A heavy blow in Berwick, in both senses of the term.

“Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot”.

So runs the old children’s rhyme concerning the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy aka Guido Fawkes and others attempted to blow up the King and Parliament. I once had a friend who was affectionately known as “Mad Katie” who wore a T-shirt with the legend “Guy Fawkes – the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions” which always amused me. So here I was, 415 years later, waking up in a very comfy bed in the Castle Hotel in Berwick-upon-Tweed and, to be honest, attempted regicide was not really on my mind.

What was more on my mind was the weather as I had a day’s sightseeing planned come Hell or high water and a glance out the window confirmed that the latter was much more likely than fire and brimstone as the weather was disgusting. If you have read my earlier entries you will know that the day before had been appalling and it showed no signs of letting up. Still, it was November, where was this year going? It is a cliché, and like most clichés it is based in truth, that time goes faster the older you get and I had really noticed it in 2019 but I wasn’t going to let it get to me.

I was having a brilliant trip to Northumberland, I had a whole new historic town to explore and, best of all, a Regimental Museum to visit. I love military history and the Museum of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers was going to be added to my list of similar establishments already visited.

I had arisen with the lark, having unusually set my alarm clock as I wanted an early start to my explorations and also because there was breakfast on offer.   I thought if I had good feed now I could do with a quick bite at lunchtime or perhaps skip it completely and so have more time to look round. I don’t normally eat for a few hours after I wake but it seemed to make sense.

When I got to the breakfast room I was obviously the last arrival as they had most of the chairs on the tables, presumably to clean the floor although it looked spotless to me. Thankfully there was a table still in operation and so I parked myself there, ignoring the cereals on offer although I did have a glass of orange juice. A friendly lady came out and took my order for a full English which was indeed full, full on that is.

If you have read other posts of mine from my time back in Northern Ireland you will know that I cook and eat the most monstrous fry-ups but that is when my stomach has had a few hours to wake up. The breakfast was gorgeous, with special mention for the bacon which was first rate, but it defeated me and I just could not finish it which annoyed me as I hate food waste.

More than full up, it was time to hit the road, downpour or no. I had looked briefly online and decided to head down towards the sea to take in the Bell Tower and the Lord’s Mount before going round by town walls which would bring me to the Barracks which house the Museum I was so keen to see. A walk along the High Greens and the Low Greens brought me to the Bell Tower and I noted the pleasant looking Pilot Inn for later investigation.

There was a reasonable path to the Tower but couldn’t really explore properly as I still had only those silly white training shoes which I mentioned before. Memo to self – bring walking boots to Northumberland in November!

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Early warning system, 16th century style.

The Bell Tower was built in 1577 on an earlier 14th century base and formed part of the medieval defensive walls which are amongst the best preserved in Europe and were begun by Edward I who reigned from 1272 to 1307. He was known as “Malleus Scotorum” or “Hammer of the Scots” and herein lies a clue as to much of what Berwick represents.

Although it is now in England it is only a bit over 50 miles from Edinburgh and was for centuries the front line between the warring English and Scots. It has changed hands no less than 13 times over the years which in some ways defines the place. For example, I found the accent here much more akin to Scots than to that of their fellow Northumbrians in Newcastle.

The 1502 Treaty of Everlasting Peace between the two nations stated that Berwick was “of England but not in England” and for centuries was mentioned separately in all Acts of Parliament and this gives rise to a story you may have heard of relating to to the town, if you have heard of it at all.

It is popularly believed that an administrative oversight during the drafting of the 1856 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Crimean war between Russia and the United Kingdom, omitted to mention Berwick and so the town had technically remained at war with the Russians until a peace treaty was signed in the 1960’s. Sadly, like so many great stories it is completely false and probably arose out of a talk given by a local cleric in the early 20th century. True or not, I doubt the Russians were ever too worried about the 12,000 or so residents of Berwick taking up arms and marching on the Kremlin.

My plans to visit the Lord’s Mount foundered on the rock of my pristine footwear and the prospect of a very soggy route underfoot so I stayed on the solid pavement of the charmingly named Low Greens until I came upon the delightful sight you see above albeit that it undoubtedly looks a whole lot better on a sunny day.  If this is the green referred to in the street name then it is certainly one of the smaller ones I have seen but they have made the most of it and the excellent information board gives a fascinating insight into the area.

This part of town is generically known as Greenses Harbour although I saw no evidence of fishing except for this decorative little dinghy. It is so named for a natural harbour here which was once home to a thriving fleet with herring being a popular catch, along with cod and haddock.  Illegally poached salmon also provided a good proportion of the local’s diet.

The locals were so swarthy and weather-beaten from their hard, outdoor life that they were known as “Greenses Arabs” which was partly due, in addition to the climate, by virtue of the fact that some were of Flemish, Spanish, Portuguese and French extraction although I am unsure how such a varied bunch found themselves washed up here. Perhaps that is the reason, they were all shipwrecked mariners. When I was later to catch sight of the wild North Sea battering the coast, that is perhaps not such a fanciful notion.

Walking further along Low Greens took me back in the direction of the town where I knew I was bound to come to the town walls sooner or later. On the way, I saw what I initially thought was a Church / Community Hall by it’s appearance but turned out to be a charity shop for the local hospice although I stick by my idea of what the building was originally. I am a sucker for charity shops to the extent that I literally cannot remember the last time I bought book in a conventional bookshop and I read a lot. What passes for my wardrobe, and I am certainly no fashion victim as some of you know, was similarly sourced.

Having just read on the information board about the very hard and impoverished conditions of the Greenses Harbour fishermen I came to the conclusion that it was very changed times round there as the items for sale were all top of the range, designer labelled and obviously priced at a fraction of what they had gone for initially. In the event I didn’t find anything I fancied but I did have a great chat with the lovely ladies in there. They were incredulous when I told them how and why I was in Berwick and wandering about on day like this but they wished me well for my sightseeing and I took off back into the teeth of the howling onshore wind.

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Do you fancy attacking this?

I came to the walls soon enough and was again amazed at how well they were preserved given their age. The next thing to do was find a way either onto or through them. As you can see, they are still fairly formidable and there was no way I could have scaled them.  To think of having to have assaulted them a few hundred years ago under enfilading fire, which was how they were designed, is a fairly daunting prospect.

I eventually found a gate behind which I could see the barracks which pleased me as the image shows just how much the terrible weather had deteriorated by this point.
Passing through the gate gave a very good illustration of just how solid these walls were, they must be a minimum of 25 feet thick and it would have taken a serious naval barrage to even put a scratch in it. The gates are still intact as well and they look like a pretty tough proposition as well.

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My first glimpse.

Immediately on passing through the gate I took the external image of the barracks which you can see and immediately I saw that something was wrong. I hadn’t checked on opening times and perhaps this was the one day a week it closed or perhaps there was another entrance round the corner or………. What I hadn’t expected, when I checked the information board was that it was seasonal and had closed for the winter the previous weekend. My main reason for visiting the town and I had missed it by two days. Sod that for a game of soldiers (pun absolutely intended).

I took an image or two of the now-closed barracks by threading my camera through the bars of the locked gate and it is a fine structure indeed which is no surprise as it was built by Nicholas Hawksmoor and brings me back to something I say often here which is that everything to do with my travelling and my life seems to connect and come round in circles. I’ll make this brief or we will be here all day.

Nicholas Hawksmoor (c.1661 – 1736) was a famous architect who worked with Sir Christopher Wren, notably on St. Paul’s Cathedral in London as well as Hampton Court Palace and the Hospitals of Greenwich and Chelsea. Churches were very much his stock-in-trade and he was the beneficiary of an Act of Parliament of 1711 to build 50 new churches in and around the City of London.

As it turned out, only twelve churches were built with six of these to Hawksmoor’s designs along with two collaborations where he took a minor role. Three of them (St. Anne’s Limehouse, St. George in the East, Wapping and the grandest, Christ Church, Spitalfields) are all within 30 minutes brisk walk of my home. These three, along with some of his other designs were all places I wrote about on Virtual Tourist and I may well dig out the text and do a piece here if I ever get up to date! Hawksmoor and I go back a long way and my piece on St. George in the East was one of the first I ever posted on the internet and possibly where I got the bug for this kind of thing.

