Before we begin, you should check out Beck’s alternative day blog of our travels at http://www.happyrambling.com/this-is-england-blog
Day 6 – East Riding of Yorkshire, County Durham, Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, Cumbria
I’m grateful that it’s taken until Day 6 for exhaustion to hit, however this morning its smacking me around with a sledgehammer. Urgh. I’m travelling with a bird that even Larks avoid, so I bring out the matchsticks to prop up my eyes and take solace in coffee. I don’t even like coffee but it’s that or Redbull and I can’t face that without vodka.
East Riding of Yorkshire
“I should be inserting a pithy quote about the county here, but I’ve given up on them now. The scenery is too good to be googling”. Camilla Woodhouse
I don’t want to leave York. Possibly because I don’t want to leave my bed but more likely because it’s a stunning, happy city and there’s so much more I want to see and explore. We’re up and out early though to make the most of the day in the North of England and I’m excited with all we have planned for today.
We kick off today’s adventures in Pocklington, settled in the Bronze Age and now a thriving market town. A plethora of famous faces come from here including William Wilberforce who abolished slavery, the celebrated playwright Tom Stoppard, and (the real reason we’re here) the crazy genius that is Ade Edmondson. I try, and fail, to persuade Becks to moon in homage, all I get is a pic of her clothed behind in the local church. I feel I’ve failed so will try my best to get her to moon at some other point on this trip.
There are a lot of Yorkshires, and to my mind that’s a good thing. All of them have stunning countryside, history you can get lost in and the friendliest natives you could ever hope to meet. The welcome is so warm that visiting any of the Yorkshires feels like coming home, and other than their insistence of saying ‘Bath’ wrongly, I love these counties.
Some people collect stamps, others bookmarks, Becks collects UNESCO World Heritage Sites. She bravely gave up the UNESCO site Saltaire in West Yorkshire yesterday, when traffic and time were working against us, so Durham Cathedral and Castle was eagerly anticipated. Happily, it didn’t disappoint.
We entered during a service and stood in awe as the sweet voices of a choir swept through the imposing Cathedral. That, along with the incense drifting down the aisles and the spring sun shining through the stained-glass windows made for an otherworldly experience.
I had a moment.
I faked a sneeze to pretend hay fever was making my eyes water. I was tired, okay?
The Cathedral was built in 1093 and holds the shrine of Saint Cuthbert, also the bones of the Venerable Bede, an early polymath. Thankfully no dried relics to scare your children with here. It’s the largest and most perfect monument of ‘Norman’ style architecture in England and you can see why UNESCO love it.
The Cathedral also lifted Becks UNESCO site total to 60. That’s a whopping 5.59% of the worlds sites. She wasn’t as impressed with those stats as I was.
Tyne and Wear
The Angel of the North came into view as we drove along the A1 and initially my heart sank. It’s not as big as I thought, or as imposing, with just a rust coloured wingspan peeking above the houses in the distance. For me, Sir Anthony Gormley’s 20-meter-tall by 54-meter-wide statue only came into its own as we walked up to it, and the realisation of just how impressive the angel really is hit me.
An obligatory photo was taken of me pretending to be the Angel. No originality here, I’m afraid.
Built on top of mines where coal miners worked in the dark, Gormley designed the Angel to ‘express our transition from the industrial to the information age and to be a focus for our hopes and fears”. Stirring stuff and it lifted our spirits for the drive ahead.
Thought I should mention that there was also no fog on the Tyne when we crossed it. Disappointing.
As a little girl I loved the Romans. I wanted to be a leading authority on them and growing up in the Roman town of Cirencester fuelled these dreams. As I grew older my fondness for centurions and mosaics was replaced by firemen and rum, yet my dream of visiting Hadrian’s Wall never left me.
Housesteads is the site of a Roman Fort built in 124 AD by good ‘ole Hadrian. Becks walked the whole length of the wall in 2013 so she’s been here before, however her 84-mile ramble was in fog and rain, so the bright blue skies with expansive views was an appreciated change. As the most Northerly part of the Roman empire the wall was used as a base to keep out the barbarian Picts. The Roman armies based at the wall were made up of Italians, African Moors, Germans and the Dutch, so it was a truly foreign army who fought to save England from a foreign army. It kinda answers the question ‘What did the Romans ever do for us?”
The 10-year-old geek in me took great delight in exploring the fort and wall. It’s pretty damn amazing when childhood dreams come true. An additional surprise is the absolute beauty of the area. Drystone walls, gambling sheep, amazing views and Roman history. How have I not been here before?
I’m definitely off to Pompeii next year to fulfil Roman dream #2, who’s with me?
I started the day almost comatose with tiredness and ended it happily content. The only thing that could make this day any better is if I was ending it in a king-sized bed in a microbrewery with amazing views.