County Durham 3 -Durham - a night in a pub car park /a pizza and fish supper/ a free park and ride and the Angel of the North


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February 2nd 2020
Published: February 2nd 2020
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Where in the world is Gabby the motorhome. She is having well earned rest in the car park of the Masons Arms. Unlike Europe our own small isle does not cater for motorhomers. Caravan and Motorhome Club sites are well out of the way . Suitable for tuggers but not for us in vans. They are expensive . Over £25 a night . Not something you want to pay when you have paid a lot of cash for a lithium battery and do not need electricity. Just a bit of hardstanding. Their members book up the sites for months on end so even if you wanted to get it they would be full . The Camping Club - the friendly one offers cheaper nights of around £15 but even so they are still not what we are looking for. Travellers have ruined it for us. They stop for weeks on end and leave more than their footprints . The cost of the clear ups mean that law abiding citizens who want to escape are prevented from doing so.

We had struggled finding a free or even a cheap night stop so had headed up the A1M Northwards towards County Durham. We sourced a pub that offered overnight parking as long as you bought a meal in the pub. Good idea and in the right place . Spring has started to show finally. The worse of Winter is over although February can still bite us with colder , wet or snowy weather. The buds of the Azaleas and Magnolia are swelling and the snowdrops are opening their delicate flowers. We saw our first Daffodils. Up the A1M we drove . The wind became quite blustery shoving Gabby from one side of the road to the other.

We stopped at the Masons Arms . We were on our own but by morning two other vans had arrived . Did they pay for their free overnight stop? We went in to the warm and welcoming pub. Empty apart from us . We sat by the roaring fire and Glenn ordered a pizza. That should be cheap and cheerful we thought. I piked tiny Haddock goujons which came out at the price I would have bought a whole haddock for back home. Our cheap stopover ended up less than cheap in the end. £31 in the pubs coffers. We really need to be more careful of our spend if we want to recoup some of our lithium battery cost and the invertor cost.

We woke up to more heavy rain but the wind had dropped slightly . Our journey would take us to the historic city of Durham with its world famous cathedral. First stop the Park and Ride . An excellent facility on the outskirts of the city with plenty of parking and designated motorhome slots. The fare in was £2 for all day however I asked if we could use our Pensioners Discount Bus Passes and was happy to be able to use the service free. £4 saved then towards dinner tonight . You have to look on the bright side.

Durham was a delight. A buzzing city with a vibrant riverside location. Many independent shops lined the riverside route . Tourists mingled with students. The streets weaved upewards to the castle and the cathedral. Independent shop lined those streets which opened out on a well used market square. Full of carts and stalls selling cakes home made through to cheeses and hams and farm produce .

The wind picked up again and the rain fell in bucketloads . A chinese proverb goes something like this. Apologies for taking bits out - "When the winds of change blow " Read this as "When the winds blow some people build walls others build windmills". I kept thinking about this as we got blown from pillar to post . Worse was to come.

The cathedral square with its prisine grass opened up above the city. The cathedral dominated it but around were small cafes, a divinity school and music school andre an area of the castle designated for students. OUr first stop was the Galilee Chapel were we were greeted by the purple robed guides . Free to enter we were just encouraged to wander and give a donation if we pleased. Bill Bryson had said that Durham was the finest cathedral in the world . We were looking to see why or how he came to this conclusion . Having been in many around Europe we were open to suggestion. We were free to wander but could pay £4.50 each for a guided tour . There was a stunning collection of 3 Magna Cartas and Saxon treasures viewed at a price between £2.50 and £7.50, cafes and shops and a trip up the Tower . 325 steps with a charge of another £5. The cathedral cost £15 a minute to keep it open. Hence the fees for this visit and that . Who could blame them?

The Galilee Chapel originally was the only place that women could worship between the years 1175 and 1186. It was the traditional entry point for church processions. The walls were covered with ghostly reminders of the frescoes that once decorated the space . It housed medieval fragments of glass and the tomb of the Venerable Bede.

From here we entered the nave of the church built by William de Calais the first Prince Bishop. Music filled the space . Piped from the massive organ it rumbled and roared . The cathedral boasts the first pointed structural arch in the country. The highest Bishops throne and memorials to the miners of Durham. The Norman pillars are 6.6m wide and 6.6 m high. Between 1093 and 1539 the walls would have been highly decorated and painted however by 1560 the Reformation they had been whitewashed over and the windows destroyed. In 1632 a longcased clock once stood in the cathedral however Victorian taste prevailed and case was removed and the lock mounted on the walls. The quire was stunning with its wooden stalls. Our last stop was the Shrine of St Cuthbert . We only managed to peep inside as it was being used for prayer and it seemed wrong to disturb the worship. Through the walls though we could see the carved boses and the simple slab marking his tomb. The more elaborate bejewelled affair was destroyed in the Reformation.

Time for a bacon butty in the Refectory before we headed for the Chapel of the Nine altars . All erected between 1242 and 1290 so that the priests could say mass at a different altar at differing times of the day. Dedicated to St Margaret , to St Hild and Saint Aiden. They are still in use today.

The cloisters proved an interestingly quiet diversion . Not as intricate in design as some we had seen but nevertheless a place of quiet contemplation.

Outside we found the Sanctuary knocker hidden sadly behind bars . How many times had it been knocked I wondered? Many in its long life . It was the symbol of Durham that we took away with us . Plus the view of the Angel of the North as we travelled further along the A1.


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