If you like a good conspiracy theory, and who doesn’t, there is a beauty about Hawksmoor and his churches. It is not conspiracy but documented fact that Hawksmoor and his mentor Wren were both Freemasons and Wren is supposed to have been fairly high up in the craft. He is also alleged to be part of the Illuminati, if you believe in that sort of thing. Geometry plays a large part in the symbolism of the Masons and both men, as architects, would have been well versed in that science. The basis of the theory is that if you plot some of Hawksmoor’s churches on a map they form a pentagram with St. Paul’s at the centre.

All the above may be complete nonsense but I have just spent quite a few hours diverted into a world I had never really considered and yet which I had been exploring unknowingly for years. Yes, that is a bit cryptic and no, I haven’t gone completely mad, at least not as far as I can tell.  On the back of this I can see a few new projects coming up for my explorations if I ever get this current lot written up, which seems unlikely at this rate.

If you want to have a look for yourself then just try an internet search on “psychogeography”, itself a gorgeous word, and “London” and see what you come up with. I do warn you that if you are as as inquisitive as me it can be a lengthy operation. For a quick start, all the hard work regarding the Hawksmoor idea is done for you here. I won’t go into more detail but that is the bare bones and I want to get back to a rainy day in Berwick.

To say that I was disappointed by my failure to visit the Barracks was would be an understatement and to have missed it by such a narrow margin was indeed a bitter pill to swallow. Still, I had the bridges to look forward to and I was quite sure I would find something else along the way, I always do.

The next “find” was a complete reverse of the Barracks and very close to it. Sadly, in this day and age, I do not really expect to find churches open unless they are very large tourist attractions or are open for a special purpose like a service and so I didn’t hold out much hope as I approached the Church of the Holy Trinity and St. Mary aka Berwick Parish Church which stands just opposite the Barracks. To my surprise and delight it was open.

I was just glad to be in out of the rain but I was soon back in exploring mode and this was a fascinating place. Given the bellicose nature of the town and the long-standing barracks a stone’s throw away it came as no surprise that there were a number of military memorials here and that suited nicely as it tied in with my practice of photographing such objects. As I have mentioned before I contribute to the excellent War Memorials Online project and there were rich pickings here indeed.

 

One memorial that particularly caught my eye was one to a Lt. Wanston of the Inniskilling Dragoons, the reason being that the Regiment was raised around Co. Fermanagh in what is now Northern Ireland, the country of my birth. The unfortunate Lt. Wanston had lost his life in 1900 in the Boer War which I think is a much forgotten part of British military history, possibly because it is not particularly glorious but that is a discussion for another time.

 

Apart from the numerous personal memorials, the main remembrance of the fallen of two World Wars is particularly impressive as it covers the entire lower wall behind the altar which gives it a position of physical and symbolic prominence in the church. I may have seen similar examples before but I really cannot recall where or when.
In a town that is only about 2 ½ miles from the border and boasts so many “furthest Norths in England” it is unsurprising that this is the Northernmost Church in the country, having taken that distinction from the now re-used St. Mary’s, Castlegate that I mentioned in the last entry.

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One of very few.

With my track record for such things it is almost inevitable that this building is of particular interest in that it is one of only a handful built during the Commonwealth which was the period between 1649 and 1660, after the Civil War, when England did not have a monarch and were ruled as a Republic by Parliament / Oliver Cromwell. It is also the only one still in use as a place of worship. This is where it starts to get little strange.

One of the other rare Commonwealth era churches is St. Matthias Old Church, now a Community Centre, which is in Poplar and not 30 minutes walk from my home.  Again, I had previously written about in my time on Virtual Tourist. It was merged in the 1970’s with St. Anne’s, Limehouse which was odd as St. Matthias had by far the larger and more active congregation. The reason cited was that St. Anne’s was too architecturally important to lose which is interesting as it was designed by our old friend Hawksmoor, as I mentioned above. Although I had no inkling of any of this at the time and only discovered it all today whilst researching this piece, it leads me inexorbly back to the concept of the “interconnectedness of all things” that I refer to often and am becoming increasingly convinced of.

Money to build a Church here had actually been granted by King Charles I in 1641 before he literally lost his head in 1649 and the building work carried on, to the design of John Young, using mostly stone plundered from Berwick Castle. It was finally finished in 1652 but was not consecrated until 1660 after the Restoration of the Monarchy.

There is a fine organ in the church which is the latest of a series of rebuilds of a 1773 original designed by Byfield and Green of London with the latest update costing a princely £160,000 in 2010. This was necessitated by a botched rebuild by the organist in the 1970’s.

You may wonder why a church that was consecrated in 1660 did not have an organ for over a century later and the clue to this lies in it’s date. The time of the Republic was a time of puritanism and so the church was built without chancel, altar, organ, tower or bells. The local Bishop ordered a chancel and altar built when he consecrated it but, as the image shows, of tower and bells there are none to this day.  This situation is remedied by the slightly unusual arrangement whereby the “church” bells were installed in the tower of the nearby Town Hall from where they are rung. Fearing another time-consuming digression I have disciplined myself not to investigate this state of affairs but I’ll bet it is pretty rare.

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As much symbolism as you like.

Another of my many loves is stained glass and, again, Holy Trinity and St. Mary’s served me well as you can see above. This is the Millennium Window designed by Ann Southeran and is absolutely loaded with symbolism. At this point I shall defer to an entry in an excellent blog written by a “Northern vicar” so he should know what he is talking about. He tells us,
“At the top of the centre bay the window holds the symbol of the Trinity, drawn as a Celtic knot, endlessly intertwining. Beneath is the Tree of Life also a Celtic veneration of growing things – God in Creation. The Tree is nourished by the water of life, also the symbol of Baptism for the window which is directly above the font. The image of the church is from a sketch by Susan E. Hughes. The water becomes the River Tweed, Tweed Dock and the coastline. The main cross is Celtic, with a circle representing encirclement, protection and eternity – it stretches across all three lights of the window. In each of the four corners are the four Evangelists. In the left is St Columba with the Scriptures overlaying Iona; the right hand is St Aidan overlaying Holy Island. Wonderful”.

Wonderful indeed, although I am always a little surprised at the use of Celtic symbolism in churches and gravestones as Christianity did it’s best to obliterate the older Celtic / pagan belief system and regrettably succeeded. A little subconscious triumphalism, perhaps?

A little warmer and a lot happier I went outside to brave the elements again, still with no plan other than those lovely bridges which were exerting some sort of siren song by this point.

Heading back towards the river I passed the rather grandly named “St Andrew’s Wallace Green and Lowick Church of Scotland” which sadly was not open as it’s Church of England neighbour had been. Perhaps the canny Scots are more suspicious of the modern world than their English counterparts. Although the Church and building dte to 1859 it did not become part of the Church of Scotland until 1971. I m sure that is an interesting tale but another one that will have to remain unresearched at present.

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Another one bits the dust!

Passing another sadly closed pub (the Cobbled Yard Hotel) which I photographed to submit to the Lost Pubs website and passing also my hotel I headed back towards the station where I knew there was the entrance to park which would lead me to the River and hopefully some good images of the railway bridge.

I hadn’t even got into the park when I met the cuddly looking and very cleverly carved chap you can see who I was informed by the attached plaque is Bari the Berwick Bear which I feel needs some explanation and it is rather clever. The sculpture was carved in 2017 by David Gross and it references the name of the town. Berwick is named from the old English “bere” and “wick” which mean barley and farm respectively. Simple enough. Transliterate this into modern English and you get “bear” and “wych” which is a type of elm tree. The logo of the town Council is a bear and an elm tree. I told you it was clever stuff. The name? Well, bari is a local dialect word for something that is really nice and I wouldn’t disagree.

