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Sunday, 17 June 2012

It might as well rain until September.......June 15th

 as Carol King sang in September 1962. It certainly seems like the British summer will be a wet one. Could add some interest to the Olympics, the 100 metre mud dash, kayaking in flooded streets, beach volleyball turned into mud wrestling, and how popular would that be ! 
I could not get out last Friday, the few who made it had a wet walk up the coast. Today's forecast is no better so the four of us braving the June downpour have opted for a day of culture in Durham City. For my readers abroad Durham contains a magnificent cathedral which is a world heritage site and the third oldest university in England.
 It's a proper gadgie walk too, as we are catching a bus, the X2, from Eldon Square station in Newcastle, flashing the passes as we get on. It was raining.
We got off the bus near County Hall as the bus approached the city centre and headed for the Durham Light Infantry Museum. The DLI museum is set in a very attractive park, the trees looking particularly fresh and bright green thanks to all the rain.
The DLI was founded a couple of hundred years ago and saw action in the Peninsula War, the Crimean War, India, New Zealand and both World Wars. The museum houses a selection of old uniforms, weapons and many personal and very touching items from soldiers who served in the regiment plus a large display of their medals.
Interesting though it is if you want to see a really good war museum in Britain go to the Imperial War Museum in London or its sister museum at Duxford near Cambridge.
The DLI museum also has a small art gallery, one room containing sketches of horrific facial wounds inflicted on soldiers, the other a selection of photographs of people who have undergone, voluntarily, some cosmetic procedure to improve their appearance.
Having seen the exhibits we headed for the cafe to have a bacon sandwich. Served with a small salad and crisps we awarded it four flitches. It failed to score the maximum because of the soft doughy white bread bun it came in.
We left the museum. It was not raining.

        A very poor picture of the DLI museum.

 As the rain had stopped, temporarily, we decided to walk along the bank of the River Wear as it meanders round the town. We walked into town, through the Market Place and down to the Elvet Bridge. On the left hand side of the bridge, and before crossing it, are some steps which lead down to a good footpath which runs alongside the river. On the opposite side of the Wear, after the first bend, is the Racecorse Sportsground. Here, on this very ground, Durham County Cricket Club played their first first class cricket match. Of course I was there. A  couple of years later the club moved to their new home, The Riverside, at Chester le Street.
After about a mile a footbridge crosses the river and once safely over we immediately turned left and walked along the river bank to the road bridge at Shincliffe. Turning right and crossing the road we turned into a minor road almost immediately. The Pump Station Restaurant is signposted and is soon reached. Shortly afterwards the entrance to Houghall Woods (pronounced hoffle) takes you on the Houghall Mine Discovery Trail which has a series of information boards explaining the now mainly vanished mine workings. But eventually, having considered sinkers and pit heaps, you turn north across a field to Great High Woods. Upon entering the wood turn left and follow the path uphill. At the only junction take the right path and climb a little further to Hollingside Lane. Turn right past the back of the University Botanical Gardens, walk along the road through several university halls of residence which could offer  Homer Simpson moments, and on to the A177 road.
At this point on our walk it started to rain, heavily, with accompanying thunder and lightning, so we made our way quickly to the Millenium Place next to Milburngate Bridge where there is a library, a theatre, an information centre and a Wetherspoons public house, the Bishop's Mill. The modern building is on the site of a mill, owned by the Bishop of Durham, where freemen of the city could grind their corn. The information centre is a good place for picking up leaflets on the city and a map which has most of this walk on it. Should you want an OS map, you need OS Explorer 308.
Not all gadgies enthuse about Wetherspoons pubs but I like most of the ones I have visited, including this one. They do not have the ambiance of old English pubs but the beer is cheap, important factor for pensioners, the food is reasonable.  The Bishop's Mill offered Ruddles Bitter and Abbot plus at least two other beers and the usual collection of UKfizz lagers for the children.
But I am getting to be a miserable old gadgie; I don't like being asked "Are you being served, MATE?"; I don't like being served anywhere by gum chewers and finally I don't like being served by staff who continue to hold a conversation with their colleagues as they attend to your wishes.
Outside the pub is a statue commemorating the monks who carried St. Cuthbert around in his coffin from Holy Island on the Northumbrian coast until they decided to stop and build a monastery at Durham. He was, of course, being a saint "Uncorrupted" by the long journey.
                        The carrying of Saint Cuthbert.

The Olympic Torch, on its wanderings round the country, was due to cause chaos on the streets of Newcastle today so to avoid this we caught a bus to Sunderland and the metro back beneath the streets of Newcastle., finally catching a bus home.
No blog about Durham would be complete without a picture of the cathedral and although we didn't visit it today, here it is.

                            Durham Cathedral, absolutely amazing, awesome actually.
Pretty tame after some recent adventures but it's the weather. There was a time when we would have gone up the hills regardless, but not anymore!

Today, June 17th is Fathers Day. This is one of my gifts:

                                           Amazing. Thanks Kate, you too Lucy.
And for more cakes go to www.cakepoppins.co.uk

                                             And Helen.