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4 November 2013

Winter is Coming

I've been up north to Northumberland for a sneaky weekend break. I've got lots of photos to show you and a couple of stories to tell. Better get on with it!

Above is the crest of the Duke of Northumberland. I'm going to go out on a limb and call it the "waxing crescent" phase of the moon, but it all depends upon which hemisphere you're in as to whether it's waxing or waning.

This is my crest too! Only mine's the other way around...

Finials are said to ward off evil spirits. They're usually placed on buildings at key locations like gable ends or the apex of the roof, but you can find them all over the place once your eyes are opened to them. I was drawn to a number of finials on display in the museum at the Chesters Roman Fort. The one above is flame-shaped, but to be honest, I was more interested in some pine-cone finials I'd spotted hidden in the corner.

Pine-cones symbolise the pineal gland or "third-eye".  Some believe that they represent immortality.

On my way back home from Northumberland I paid a visit to Richmond. Can you see what's at the top of the spire in the market square? I think it might be an acorn-shaped finial! Acorns are another popular finial "motif".

You know that I'm a big fan of many different types and styles of art. Here are a couple of snaps that I captured on my travels. Above is a study for "Blaze" by Bridget Riley. It was produced in 1962 and puts in my mind a sort of maddening optical illusion.

Below is a piece by James Edwards that I spotted in an old Biscuit Factory booklet. James has made a bit of a name for himself with these "northern" city-scapes.

I snapped this picture of "Billy the Kid" by Mackenzie Thorpe whilst looking for somewhere to eat in Richmond. It was on display in an art-shop window. Being a big fan of all things cowboy, I couldn't resist getting a quick snap for you. I think it was on sale for £650! Ooooh...

I'm always on the lookout for anything musical. Check out this glass lute that I spotted in Corbridge. Isn't it special! The strings look a bit loose. I wonder if it can be played?  I bet that I could get a tune out of it, but what tune would be appropriate to play on a glass lute I wonder? ;-)

I did spot some ukes in a Sue Ryder shop window...

Isn't this great! This minstrel's got a great pair of pins on him. Ha ha. What an outfit! I love the moustache/hair combination. Talking of moustaches... it's Movember again! I haven't shaved yet. Just saying... ;-)

My son J-Uke asked if this was a statue of a beggar. We saw it on a visit to the Holy Island. Actually, it's a statue of Saint Aidan, the first recorded inhabitant of Holy Island in 635AD. There were plenty of people living on the island long before Aidan, but he's the first person that we actually know the name of, and only because he founded a monastery there.

Below is another more famous statue from the Holy Island. It is of Saint Cuthbert who became a legend in the ice cream business... ;-)

When I posted this picture on Google+ I threatened that I was going to find some mead and drink it like a monk. Unlike me, this ambidextrous monk seems to have a bit of a drink problem.

You'll be pleased to hear that I did find some mead! Check out the picture below taken just before I began my mead-tasting. First impressions were that it stunk horribly... a bit like candles. It wasn't too bad to drink, but I couldn't find it in me to finish the bottle. The sword is Roman and yep, my daughter has decided that she wants to learn Latin. That explains the book. Do you like the candles?

I love all the ancient stone-work I saw on my travels. Above is a close-up of some celtic knots on an old headstone in the grounds of the Lindisfarne Parish Church (situated next to the Priory). Below is something I spotted at the Chesters Roman Fort.

I did a double take. Is it what I think it is? On the spur of the moment I explained to the kids that it was where the Romans must have kept the dogs.. hence the "half-a-bone" image. I think that I got away with it! Ha ha.

Ironically, I got into all sorts of bother earlier on in the day when I caught myself telling the kids about Willy Wanker and the Chocolate Factory. It was a genuine mistake! There has been some speculation that this sign below might actually be directions to the aforementioned Chocolate Factory...

The wonderful thing about being a tourist is having the opportunity to see things with fresh eyes. This weekend I was reminded of Grace Darling and her exploits saving those shipwrecked on the Forfarshire off the Farne Islands in 1838. She was a heroine of her day and an inspiration to all.

Lord Armstrong is a new discovery for me. He strikes quite an imposing figure in the picture below. He inherited more money than he knew what to do with from his father and donated £100,000 (£9 million in today's money) to help build the  Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. I want to learn more...

"A portrait of John Clayton (1792–1890), who helped save the central section of Hadrian’s Wall and excavated Chesters from the 1830s until his death."

I love this oil painting that I saw in the Museum at Chesters Roman Fort. In the background there is a hint of towering architecture. I know that pictures of this sort often have hidden meaning. See the hand... see how it points downwards. Is it a reference to what's hidden under the ground perhaps?

Below is another picture from Chesters. This time it's a reminder that the Romans were in fact foreign invaders of our lands. Unfortunately for Brits of the time, the Romans held the upper hand for many, many years.