Leaving my new-found ursine friend behind I finally made it into the Castle Vale Park which really was not seen to best advantage in these conditions. A very informative board told me that the park was built on part of a ravine which once formed part of the defences of the now derelict Berwick Castle which would have been to my right as I looked towards the river and beside the railway bridge I was aiming for. The railway station itself is actually built on part of the site of the castle. The board also indicated that there was a path along the river which would bring me nicely back into town via the other two bridges. Job done, I had a new plan.

The park is small, narrow and and the path is just bit slippery underfoot in weather like this was so be careful. In a town as ancient as this it is a fairly modern addition to the attractions having only been laid out in 1931 on land given to the people by a philantrhropic Mr. Cairns. Thank you, sir!

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I made it at last.

Getting down to the river I was treated to a wonderful view of the bridge I was so desirous of seeing and photographing and I did have quite a few attempts at it of which the one above is my favourite. The flat calm and a very temporary lull in the rain made for some great reflections on the Tweed.

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I wanted to get “up close and personal” and walked up to, and under, the bridge in search of a new camera angle but I didn’t improve on my previous efforts. What I found instead was a lovely, slightly brooding, River Tweed upstream. Not only had I managed my images of the bridge but I was also at the remains of the Castle, such as they are.

Berwick Castle dates to the 12th century and it was here in 1292 that King Edward I (yes, Longshanks again) declared John Balliol King of Scotland over the rival claim of Robert the Bruce. What I did not know until writing this was that the Count of Holland also had his hat in the ring for the Kingship although I am not quite sure how. Despite what appears to be a fairly strong defensive position on top of a steep hill, the castle was captured by both sides over the years so it was not at all impregnable. At one point King Richard I, the so-called Lionheart, sold the castle to the Scots to fund his ultimately ill-fated Third Crusade to the Holy Land.

With the building of the new ramparts in the 16th century the castle became largely obsolete and in the 19th century much of what remained was demolished to make way for the station. All that really remains now is what you can see in the images including the very aptly named “Breakneck Stairs”. Breaking your neck seems a likely fate for those attempting them in the dark, especially on a day like this was.

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They shall not pass!

With what remains of the castle duly photographed it was time for my riverside walk along the riverside path which was built in 1815 and is referred to as the New Road. Road it may or may not be but what it certainly was not that day was a thoroughfare as the image shows. Could anything else go wrong on this walk? All the way back up I climbed and I did manage another few decent images of the bridge but I won’t bore you with them here.

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Following a higher level path I soon came upon the the ramparts again, it is difficult not to. This particular portion of the walls is called Meg’s Mount and I can only surmise that Meg must have been a cannon of some description like the famous and monstrously calibred Mons Meg in Edinburgh Castle. If so, I can offer no explanation as to the use of the name Meg for heavy artillery. Can anyone enlighten me?

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I walked a little further and found this rather pleasing water fountain which was erected on the occasion of the Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee in 1897.

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By this point it was getting on for three in the afternoon, I had been walking a lot and so I was getting thirsty. Whilst looking at the pubs online the previous evening I had noted the Leaping Salmon and I knew it was nearby so, passing through the Castlegate which I was becoming quite familiar with, I headed on down towards the river. Of course, being that close to the river I was close to the bridges and so another few images were quickly rattled off.

In the course of taking the bridge images it occurred to me that the light was going and so I did the completely unthinkable and gave the pub a miss to get a bit more sightseeing done. Yes, really. I walked past the pub but I did return later that evening when it was dark and my photographic attempts were not calling.


I decided to try to walk a bit more of the ramparts and was heading back towards Meg’s Mount when I came upon the statue of Annie, Lady Jerningham and took a couple of images as I found it quite charming with the two dogs. Naturally, I felt compelled to do a bit of research as I had never heard of Lady J. or her husband and I was a little intrigued by the statement on the inscription describing him as “late and last member of Parliament for the borough”. I found it unlikely that notwithstanding Berwick’s unusual political history it had no parliamentary representation so here is the story.

Sir Hubert Edward Henry Jerningham had served as MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed which was redefined under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 and hence the phrase on the inscription. The good folk of Berwick are indeed represented in Parliament, at time of writing by Anne-Marie Trevelyan of the Conservative party. Unusually, this constituency is one of only two in the Northeast never to have had a Labour MP.

After leaving Parliament, Sir Hubert entered what might loosely be described as the Diplomatic Service and was first the Governor of Mauritius and then Trinidad and Tobago, taking his wife, Lady Annie with him. She was the widow of a man called Charles Mather when she married Sir Hubert. Sadly, colonial life apparently did not suit her health and she died in 1901 of an illness contracted in Trinidad and Tobago.
As another ridiculous aside, did you know that Trinidad and Tobago is named for the Spanish words for (holy) trinity and tobacco? You do now but back to rainy Berwick and my walk round the ramparts.

I had passed under Castlegate often enough but it was only when I walked over the top of it that I not only got a great shot of the Town Hall but also found out about a very unusual artistic connection with the town. As I was looking at the Town Hall from the rampart I could not help but notice the information board headed “the Lowry Trail” and with an image very obviously in the style of the painter L.S. Lowry and of exactly the view I was now looking at.

I know next to nothing about art but even I recognise the “matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs” style immortalised in the appalling 1978 hit song by Brian and Michael. I have juxtaposed my image and the facsimile of Lowry’s painting here to illustrate how little has changed in the intervening eight decades or so.

In my mind Lowry was inextricably linked with the grime of the industrial Northwest, particularly the area round Salford where he lived so why was there a trail here in this seaside Northumbrian former fishing town? It appears that in the 1930’s, up until the outbreak of World War Two he took his annual holiday here and did a lot of painting as you might expect.  After his stint as a war artist in that conflict he continued to visit right up until his death.

Lowry would have had plenty of views to choose from in this attractive place. There is more of him in a moment but for now it is useless trivia time again. L.S. Lowry was the official artist for the Coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. I wonder if he worked in the style of “matchstick Queens and matchstick cats and corgis”.

Following the ramparts on round I found myself back at the sea, more or less where I had started that morning. Being slightly elevated gave me good view over the golf course, the undoubtedly closed holiday park and the North Sea which was still looking fairly unwelcoming. I was also treated to a view of how effective the defences must have been as shown in the second image above. Imagine trying to assault the walls over that completely exposed killing ground, it would have been complete suicide. It is easy to see that when they were constructed, these formidable defences represented the cutting edge of military engineering, largely inspired by Italian design and are today regarded as some of the finest remaining examples in Europe.

Another view of the Barracks did little to soften the blow of my earlier visit and when I came down from the walls I was not at all surprised to find that the Gymnasuim Gallery, equally unsurprisingly housed in the old Barracks gym, was also closed. I did allow myself a small smile at the thought of the amount of sweat that must have been produced in there by generations of squaddies being beasted by ackers. In conventional English that means generations of rank and file soldiers being trained hard by Physical Training Instructors!

Carrying on a bit further I discovered that I was still on the Lowry trail although I was making no conscious effort to do so. I found myself facing what had once obviously been a rather grand house and reading the Lowry information board about it. It is rather unimagintively known as  and is a listed building. It was refurbished in early 2019 although whether it still serves as a residence I really cannot say although somehow I doubt it.

There is a probably apocryphal story that Lowry spoke of buying the premises but a surveyor friend found it riddled with damp.  Lowry was a single man who would have had no use for such a large dwelling and used to stay in the Castle Hotel when he visited. When I found that out I couldn’t help but wonder if he had ever stayed in the room I was in. Possibly not but it is a nice thought.

As you can probably guess from the length of the description I had walked a fair bit that day which was good as I am supposed to exercise regularly but what was not so good was that I hadn’t eaten since that gargantuan breakfast and it seemed like a long time ago. Certainly it was large enough to keep me going but I was getting a bit peckish and so I decided to regroup in the Brewers Arms where I had been the day before and where the food had looked good. There had also been plenty of diners which I always take to be a good sign.

Approaching the pub, I not only had my choice of dining venue confirmed but also my menu choice decided before I even set foot in the place! They had a blackboard outside with an extensive list of the daily specials on it and that included haggis so there was no doubt in my mind. I know haggis is not to everyone’s taste being made from the lungs, heart and various other sheep offal mixed with oatmeal and traditionally wrapped in the intestine of the poor old sheep. Put like that it does not sound overly appetising but I love the stuff.


