Wolsingham, Weardale, County Durham, England

We’ve done hardly any travelling around since Covid so I haven’t been doing much blogging about what I regard anyway as interesting places, and even when we did travel in May – to the County Durham area – I only blogged about one place. So here are a few photos of Wolsingham.

Old Building, Wolsingham

These north of England villages are just as scenic as the Cotswold villages, but I suppose their location counts against them as it’s not a handy journey from London and the south – as the Cotswolds area is. I can’t resist an old church though despite not being at all religious. Below is St Mary’s and St Stephen’s Church.

A Church in Wolsingham

St Mary's and St Stephen's Church, Wolsingham

I think it’s the burial grounds around old churches that I’m really attracted by, strange I know. But some of the gravestones can be fascinating. As you can see there was a lovely cherry tree blooming nearby.

Flowering Cherry, St Mary's and St Stephen's Churchyard, Wolsingham
The church dates back to the 12th century but like so many it was rebuilt in Victorian times, the 1840s for this one. It still looks quite ancient to me though.

St Mary's and St Stephen's Churchyard, Wolsingham

There’s a war memorial of course – there always is, sometimes they’re in the middle of nowhere, or so it seems.

Wolsingham War Memorial

You can read about the pretty wee town of Wolsingham here if you’re interested

Everyman’s Castle by Philippa Lewis

Everyman’s Castle by Philippa Lewis was first published in 2014, and it’s subtitled The Story of our cottages, country houses, terraces, flats, semis and bungalows.

This is such an interesting and informative read, but it references quite a lot of other books, mainly novels which of course I’ve taken a note of – it has bumped up my book list considerably! It also has plenty of lovely illustrations, and obviously there’s quite a lot of social history involved too.

I had always wondered why a great-uncle of Jack’s had insisted that his house was NOT a bungalow. They were the kind of house popular in colonial India amongst the Anglo Indians or ‘ex-pats’. But the early UK versions were often little more than wooden shacks, often built by soldiers after the end of WW1 when decent housing was difficult to find. Then after WW2 the prefabricated bungalows erected to try to alleviate the housing shortage tended to be despised, although they were loved by the people who actually lived in them.

I was surprised to discover that people in England were really reluctant to live in flats, so they were difficult to sell or let when builders first offered them. Eventually service flats became popular among the wealthy in London, it must have seemed like living in an hotel as meals could be sent up from the kitchen or you could go down to the restaurant, but there would have been more privacy than in an hotel. But flats have always been very popular in Scotland’s cities, they tend to be roomier than the narrow terraced housing on offer in England, but even those tiny houses ended up being split up into bed sitting rooms with kitchens being shared as the housing difficulties got worse.

It’s not all about grim housing problems though, having said that the ‘nobs’ who lived in country estates had problems of their own as new death duties took effect, and some were just abandoned and demolished but others such as Longleat took on the challenge and made a successful business out of the estate. It’s the suburban villas and semis section that I enjoyed most, and it was interesting to read that people in privately owned homes were building walls to separate themselves from newly built social (council) housing nearby.

This book has all sorts of interesting bits and pieces in it about old places such as Edinburgh and Bath as well as information about the ‘garden cities’ that became popular.

So this ws a really good read, and I love the cover too. I really like those 1930s art deco homes – Crittall curved windows and all.

River West Water near Edzell Castle

When we visited Edzell Castle last week we realised that there must have been a source of water nearby, although it certainly wasn’t obvious, so we went on a wee walk in search. About a half a mile as the crow flies from the castle and maybe double that by the road we found the West Water which if you were travelling by car you would have no idea it was there as it’s down quite a steep and wooded path off the road. It’s lovely and clear, quite fast running, and with rocks to sit on it would be a lovely place for a picnic.

River West Water, near Edzell Castle, Scotland

As you can see the surrounding rock is red sandstone, the same rock which Edzell Castle was built from, presumably there’s an old quarry nearby.

River West Water, by Edzell Castle, Scotland

River West Water, Geology, red sandstone

We walked across Pirner’s Brig, which is quite a high and not very steady feeling metal bridge, but we survived!

River West Water, from Pirner's Brig

The photos below are the ones I took on my phone.

River West Water , near Edzell Castle, Scotland

River West Water , near Edzell Castle, Scotland

River West Water, near Edzell Castle, Scotland

Some of the surrounding rocks are conglomerate, with big pebbles stuck in the sandstone, when they are washed out by the water it leaves big indentations in the sandstone.

River West Water geology, near Edzell Castle, Scotland

And just to finish off, here’s photo I took of the view of the castle gardens from a window seat within the castle ruins. You have to imagine how it would have looked with cushions on the stone seats and maybe a nice tapestry to lean back on, and of course glass in the window. That would have been my favourite place to read a book, but the view of the garden would have been a distraction!

Edzell Castle window, near Brechin, Scotland

Edzell Castle Garden, near Brechin, Angus, Scotland

The garden at Edzell Castle dates back to 1604. Apparently Sir David Lindsay wanted the protection that a medieval castle gave him and his family, but he also wanted his children to experience the more beautiful things in life such as this renaissance garden. You can read about it here.