It's hard to tell, but I think that the picture below is signed Ronald Embleton. I wonder if this was the same Ron Embleton who did the artwork for Stingray?

Now for a couple of head-shots. All of these were snapped at Chesters Roman Fort. The "Head of a Bearded Man" is probably my favourite. I wonder what happened to the rest of him?

Next up is a box lid with a carving of Medusa. Medusa was Greek rather than Roman, but it's a well known fact that those bloody Roman's would pinch anything given half a chance ;-).

If you look closely you can make out the giveaway snakes in her hair.

I'm no expert in Roman coins, so what you're going to get there by way of an explanation is an educated guess.

I think that this coin commemorates Livia Drusilla aka Julia Augusta (30 January 58BC – 28 September 29AD), wife of Roman Emperor Augustus. Why don't they make coins this shape any more?

I've mentioned  the Museum at Chesters Roman Fort a lot in this post. It was small and "a bit boring" if you ask my family, but I really enjoyed myself in there. Here's a Photosynthed shot of the inside. If it looks like I am alone, this is because I am! I got lucky; Everyone disappeared to watch some sort of re-enactment outside leaving me with the place to myself! Brilliant!

A big draw for this weekend away was to spend some time on Lindisfarne aka the Holy Island. I've been once before, maybe 30 years ago. This visit was steeped in weather... mainly bad.  It turned out to be a miserable day with long periods of horizontal rain; You'll see this soon in the pictures that follow. First, take a look at this shed made out of an upturned boat.  Isn't it great! There were a couple of these placed outside the castle. It adds a real sea-feel to proceedings.

Lindisfarne Castle was renovated in 1901 by Edward Hudson who commissioned architect Edwin Lutyens to effect a transformation from empty shell to romantic retreat. These boats were Lutyen's idea and were made out of disused Herring "Busses". Apparently the Spanish architect Enric Miralles later used these as inspiration for his design of the Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh. Personally, I think that they're a fantastic stroke of genius.

What was I telling you about the weather? Yep, check out these clouds. It was very atmospheric... wet and atmospheric ;-)

The shot above is from the Priory. Across the bay you can see Lindisfarne Castle. The picture below gives you a better feel for the castle. It was taken earlier on in the day as I sought and failed to find respite from the wind and rain.

I joked that the only difference between Northumberland and Yorkshire is that the woman are a bit hairier in Northumberland. Of course, I was joking! There are more differences than this... ;-P

I love old photos. You know this. Here are a couple of random ones that I snapped on my travels. I show you them for no other reason than that I can.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the narrative for the picture above.  The picture below shows sawmill apprentices at Gunnerton in 1911. The gentleman on the right is the spitting image of my cousin... but I digress. The funny thing is, he has a moustache and still wears clothes like this.

Like a lot of my home county of Yorkshire, Northumberland has a strong mining history. The picture above shows how bell-pits worked. It was a method widely used in Northumberland in the early days of mining. Those who did it were held in high esteem in the mining community due to the dangerous, hard work involved; Bell-pits were prone to collapse and many lost their lives earning a crust this way.

The picture below shows miners posing outside the Smallcleugh mine in Nenthead.

Okay, I'd better start closing this post off. If you're still reading, then well done!

I want to show you some of the pictures I took of the ruins of the Chesters Roman Fort. According to the tourist blurb, this is "Hadrian's Wall Country" and this fort was part of the infrastructure helping to defend the Wall. I found it quite surreal to catch glimpses of the Wall as I drove about the area. It's still here. What a crazy idea to build a huge wall across a country to keep the barbarians out? Those Roman's were full of crazy ideas. Above is a Photosynthed shot of the fort's bath house. How crazy is that! Well, actually, it's not that crazy.

Below shows the remains of an underfloor heating system. Yes! The Roman's invented underfloor heating! They were ahead of their time.

Almost finished! One thing that I neglected to mention in my comments about Lindisfarne is that it is a tidal island. Road access is only possible at low tide. Once you're on the island, you need to wait the 5 or so hours to get off again. It's an eerie feeling knowing this as you drive across. I got to wondering what would happen if I broke down on the causeway? Every year there are 5 or 6 cars caught in the rising water. I mentioned this to the kids as I pulled over to get a few snaps. They refused to get out of the car and told me to be quick. Ha ha.

See the raised platform in the picture below. This is where you should head if you find yourself in difficulty on the road. I can think of better places to spend 5 hours.

That's it! I've made it to the end. What a fantastic little break! Next time, I want to visit Alnwick! :-) 


  1. Looks like an interesting place...but a little bleak.

  2. It's certainly bleak out on the island Daz, but move inland and you have wonderful moors! Yep, they're a bit bleak too in places. But it all depends upon the weather really. The gems are the little villages dotted about the place. I really enjoyed my visit. I reckon we'll be back next year.