In I went, ordered my first pint of the day, if you can believe that, and the special of haggis which included a dessert so I went for the pear crumble with custard as any sort of crumble is another favourite of mine although I am not much of a sweet eater. The meal was duly served by a very friendly young lady and I took to it with a will. I had certainly earned it and it turned out to be a fitting reward for my exertions as the whole meal was excellent and obviously home made. OK, the haggis would have been bought in, but you know what I mean and it was very good, nice and spicy as I like it.

Quite replete I decided on a quick spruce up and an hour’s post-prandial doze which I duly did. Suitably refreshed I took off into the filthy night for the short walk to the Pilot Inn which I mentioned what seems like half a book ago now. Online I had seen words like “quaint”, “traditional” and “homely” bandied about and it was certainly all of those. It was also completely empty and I mean there was not even anyone behind the bar. I ventured a tentative, “Hello” and was rewarded by what I took to be the landlady who, after serving me, apologised and said that he was having her dinner in the other room but that if I required anything to just call her. There I was, a complete stranger, left all alone in the bar where I could have stolen just about anything I could have carried. It was very trusting of her.

I had a good look round and studied the various old pictures on the wall. I also took the image of the beer font you can see as I know the Broughton Brewery is a small brewery nearby in the Scottish Borders and this seems to reflect the policy here of having various guest ales available.

My solitary existence was interrupted, although not unpleasantly so, by a young girl who had come in to charge her mobile ‘phone and when I got talking to her she regaled me with a story about having had a row with her Mother who had thrown her out.  She needed the ‘phone charged to call round and found somewhere to stay. I’ve heard all sorts of spurious tales of woe from beggars but for various reasons I think she was telling the truth and, feeling sorry for her, bought her a drink after summoning the landlady from her TV soap watching in the other room.

I was a little concerned about the young lady, who was certainly not dressed for being outdoors in that weather but she assured me she would be alright when she had made a few calls. She thanked me for the drink and took off to wherever it was she was going. I do hope she was OK.

By about 2100 it was very obvious that I was going to be the only patron that evening and so I spoke to the landlady about when she was going to close. Although she invited me to make myself at home, which I already had done, and stay as long as I liked, I reckoned she would bar the door as soon as I went so I took my leave. When I was there I discovered that they held regular open folk music sessions so I’d love to get back for one of those. It was a great little pub and I was sorry to leave although it was clearly the decent thing to do.

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I missed it the first time but not the second.

As if I had not done enough walking for one day I trekked all the way back down the town to the Leaping Salmon which I had so stoically avoided earlier. The Leaping Salmon is quite unusual in that it was formerly a Wetherspoons pub but they had sold it which is something of a rarity as they normally hang onto places they own and make a roaring success of them. The Salmon is now owned by Great UK Pubs, a subsidiary of Stonegate which is quite a large chain all over the UK but it might as well still be a ‘Spoons as they follow exactly the same business model. I had a couple in there and then headed back to the hotel for an earlyish night.  Obviously, I had taken the image above earlier in the day.

I got back to the hotel with no problem but the problem with the early night plan arose upon entering the premises where I noticed the bar was still open. Well, rude not to have a nightcap I suppose. I got chatting to the barmaid who was great fun and had a look round the triangular shaped bar which boasts a lovely open fire that was somewhat inexplicably unlit. I don’t know if they wait for a full-on blizzard before they light it. I should add that the bar was perfectly warm without it. Up the stairs to bed and after my rather energetic day it was straight off to dreamland.

Well, it appears as if I have finally come to the end of this epic and I do hope I have not bored you overly.

In the next entry, which I promise will be shorter, I return to Newcastle to meet Paul, have a “get Carter” moment, visit an absolute gem of a station bar and then make my way back to London to conclude this trip so stay tuned and spread the word.

A Sunday stroll and singing in the Saltgrass in Sunderland.

Sunday, 3rd November and the weather had turned wintry again but that was not too much of a problem as I had little planned before a gig in Sunderland that evening. Having had such a wonderful wander round Newcastle the day before, as featured in the previous entry which I do hope you have had a chance to look at, I thought relaxing day locally might be in order.  Day of rest and all that. I know the concept of Sunday as a day of rest is bound up with a belief system I do not subscribe to and that being retired means every day is essentially a day of rest for me but you get the idea.

I suppose it would have been a good opportunity to have gone and had a look at the wonderful St. George’s Church which had been closed during the week and would presumably have been open on a Sunday morning but I just didn’t think of it and instead asked Paul and Sue to recommend a decent local pub for a Sunday lunchtime pint. I had the Punch Bowl and the Lonsdale already marked but I thought I might try somewhere else. They both suggested the Collingwood and gave me detailed directions of how to get there, even walking me part of the way.

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A typical Jesmond street.

Whilst I knew where I was going I deliberately detoured just to get a feel of the place and this led to the image you see above which is of nothing much of interest but was taken purely as it is so typical of that particular part of Jesmond i.e. the part built for workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you’re interested, which you probably aren’t, it is Clayton Park Square, but even this apparently meaningless image led to a fascinating discovery and confirmation of something I had written earlier.

Looking at the frontages of the properties here they look like typical “two up, two downs” of the period, designed for a family with two or three children, they are certainly not huge. Whilst searching online for something on the history of the road to interest you with I stumbled upon literally pages of entries advertising properties for rent and all obviously aimed at the student market. One of these small homes is advertised as an eight bed residence. Yes, you read that correctly, eight. I know students have always lived in fairly cramped conditions but that is ridiculous. Eight people in one of these, it is madness. I have looked at images of the kitchen in it which looks lovely but more than three people in there would be push, I don’t know how they are allowed to do it. Crazier still is the fact that there is only one bathroom!

For those that do do it, the rewards are huge as the eight bed goes for £2336 ($US 3039) per month, it really is a licence to print money. Intrigued by this I had a look at property prices there and I reckon you could pay off the purchase price in about 12 years. No wonder these property developers get so rich! As for something of interest to tell you, I am sorry but I failed. After too many pages of property to let I just gave up.

Enough of the property speculation market in the NE2 postal district and back to my Sunday ramble. I knew exactly where I was going but there was a bit of an obstacle in my way in the form of the Dun Cow pub. I didn’t see it so much as an obstacle as an opportunity and it was not totally unexpected as Paul had mentioned there was another pub very near the Collingwood and in the event this turned out to be lucky as I shall explain shortly. They really are close to each other and if you look at the image of the back garden of the Dun Cow you will see the Collingwood peeking out from under the right hand tree. I had just managed to do things back to front which is about par for the course for me.

 

The Dun Cow looked like it had been fairly recently refurbed as the interior and exterior didn’t quite match and this s indeed the case. Formerly known as the Brandling pub it was bought over, tarted up and re-opened in 2017 by a company with a small chain of five outlets covering Sunderland and Newcastle. As you can see, it is pretty big which made it feel a touch cavernous as there were only a handful of people in the place which slightly surprised me given the emphasis obviously placed on food. I had been promised a proper Sunday dinner by Sue and so that was not an option for me although the “all the trimmings” roast dinners I saw being served looked lovely. I thought perhaps the Collingwood had attracted all the custom but this was not to be the case as you shall see.

The staff were friendly and my “cider spritzer” was served with a smile and a bit of chat but I suppose the young lady had little else to do as she certainly wasn’t rushed off her feet, it was strange. I had a look at the menu which was comprehensive and not expensive with various specials throughout the week. There is also a varied programme of entertainment which seems to be a feature of this chain. For the twin reasons that I was rationing myself knowing I had gig that night and the fact that the Dun Cow was a little lacking in atmosphere, purely due to the lack of patrons, I decided to make the arduous trek of about 100 yards and check out the Collingwood or “Colly” as it seems to be locally known.