Edzell Castle Garden Info Board 2

The niches in the walls are normally planted with flowers but due to Covid it hasn’t been done this year, most of the historic places have just reopened to the public, the gardener is also having a tough time with the box hedging which was famous for its intricate topiarised Latin inscriptions, but sadly the box got blight and is nothing like it should be, it is being replanted I think but it’ll be ages before it’s back to its former glory as in the old image below.

Edzell Castle

The wee house in the next photo is a summerhouse which was used for entertaining in the garden.

aEdzell Castle Gardens Summer House 1

The walls have carvings of planetary gods on them and the swallows often nest in the small wall niches, especially the star shaped ones.

Edzell Castle Gardens Wall

Edzell Castle Gardens , Brechin, Scotland

Edzell Castle Garden, Brechin, Scotland

Edzell Castle Garden, Brechin, Scotland

There’s a well in a corner of the garden and when I had a look down into it (as you do) I could see that there was no water in it, just some sweetie wrappings deposited there by some ‘charmer’. So that led us to go on a search for the source of the water as you can’t have a castle without a water supply. Presumably there was a burn (stream) which supplied the well in days gone by but it must have been diverted or drained, probably by modern farming. We found the West Water about a mile from the castle, it’s a lovely walk down to the river with fast flowing clear water, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Edzell Castle, near Brechin, Angus, Scotland

On Monday we visited Edzell Castle which is near Brechin in Angus. It’s the first time we had visited anywhere like that since Covid because they’ve all been shut until recently – and now you have to book a time slot for your visit, so you have to think ahead which isn’t something we normally do much of nowadays. Since retiring we prefer to see what the weather is like and what we feel like and then just visit places on the spur of the moment. In other words, we’re not terribly well organised! We had been to the garden 30 odd years ago, before digital cameras.

Edzell Castle, Scottish castle, medieval castle, ruin
The castle was built by the Lindsay family in the 1500s but prior to that they had built a motte and bailey nearby. From the photo below you can see it’s now just a mound in the landscape. It is now owned by Historic Scotland.

Motte and Bailey Castle Mound

Back to Edzell, the doorway below leads into a courtyard and from there you can see the remains of the kitchen and you can get upstairs via a modern wooden staircase.

Edzell Castle , Scottish castle, ruin, medieval castle, Brechin

But there’s also an ancient staircase, just mind your ‘heid’ as the lintels are very low!
Edzell Castle, medieval castle, Scottish, Brechin, staircase

Edzell Castle, Brechin, Scottish medieval castle

The photo of the archway below is all that remains of the collapsed oven, it was quite a size.

Edzell Castle, medieval Scottish castle, Brechin

In the photo below you can just catch a glimpse of the garden which is well known for it’s unusual and beautiful design, but I’ll blog about that tomorrow.

Edzell Castle Brechin, medieval Scottish castle

Edzell Castle from Gardens ,Brechin, Historic Scotland, Scottish castle

A Mithraic Temple, Carrawburgh, Northumberland

After we visited the Roman fort at Chesters we drove on to see the remains of a Mithraic temple which is in the middle of a field. I have to say though that the temple itself isn’t very well signposted, so we ended up yomping over a field full of indignant sheep towards what was definitely a ruin in the distance, but that turned out to be the ruin of a farm building. Oh well, it was all good exercise and we gave the sheep something else to think about other than grass!

We eventually got on the right track, the signpost was on a small fencepost just the width of the wood, so about 3 inches square.

This is the road by the car park at Carrawburgh, Northumberland, as you can see the road is very straight so presumably this was originally the Roman road.

The temple is quite small but as the god Mithras was popular with soldiers it was probably quite well used by the men at Chesters Fort.

Mithraic Temple, Carrawburgh, Northumberland, Roman ruin

Temple Information Board, Mithraic temple, Carrawburgh, Northumberland

Mithraic Temple, Carrawburgh, Northumberland

Mithraic Temple, Carrawburgh, Northumberland, Roman ruin

The middle column of the altar has a stone offerings dish and visitors have been leaving coins, sweets and a big piece of wood as worshippers would have done. I was a really big spender and offered up 2 pence!

Votive Offerings, Mithraic Temple, Carrawburgh, Northumberland

Chesters Roman Fort part 2

The ruins that you can see in the distance below are what remains of the camp commandant’s house. As you can see the area that the fort is set in is scenic but I imagine it would have looked a bit different in Roman times, nearly 2,000 years ago, however the land here was very fertile even back then it seems and was able to provide enough in the way of crops for humans and horses. The fort was known to the Romans as Cilurnum.

Commandant's house from distance

Closer up you can imagine that it must have been a lot more comfortable than any of the other accommodation, and at least he had central heating, I think the bricks are part of that system.

Commandant's House , Chesters fort, Cilurnum, Northumberland, Roman ruin

By Commandant's House, Chesters fort, Northumberland

The floor below would have had a mosaic pattern on it I’m sure, but what can be seen in the photo are the supports of the floor.

Commandant's House, Roman floor, Northumberland

Annoyingly I don’t seem to have an info board photo for the commandant’s house, but the HQ info board below is quite interesting.

