably he was just “doing his job”).

The other odd thing is that while both Grace and her father received Gold Medals from the Humane Society, only Grace was awarded a medal by the RNLI, and it was a Silver medal. The question begs itself of what superhuman feats are required for an RNLI Gold medal… I couldn’t find any criteria online but according to the reliable (!) source that is Wikipedia, the RNLI have issued 150 Gold medals, 1564 Silver medals and 793 Bronze medals, so maybe Silver is pretty much the default from which you might get upgraded / downgraded a level. I did discover that the record is held by Cromer, Norfolk crew member Henry Blogg who collected a remarkable haul of three Gold medals, four Silver medals, a George Cross and a British Empire Medal. I bet his mum was pleased…..

Anyway, we spent Wednesday and Thursday nights on the mainland side of the causeway over to Lindisfarne, our first proper British wild camp! No-one seemed remotely interested in / concerned about our presence…..

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On our previous visit to Lindisfarne we’d only had chance to look at the Priory before the tides forced us to leave the island, so we went back this trip and had a look at Lindisfarne Castle, which was bought by Country Life founder Edward Hudson in 1902 and turned into a holiday home with the help of architect Edwin Lutyens. It’s a bit of a rabbit warren inside and I could see why some of the house guests were apparently disappointed at the lack of creature comforts…..

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The walled garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll was understandably not looking its best at this time of year…..

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Later in the afternoon we explored a bit inland and came across a sign to the Flodden battlefield. It wasn’t far so we went to take a look. We walked up to the monument; the information boards explaining what happened were much better than at Battle (though to be fair I suspect there may have been information available in the Abbey at Battle; they just haven’t considered very well how you’re supposed to get your hands on the information when the Abbey is closed for the winter). It was Cooooooold up there! Not a place to be running round in a kilt – no wonder the Scots lost!

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Another pilgrimage on Thursday afternoon was into Berwick. Last time we visited the North East we got some amazing haggis sausage from the butcher there. Imagine the disappointment when we arrived on Thursday afternoon and he told us he hadn’t made any this week! Note to self – ‘phone an order in next time! All was not lost, he had a small haggis with our names on it. Here’s a picture of Mark moidering said haggis at tea time…

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Friday was a busy day. Our first stop was Preston Tower, which is a Pele tower (Borders fortified house) built in 1392 for Sir Robert Harbottle and nowadays minus two of its original 4 towers due to the stone having been reused to construct some cottages….. The tower was great, with lots of information about how it would’ve been used.

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The bits of info included one relevant to our travels the previous day: In 1513 Sir Guiscard Harbottle was summoned to join the passing English army and was then killed in hand to hand fighting with James IV at… yes… the Battle of Flodden. James IV was then himself killed later the same day.

The clock is a replica of Big Ben built for the tower by a member of the family in 1864…..

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Our next stop was Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle, which is about a mile away across the fields. Typical – when we got there we found that the National Trust have built a fence around it so they can close it for the winter. Can’t have anyone looking at a ruin for free now, can they?

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In the afternoon we went to Alnwick Castle before staying overnight at a small campsite near Alnwick that I prefer to forget (the chemical loo emptying facilities not being a pleasant memory). The signage outside was very Warwick Castle ie horribly commercial. The State Rooms inside were impressive, with quite a few Canalettos and Van Dyke’s decorating the walls. We were very impressed by the double height library. No photos allowed indoors, needless to say…..

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Saturday saw us start our reluctant journey home, crossing back across to the West and visiting Acorn Bank, a National Trust property near Penrith on the way. There isn’t anything to see in the house – just a few empty rooms in the process of refurbishment. The place was used as a nursing home until the mid-lat 90s, and it shows. It’s all quite institutional (wired glass and door closers everywhere!).

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The reason for visiting though (other than Mark’s new “the more we look at the more we save” mantra, which I’ll get to below) was to see the recently restored water mill, which was great. One of the three volunteers who’ve done the restoration and his wife were on hand to explain all about it. They’re now milling flour again at the weekends. Unfortunately we were just too late; they’d stopped milling early on Saturday as the water level in the stream had risen which makes everything go faster, so they’d already milled all they needed to for the day.

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From Acorn Bank we headed back to Little Roodee for the night. The weather on Sunday was grim, not a day to be out and about, so we got home in good time to organise ourselves for the week ahead 😦

We didn’t actually fork out any money at all for any of the things we’ve been to see on our trip to the North East (or, indeed, since we got back to the UK last month), but we have spent money on a couple of annual memberships to make this possible. We are now on a mission to make the most of them! Most of these places charge somewhat extortionate amounts to visit, so we don’t just need to “save” what we paid for the memberships. If we “save” double the cost of the memberships we reckon we’ll have paid a reasonable price to visit each property (Penrhyn Castle, for example, now charges an eyewatering £10.90 admission for adults, or £11.99 including gift aid; you’d be happy to pay a fiver but not too much more. Most places seem to follow a similar pattern…..). So if we “save” three times the memberships we’ll have got ourselves a good deal. M is very enthusiastic about this and is keeping a list!

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