Approaching from the gable end I had no inkling of the horror that was to unfold. Walking round to the front of the building I got a sense of foreboding as the place looked shut. Not permanently closed or derelict but just not open and the sight of the locked front door was indeed a sad one. A quick peek through the window shows that it is a great looking place as Paul had suggested and that only doubled my disappointment not to mention my surprise at how quiet the Dun Cow had been. If the good people of Jesmond weren’t having Sunday lunchtime meal and / or drink here then where were they going. Don’t worry, I’ll answer that question shortly but for the moment it was a couple of images and head on for bit of a walk. Why not? Dinner wasn’t for a while and I was close enough to home.

Rather than retrace my steps, I decided to loop round and go back via the Punch Bowl plus having a look at whatever I might see on the way. What I saw was the Royal Grammar School and a lot of other lovely old buildings converted into either luxury flats, nursing homes or student rabbit hutches. I am firmly of the opinion that only a very small minority of dwellings in Jesmond are actually inhabited by traditional family units and, whilst I know that times change and usually not for the better, I couldn’t help but feel just a little sad. Still there was one surefire cure for incipient melancholy and the Punch Bowl Hotel was reached soon enough.

I have already told you more than enough bout the Punch Bowl and how wonderful it is so I won’t bore you again nor post any of the images I took as I have used most of them in previous entries. Yes, I sometimes cheat and transpose images from one day to another. If only real time travel were that simple! My visit to the Punch Bowl did however clear up the small mystery of where the people of Jesmond eat on a Sunday afternoon, it is here and the place was pretty packed.

Heading home in good time for dinner, we were treated to another fine meal from Sue, she really does know how to cook. After eating, we had a very pleasant digestive period in front of the TV but not for too long as Paul and your humble narrator were gigging again that night. I did tell you at the start of this trip that it was set up to be a busy time, didn’t I? I was loving it.

Not only we gigging again but we were spreading our wings and heading to the metropolis of Sunderland which is only about 15 miles South of Newcastle and this proximity led to a fierce rivalry between the cities. Not least amongst this are football (soccer) matches between Newcastle United aka the Magpies because they play in black and white and Sunderland who play in red and white and have several nicknames, mainly the Black Cats because of the black lions on their crest. At present, League derbies are on hold as Sunderland are languishing in the third tier whilst Newcastle are in the premiership (for the time being anyway!).

Another nickname for supporters of Sunderland are Makems and there are various theories put forward as to the origin of this strange name. The most plausible of these harks back to the days of shipbuilding on the River Wear and is dependent on the local dialect for explanation. The shipmen of Sunderland said that “we makem (make them) and they takem (take them)” which means that they built the ships an then mariners from all over the world came to sail them away. As another of my numerous asides I noticed whilst researching this piece that there is even a Makem Way just across the river Wear from where we were playing and which leads to the football ground, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Despite it’s shortcomings in respect of reliability, I was very impressed by the extent of the Metro which I have spoken so much about and we could have gone all the way to Sunderland on it but it would have been a bit of a trek to the gig from the station and we were coming home lateish so we went by car. Paul knew where the place was but got the satnav going in case of difficulties on the way which turned out to be the case, or perhaps not as you shall see. About halfway through the journey the twatnav as a friend of mine likes to call it, and not without reason, sent us off the main and direct route due to some supposed roadworks.  We drove round in what appeared to be circles for a while until we got back on the road we needed to be on and rolled into Sunderland.

I have never been to Sunderland before and I cannot say that I have really seen it even yet as it was dark and raining but we managed to cross the Wear by the Queen Alexandra Bridge and then sharp left and it seemed like we had entered a film set for some post-Apocalyptic blockbuster. Remember that this was a rainy November night and we suddenly found ourselves on a road (I use the word loosely) with almost non-existent street lighting and barely wide enough for the articulated lorries that must obviously use it. On either side we were surrounded by high fences, spotlights and all the other paraphernalia of a large industrial estate. I know Paul is no mug but I seriously wondered where the Hell he was taking me, it really was desolate. As we were passing the huge Liebherr domestic appliance factory the twatnav chirpily piped up to inform us that we had reached our destination and, sure enough, there it was in front of us, the Saltgrass pub.

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What was this place doing here?

To say that the Saltgrass was incongruous here would be a serious understatement as this lovely looking pub would not have been out of place beside the village green of some Home Counties village. I thought I had somehow strayed into the Twilight Zone.
We went inside where we were greeted by a very friendly young chap who turned out to be the new manager and got ourselves a drink. I was amazed that there was a decent crowd in, most of them watching football and the reason for my amazement was that I did not know how they got there. I hadn’t seen a carpark, there were no vehicles outside and no bus stops that I could see. Just another mystery in this quite mysterious place.

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The not so glamorous side of being a musician.

We were playing in the back room where Ged and Martin were in the process of setting up and where there were precisely no people. The image above shows the procedure and also serves as proof that I was actually there and am not making all of this up as you can see my guitar waiting for me to assault it. I had an awful feeling that we were going to end up playing to an empty space which is a most soul-destroying experience. Believe me, I know. I once had the “pleasure” of playing a gig with a blues outfit I was in at the time and where the band outnumbered the audience five to three but that is another story.

We managed to start bang on time and, lo and behold, some people turned up. Certainly it was not packed but they were a decent crowd and seemed to enjoy it when we got a bit of banter going with them. We knocked out a few requests and, once again, it appeared that a good proportion of them had some sort of Irish heritage which seems to be very common in this area. I think it is to do with an Irish diaspora that came here looking for work in the shipyards and other heavy industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I do know that there was a regiment in the First World War called the 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigade which suffered horribly at the Battle of the Somme. A Brigade is four Battalions so we are talking about somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 men which gives you an idea of how strong an Irish representation there was in the Northeast.

This was my last gig with Shamrock Street and I had thoroughly enjoyed them all. I had played with Paul literally hundreds of times over the years so that was no problem but it is one thing playing pub sessions for the fun of it and playing “proper” gigs, especially when it is in a working band. I know the guys have a bit of a following and I didn’t want their reputation to suffer because they had brought in a dodgy dep (deputising musician i.e. me) but I don’t think I had any major disasters. I can put my hand on my heart now and say that I have played with the wonderful Shamrock Street. One more for my crazy musical CV and thanks very much for having me, lads.

On the way home we basically ignored the satnav and went the way we had been diverted from on the outward journey. We had no problems as the supposed roadworks were not taking place although there was evidence of them being there and we made good time back home and back to my lovely room for the last time. Come the morrow I would be on the move again.

In the next entry I finally get to a town I have wanted to visit for a very long time, get soaking wet and have a pretty good curry so stay tuned and spread the word.

Newcastle – bridges, bridges and more bridges.

Hello again, and welcome to this entry which may or may not go according to plan as I am charting new technological waters here.  I have “owned” my own website now for quite a while and can still barely believe it but I have restricted myself here to very standard style entries and this is my first attempt at a gallery post so anything might happen.

If you have been reading my other posts about my wonderful trip to Northumberland in late October and early November 2020 you will know that I had developed some sort of fixation with the bridges over the River Tyne and I did take an inordinate amount of images of them from every conceivable angle.  Rather than bore the reader with interminable images in the main entries, I decided to put some of them together in one place here so if bridges are not your thing you can pass quickly on.

I am painfully aware that my photography is not of the highest calibre due in small part to the basic equipment I use and in much greater part to a lack of ability and / or training.  If you want a look at some great images of the bridges joining Newcastle to Gateshead then I thoroughly recommend having a look here.  This is a page from my friend Sarah’s travel blog.  Sarah is a long-time friend from Virtual Tourist days and we still meet up for dinner now and again.  Apart from being a superb photographer and writer, she is a “Geordie by marriage” although a Londoner by birth and she spends a lot of time in the Northeast.  She knows the area intimately and her other pieces on that website are well worth a read both about this region and much further afield.  The very fact that she uses Toonsarah as her username is indicative of her love for the place and it’s football team.