HQ Building info board, Chesters Roman fort

But as you can see there isn’t much left of it nowadays.

HQ building, Chesters Roman fort, ruins

You need a good imagination!

HQ Building Chesters Roman fort, Northumberland

The info board below gives you an idea of how grand and imposing this area would have been – all to keep those barbarians from the north out!

Main East Gate Board, Chesters Roman fort, Northumberland

Firth of Forth at Aberdour, Fife

Earlier in the week we drove to the very historic wee coastal village of Aberdour, just for a change of scenery. If you look carefully at the photo below you’ll see there are stone steps which have been cut into the rock years ago, but they have almost been worn away by the daily batterings from the Firth of Forth on its way to the North Sea.

Aberdour Rocks, Fife

I was standing on the beach at Aberdour when I took these photos and if you click to enlarge you will be able to see Arthur’s Seat, the Salisbury Crags and the smaller lump of rock to the right is Edinburgh Castle. In reality you can see it fairly clearly from the Fife side of the Forth.

Firth of Forth, Edinburgh

The large building at the far end of the photo below is a hotel, well it used to be but it may not be now. There were actually a couple of women swimming in the sea, I think they must have had wet suits on though as it’s absolutely freezing and it wouldn’t take long for hypothermia to set in. There weren’t many people around though so it all felt very safe.

Firth of Forth, Aberdour beach, Fife

I should have taken a photo of the houses at the edge of the beach but I didn’t, however you can see them in the background of the photo below of Jack and our friend who had never been to Aberdour before. There are some lovely houses there but they would be very expensive as Aberdour is an easy train journey from Edinburgh.

Maureen & Jack

But Maureen thought that this quaint wee house below on the town’s High Street would just do her fine! Do you ever pick out a favourite house when you visit a new place?

Quaint house, Aberdour, Fife

There are lots of images of Aberdour here.

Barnard Castle, Teesdale, County Durham, England

It’s a couple of weeks since we were down in County Durham for a few days, one of the places we visited was the town Barnard Castle but we didn’t manage to get into the actual castle because strangely English Heritage had a strict booking policy so despite the fact that we are members of Historic Scotland and would have got free entry – we didn’t manage to get in at all. It’s particularly weird as there were hardly any other visitors and as the castle itself is a ruin it’s all in the open air – hopefully we’ll get in there one day. At least we got some photos and had a walk by the river and around the town.

Barnard Castle,County Durham, castle ruin

The castle looms high above the town as you would expect. Of course it has been in the news recently as the place that Dominic Cummings visited to ‘test his eyesight’ when the rest of us were adhering to a strict lockdown and staying very local!
Barnard Castle,Teesdale, Counry Durham, castle ruin

Barnard Castle stitch, County Durham, castle ruin

The castle was founded in the 12th century and is in a lovely position high above the River Tees as you can see below. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen the Tees, I love rivers and this one is very scenic in this area anyway and looks unpolluted as far as the naked eye is concerned.

Barnard Castle + Bridge, County Durham, River Tees

You get a good view of the river when standing on the old stone bridge – as you can see.

River Tees, Barnard Castle, County Durham

The town itself is a nice place to visit with interesting looking independent shops – if you’re that way inclined. I only bought a book (surprise surprise) which I got from the Oxfam charity shop.

St Nicholas, Churchyard, Cramlington, Northumberland

St Nicholas Church, Cramlington, Northumberland

Last week we decided to visit some friends down in the north-east of England, now that we’re allowed to travel outside our immediate area again. Cramlington Village was one of the places we wanted to visit down there as Jack has a very old book with his great-grandfather’s name written in it – in copperplate – Armstrong Besford, Cramlington. Sadly he didn’t write his whole address. Anyway, we made for Cramlington which seems to have expanded a lot in recent years, but we reached the old village, parked the car and had a walk around the St Nicholas Church graveyard, in the hope that we might find a family gravestone there, and Jack found it! The church dates from 1868 but many of the gravestones were older than that, obviously the original older church had been built onto in Victorian times, as often happened.

Besford Grave, Cramlington, Northumberland Village,
I must admit I thought it might be a bit unlikely as Armstrong moved to Scotland, I thought maybe the whole family had.

Anyway, the gravestone tells the story of what happened to John Besford. He was run over by a train on Stannington viaduct!! The mind boggles. You can imagine how devastating that must have been for the family though, and his wee daughter followed him just a year later. Annie was obviously a bad luck name for that family as the Annie in the following generation also died very young, that was Jack’s granny’s older sister.

St Nicholas Church, Cramlington, Northumberland

It drives me mad that gravestones in England only have a woman’s married surname on it. In Scotland we traditionally put the woman’s maiden name on the inscription. An old English friend of mine had assumed that none of the women were actually married to the ‘husbands’ in the inscriptions. As if – in Presbyterian Scotland! Having the woman’s maiden name there makes it so much more interesting and easier for people tracing family trees.

St Nicholas Churchyard, Cramlington, Northumberland
Anyway, it was interesting to know a bit more about family history, it’s a shame we couldn’t get into the church though.

St Nicholas Church, Cramlington, Northumberland