I may have mentioned elsewhere that since the sad demise of VT the spirit very much lives on and is nowhere better exemplified than the annual Euromeets which still take place, usually in late May or early June and attract over 50 people from all over the world.  This year Sarah is organising it in Newcastle and it promises to be a great weekend.  It is not restricted to those that were members of VT and if any of my few readers who were not in that great community fancy the idea then please get in touch and I’ll point you in the right direction.  The meets are completely non-prescriptive and you participate in as many or as few of the organised activities as you like.  They are basically an excuse for like-minded i.e. travel-minded people to get together in an interesting location and they are invariably wonderful.

Right, enough of that and back to the bridges.  Going downstream in the centre of the city you have the Redheugh Bridge (the unphotographed one), the King Edward Bridge (the railway one), the High Level Bridge (the scary, vertiginous one), the Swing Bridge (the practical one), the Tyne Bridge (the iconic one) and the Millennium Bridge (the expensive, modern pedestrian one).  After that it is either the Tyne Tunnel or swim.  I have done the former and don’t intend to attempt the latter!

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Well, if that went according to plan, I hope you enjoyed the images and so now back to the main narrative.

A trek round the Toon.

Saturday, 2nd November and this was the big one, the final of the Rugby World Cup which I had been watching avidly all the way through but before we get to that I should explain the image that heads up this entry.

My alarm woke me up quite early so I didn’t miss the match and as I opened my eyes I was greeted with the sight you see above. It is fairly obvious what it is but I thought it was a lovely thing to wake up to. Sue loves sailing boats and has models of them all over the house including the windowsill of the bedroom I was in which also just happens to have blue curtains. It was gloriously sunny outside although sadly that didn’t last long but the way the shadows went it looked for all the world to me as if the little boat was riding a swell on an ocean somewhere and I just had to take a snap of it. I know I am always trying to take what I refer to as “arty farty” images and they rarely work but I do like this one.

Enough of my attempt at art and back to the serious business of the World Cup Final between England and South Africa. Unlike the nothing event of the previous day and the 3rd / 4th playoff this was worth something, the biggest prize in world rugby to be precise. I must admit that I had been surprised when England had beaten The All Blacks in the semis as they had been my tip for the tournament. Probably just as well I am not a betting man although I was not alone in my thinking on that score.

Also, like many others, I was surprised in the manner in which England had dismantled the New Zealanders which not many teams can do. RSA had got there by narrowly beating the Welsh and it was looking set up for a good final but sadly it was not the classic everyone was hoping for. I think England had played their final against the Blacks and had nothing left in the tank and their cause was not helped by losing one of their props to injury before the game was four minutes old. The final score was 32 – 12 to the Southern hemisphere team and that was that.

After a bite to eat we had planned to go out for a walk as all three of us are keen walkers. Once again I felt like a right “eejit” for having arrived with only my pristine white trainers for footwear which are totally impractical for any sort of walking in November but I had not even considered that I might be rambling on this trip or I would have brought my walking boots. My hosts reckoned we would be alright and we would stick to the less muddy paths.

I have mentioned before that my friends live close to Jesmond Dene which is a park area, formerly the property of Lord Armstrong, and which more or less follows the course of the Ouseburn which is a small river which rises at Callerton out by the airport. We went into the Dene with the intention of following the river down to the Tyne and then having a look round the city. It sounded like a plan to me.

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I wasn’t expecting this.

I must admit that I was not expecting the first thing we came upon not five minutes into our ramble and that was a decent sized aviary which we encountered shortly after crossing the river and you can judge it’s size from the images above. I have also included a fairly rural looking scene and it is hard to think that all these images were taken not three minutes walk from a residential area in a major city, it really is a bit of a green oasis.

The whole Dene is administered by the Friends of Jesmond Dene, a volunteer-run charity and a damn fine job they seem to make of it so well done to them.

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A pleasant place for a market.

Next we came to a pretty ornamental bridge which was doing duty that day as the site of a small market but we didn’t stop off the look at the wares.

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Guess what this is.

Have a look at the image above and see if you can guess what it is. No, it is not an overgrown culvert as I doubt they get that much rain even in Northumberland. What it is is actually a cattle run of all things. Before the Dene was laid out as a park there was a cattle track running across the main track and so there was a potential conflict between the well-heeled visitor’s carriages and the wandering beasties following the route they had done for centuries. The solution was not too difficult for an engineer like Lord Armstrong who constructed the structure you see. Ever thrifty he even used a load of sandstone blocks left over from railway bridges he was building elsewhere. So now you know.

On a bit further and we passed from Armstrong Park into Heaton Park so named for the local area and not for a person as I had imagined at the time. Although I didn’t see them, there are the remains of a castle here where King John allegedly stayed several times.

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I’d love to see it on a sunny day.

What I did see was the rather fine pavilion you can see in the image and which now apparently houses an Italian restaurant which must be lovely on a summer day.
Coming out of the park we passed the old library which caused some debate when it was built in 1898 as it encroached on the common land of the park. It was still causing controversy over a century later as, despite having been bequeathed to the people of Newcastle, the Council had left it idle for over 10 years and then sold it off for private development amidst rumours of backhanders and shady dealings which comes as little surprise to me. The ground floor of what is a lovely old building is now the biggest dental surgery I think I have ever seen.

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Now that is what I call street art.

We kept on walking and the river disappears for a bit as it is culverted but it does re-appear after a short distance. What I did notice (you could hardly miss it) was the rather spectacular piece of street art under an archway which I thought was rather well done but did not attach any particular significance to at that point.  A little further on and we passed the wonderful old Procter’s Warehouse building which is now called Seven Stories which is rather clever as not only does the building have seven levels but it is now the National Centre for Children’s Books.


What really does catch the eye though is the “steampunk” boat moored up on the Ouseburn beside the building although it looks like it has seen better days. There really were some unusual things to see and the next was the sign you can see below which is situated under a bridge. What is all that about and what awful fate awaits if you close your eyes and say Essalamus out loud three times. I can tell you what happens as I did it. As you might expect, precisely bugger all happens but it was searching on that unusual word that unlocked the mystery of the strangeness of this part of the Ouseburn.

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Go on, I dare you to say it.

All these oddities are part of a street art trail which was put together as part of the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018 and based upon the work of a children’s author called David Almond. There is a decent website here which makes some sense of it because I must admit that it made none to me at the time.

The same internet search led me to an article in the Guardian newspaper which describes Ouseburn as “north-east’s pumping creative heart” and also says that “if Newcastle upon Tyne had a Shoreditch, this would be it”. To explain for readers not familiar with Shoreditch, it is an area of London within easy walking distance of where I live and which used to be dog rough but has now been gentrified out of all recognition with prices to match. Just the sort of place for Guardian readers really!  The further we walked along the river the more apparent it was becoming that this is indeed “creative central” for the city and region.

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Archaic artefacts, modern mess.

What you see in the image above may be part of the artistic output of the area or then again it may just be mindless aerosol vandalism defacing what is actually an important piece of industrial archaeology. I know they do not look like much now but these were the kilns of the Liddle-Henzell glassworks which manufactured bottles here from the 17th century until about 1934. The kilns were fuelled by coal which was shipped up the Ouseburn from the Tyne which leads me neatly onto the next item of interest which is adjacent to the kilns and pictured below.

At first glance I thought it was a guillotine lock as used on canals but there was no appreciable drop in the water level so that was out. Paul explained to me that it was a barrage and a little bit of research today has shown that it is yet another cock up by Newcastle Council which seems to make something of a habit of them. If you look back up the page at the image of the Seven Stories in particular you will see that the tide is out and there is a lot of mud exposed which was not a problem that day but can apparently get a bit ripe when it is warm. To try and keep a decent level of water in the burn the Council built this barrage at huge expense (£4.7 million to be precise), opened it in 2000 and it has barely worked since! I have read all about it and I don’t propose to bore you with it but it is easy enough to find online. Suffice to say, the whole project is a monumental waste of money by local Government which is hardly a surprise.

Passing under the aptly named Glasshouse Bridge and by the famous Tyne Bar (why we were passing by it I don’t know but we were) we arrived at the Tyne which I was becoming rather fond of.

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Functional but rather lovely.

Looking across the river I was much taken by the beautiful Baltic Flour Mills building you can see above. I am aware that it may not be everyone’s idea of an aesthetically pleasing structure but beauty, as they say, is in the eye if the beholder. Whether the contents are as aesthetically pleasing I do not know as the Mill has long since abandoned it’s original purpose and is now a Centre for Contemporary Art on which my views are probably well enough known by regular readers. The mill once had a staggering 22,000 ton capacity so that is plenty of room for soiled hospital sheets, pickled sheep and condom strewn beds or whatever is this year’s fad.

Although I am no good at it I do like to play a game with myself of trying to guess the age of buildings by the architecture and you could be a bit thrown as the building was opened by Rank Hovis in 1950 but the design dated back to the 1930’s. I suppose it saved a few bob on architect’s fees and I am glad they did it.

Speaking of art, there is no shortage of it on the Quayside and the first piece of note is the Blacksmith’s Needle with the rather strange inscription you can see here, so what is all that about? Well, it is a piece that was created during a series of “forge-ins” in 1996 overseen by the British Association of Blacksmith Artists which explains the forge reference. All the pieces of the sculpture are hand forged and the six sections represent the five conventional senses and a “sixth sense” we are supposed to have. It was unveiled by the world famous percussionist Evelyn Glennie and when I read that I could not stop having a mental image of her whipping out a pair of drumsticks and knocking out a few paradiddles on it. I’ll bet it would make a great sound.


The next piece of art, which I also liked, suffers from a bit of split personality as it is described as both a building and a piece of art. It is officially called the Swirle Pavilion which is named for a now culverted stream nearby. The piece represents the trading history of Newcastle and lists a number of trading partners, some of which you can see in the image.


The next piece of art are of a more transitory nature and a part of a charity drive on behalf of St. Oswald’s Hospice which is the charity Sue volunteers for. I rather liked the “Arctic” elephant but there wasn’t much time to stop and admire him / her (those elephants were fairly androgynous) as there was still apparently more to see and so we took off over the Millennium Bridge which is named because, oh go ahead and take a wild guess.

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Go on, wobble a bit.

At least this one has the common decency not to wobble all over the place unlike it’s namesake in my adopted home city which, despite costing millions, had a propensity to do just that before it was rectified by throwing more money at it. If you have no idea what I am talking about, just type “wobbly bridge” into your preferred search engine and see what comes up.

When we gained the far bank we were actually not technically in Newcastle any more but Gateshead as the Southern part of the city is known. I don’t believe the divide here is as marked as it is in London where being from North or South of the “water” i.e. the Thames is a big deal and it all still seemed very Newcastle to me. We were still obviously right on the river and I managed to take umpteen images of the bridges from every conceivable angle but again I’ll save them for the gallery I have planned.

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Sittin’ in a sleazy snackbar sucking sickly sausage rolls…..

At one point I just happened to glance down and my travel Gods must have been guiding me here because what my eyes alighted on, and which you can see in the image above, was one of a series of similar plaques inset in the pavement which commemorated local heroes. This particular one was for the band Lindisfarne who remain one of my absolute favourites almost 50 years after I first heard them when one of my friends played his big sister’s copy of the “Fog on the Tyne” album. That was arguably their biggest hit and whilst the day was thankfully far from foggy I ended up singing a few bars much to the amusement of my friends. Then again, they are used to my eccentric behaviour by now.

On and on and the iconic Tyne Bridge was looming ever larger.  It really is an impressive structure up close and a credit to the designers, Mott, Hay and Anderson, not to mention the hardy men who built it. Looking at the design it is easy to understand that the firm also designed the equally iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to much the same design. As for the workers, given the pretty non-existent state of “Health and Safety” in the 1920s when it was built, it is nothing short of miraculous that only one man lost his life during construction. Sadly, 16 men perished in the building of the Australian version although that is still a remarkably small number.

As I was trying to get ever more unusual angles to photograph the bridge from I spied another of the blue plaques which seem to adorn every spare piece of wall, bridge or whatever round these parts, it really is a very historical city. This one informed me of an event I had never even heard of and which ultimately led me to another learning experience and no, I am not going to mention schooldays here! The event commemorated was the Great Fire of 1854 which happened on the night of the 6th of October. I’ll give you a brief precis here but there is an excellent internet article on the subject here.

Just after midnight on the fateful night a policeman spotted a fire in Wilson’s Worsted Manufactory on the spot I was now standing and raised the alarm. Fire crews and soldiers from the garrison tried to extinguish the fire but it was soon out of control and when it reached the warehouse of Bertram and Spencer all Hell broke loose or at least that is what it seemed like to the poor residents of Gateshead, many of whom later reported they thought the end of the world had come.

The warehouse was full of chemicals and combustibles and when it inevitably exploded, the noise could be heard over ten miles away. You will have seen from my images how wide the river is here and yet people were mown down on the City (i.e.the other) side of the river. It had been all hands to the pump, literally metaphorically, and gangs of men had gathered in Hillgate to try and assist when the explosion occurred. Amongst these was Mr. Bertram, the local magistrate, Mr. Pattinson, a local Councillor and Alexander Dobson, the 26-year-old son of the architect John Dobson whom I have spoken of before. All were killed instantaneously, indeed they were effectively atomised with a key and a snuff box being all that remained of poor Mr. Bertram. In total 53 people lost their lives with many more being horribly injured.

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I know a bit about this guy.

No more than a few feet from the fire blue plaque is another one commemorating the famous writer Daniel Defoe (born Daniel Foe and trying to make himself sound posh!) who is probably most famous for Robinson Crusoe which I have never actually read but I do have his “Journal of a Plague Year” in my library which I rather enjoy. Defoe had an eventful life, surviving not only the Great Plague which gave rise to the book mentioned but also the Great Fire of London.  He was involved in a treasonous rebellion, had been in debtors prison and came through countless other “adventures” relatively unscathed.

What I did not know until I read the plaque was that he was also a Government spy.  Defoe wrote under no less than 198 pseudonyms so his output must have been prodigious. I have visited his grave, or at least his memorial in the Bunhill Fields Dissenters graveyard which is walking distance from my home. I had written and researched a detailed piece on this fascinating place for Virtual Tourist but that is obviously no longer available to you.

Just beside the Bridge and site of the fire is St. Mary’s Church which was lucky to escape the conflagration and only did so due to the valiant efforts of a Mr. James Mather and that was our next destination. Although it has a history of Christian worship dating back to the 13th century, as evidenced by the list of vicars you can see, it is now deconsecrated and in use as a Heritage Centre / event venue. It was an interesting place to look round and I was particularly taken by the replica of the building built entirely of matchsticks by a chap called Harry Bulmer. Apparently it took him three years to complete and I can well believe it. The graveyard here, although twice reduced in size over the years to build new roads, is still interesting.

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Big, bold and bloody expensive.

In complete contrast to the old church is the Sage Centre a couple of hundred yards away which fairly well dominates the skyline here. It is arguably the premier music venue in the Northeast and is undoubtedly impressive as befits it’s £70 million price tag in 2004. I wonder what it would cost now. When I enquired as to the somewhat odd name I was told that it was named for the Sage software company which paid a pretty penny for the naming rights.

We had no reason to go into the Sage and so we continued vaguely downstream again, risking life and limb crossing a fairly busy road and Paul and Sue seemed to have a destination in mind. This turned out to be the lovely but slightly odd Station East. I say it is odd because it was obviously originally a conventional building but it has been extended into the adjoining railway arches which give it a) more room, b) space for the music events which are a trademark (Paul has played here) and c) a very distinct aroma which I can only describe as quite musty but you quickly get used to it. What was harder to get used to was the DJ who was supposedly soundchecking for the evening event but had obviosly decided just to start playing there and then. He was cranking out reggae / dub at volumes which even I found ludicrous and I like loud music. It was only four in the afternoon, for crying out loud! We could hardly hear ourselves think and so we took off again.

Our route naturally took us to the High Level Bridge which you may have read about in my previous entry here. If you haven’t, it is the bridge over the Tyne that is very aptly named and which had scared the life out of me due to my dislike of exposed heights but that was where we were headed. I didn’t even have my earlier strategy of just going a little way along and then scuttling back available to me. No, I was going to have to walk all the way across the damn thing and I took off like a scalded cat, doing my best not to look to the side and certainly not down. When I got to the far side I looked back to see Paul and Sue setting a reasonable pace but still some distance behind. They told me I really had been putting my best foot forward! Well, at last that was over and I knew I was on the right side of the Tyne now.

We headed back up towards the centre and came to the Bridge Hotel which I also mentioned in my last entry as being the lovely looking pub I had seen but somewhat improbably not gone into although that was soon to be rectified as it is a favourite of Paul and Sue. What a great place it is and I do recommend it. If you do visit, try to get a seat in the front area where it is cosy and quieter than the large and busy main area. It also has the most wonderful stained glass windows, which I suspect are fairly modern but beautiful nonetheless. My friends are both real ale fans and members of CAMRA (a real ale appreciation group) and so it is little surprise they picked this pub as it is in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide and they declared their respective choices to be very good. Lamentably, I was still on cider spritzer and you cannot begin to believe how much I hate it! On the way out I spotted a poster for a forthcoming John Mayall concert. I thought he had quit touring years ago but apparently not which is incredible when you consider he was approaching his 86th birthday that month.
We wandered up through the centre of town and by now I even had half an idea of where I was going We were heading for the “Top of the Toon” as it is pretty unimaginatively called and my friends told me that it is an absolute nightmare at weekends as Newcastle has become something of a Mecca for stag and hen parties. Apparently it can get pretty lively to say the least, not at all my cup of tea. I didn’t really like nightclubs even when I was young enough not to look stupid going to one and I am sure they are still the same only with worse music. We were, however, heading for an absolute gem of a place and it did not take us long to get there as central Newcastle is pretty compact.
It seemed a bit unusual for me to be on a pub crawl that I wasn’t instigating but that is what was happening as Paul and Sue wanted to show me the delightfully named Mean Eyed Cat.  I have since discovered that this is the title of a Johnny Cash song as the owner loves Americana and the great “Man in Black” in particular. They describe themselves as having an Americana theme although I would have put it more Mexican / Caribbean myself but it is certainly eclectic.  This extends to the pub grub as they have a tie-in with a locl Cuban restaurant and they also go heavy on the veggie / vegan options.

The plentiful artwork ranges from the Ramones to the afore-mentioned Johnny Cash and Mexican wrestling masks seem to feature heavily for some reason. Even though it was busy we managed to get table and at least we could hear ourselves in there so we had a bit of a chat whilst Paul and Sue enjoyed their real ale whilst I plodded through another pint of you know what.

It was getting on for 1900 and we had already decided to eat out that evening to give Sue a bit of a rest from the kitchen and just because we fancied it. A short walk, which I could not recreate now as it involved all sorts of backstreets, brought us to the Red Mezze, a fairly sizeable Turkish restaurant that Paul and Sue knew and recommended although they said it was a while since they had been there. Having spent a fair bit of time in Greece and Cyprus I love Eastern Mediterranean food and so I cannot understand why it had been so long since I had eaten any and the Red Mezze was a great re-introduction to that cuisine.


Everything here was just as you would expect in a good eaterie from that part of the world with a very friendly welcome and subsequent service from staff who appeared to be the “real deal”. I would say that all those I interacted with were from that part of the world. The menu was extensive with all the usual suspects and grilled meats featuring heavily. We decided on the mixed meze starter and rather than try and describe it I shall let the image give you an idea.

For a main I went for the kleftiko which is a particular favourite of mine and which you can also see above. The purists amongst you will probably rightly point out that it is not actually kleftiko in the accepted sense as that is a particular cut of meat but rather it was a lamb shank but that is to quibble. It had obviously been very slow cooked and was literally falling off the bone, served in a delicious sauce and with the obligatory potato! A side dish of rice made for a fine and filling meal and I even risked a glass of red wine which I don’t think would have tipped me over my daily limit and went very well.

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Every bit as tasty as they looked.

The whole affair was finished off by the complimentary and beautifully presented profiteroles you can see. I am not usually a huge eater of desserts but this was a very tasty mouthful. I had said that I was paying as a small thank you to my dear friends for putting me up not to mention putting up with me and I have to say that it was not too painful. I suppose I am just used to London prices which are generally pretty steep but I thought Red Mezze was extremely good value and I noticed they had a lunch special at £7:95 which looks like a steal given the quality of the food.

After that it was time to walk off the calories and head home and I have to tell you that I certainly didn’t need any rocking to get to sleep that night.  What a brilliant and interesting day it had been and I was really having a ball on my Northern tour.
In the next entry I have a bit of a Sunday lunchtime stroll, fall into the Punch Bowl yet again and spread my wings to assault the musical sensibilities of the good folk of Sunderland. Yes, I make the trek from the land of the Geordie to the land of the Makem so stay tuned and spread the word.

A “major trek” from Broadstairs to Margate.

In the last post I promised the reader that I would be going for a walk but I shall very briefly deal with Monday 14th October and it will be brief, believe me. The whole day is best summed up in the images above which show my usual excellent breakfast in the Royal Victoria Pavilion, a murky Ramsgate beach in the early afternoon and the full-bore rainstorm that had settled over Broadstairs by early evening and did not let up. I am a fairly hardy soul but it really was too dismal to consider doing anything of note and so we shall pass quickly on.

15th October
A (not so long-distance) footpath.

A few posts ago I teased you with the image that heads this page and promised a full explanation in due course, so here it is.
For many years I had seen signposts like this round Broadstairs and never even bothered to enquire what T&D stood for. When I eventually did, I was informed that it was Turner and Dickens although many locals do not even know this as you shall see. T is the famous artist JMW Turner and D the equally famous novelist Charles Dickens. The former had a strong association with Margate and the latter with Broadstairs to the extent they now even have an annual Dickens Festival and it seems you cannot move in the town without seeing a plaque commemorating some Dickensian association.

Despite the fact that their lives overlapped by about four decades and had connections in the two adjacent towns, there is no evidence the two ever met although it is possible as they had mutual friends. I suspect it is just the local Council conflating the two histories to create the route. Whatever the facts, it matters little as this is a pleasant stroll and it is nothing more than that. Over the years I had walked the majority of it without really being aware it was a designated route.

If you do fancy a go at it your first problem will be the conflicting and often inaccurate information available on the internet. I checked the first three websites my search engine threw up and that was an education with the start and end points being given as the rail stations in the two towns (wrong) and distances varying from 6.44 km. (four miles) to 8.7 km. The route starts or finishes at The Droit House Visitor Centre in Margate and the other terminus is the Dickens House Museum on the front at Broadstairs. I would say it is closer to the former distance and it is certainly not onerous.  I found this website to be one of the better ones.  

I love walking and have completed the London Loop and Capital Ring (150 miles and 78 miles respectively), the vast majority of the Thames Path (184 miles) and the pinnacle of my rambling was completing the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal (100+ miles at altitude) some years ago so what was I doing wandering about four miles mostly along roads I knew intimately? A couple of reasons, really. Firstly, it would give me something to do rather than just sit in the pub all day at my computer and secondly it would “test drive” my poor old body that had been a bit knocked about. I was surprised at how weak I still felt exactly a month after being discharged from hospital. This route was ideal as it vaguely follows the Thanet Loop bus route (or vice versa) so I knew that if I got tired I could easily get to a bus stop which was a reassuring backstop.

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Michelin starred, no less.

I started good and early and the first image I took that day was absolutely nothing to do with the path and was taken about 200 yards from where I was staying. This rather unprepossessing frontage hides the restaurant that had recently achieved Thanet’s first Michelin star. It is run by a guy called Ben Crittenden who transformed the premises from a tiny sandwich bar with his Dad. The only other person involved is his wife Sophie who runs front of house.

STARK is only open in the evening four nights a week, it has twelve covers and no menu, you eat what you are given. The website states, “PLEASE NOTE THAT WE ARE UNABLE TO CATER FOR ANY DIETARY REQUIREMENTS, DISLIKES OR ALLERGIES AND WE ARE UNABLE TO OFFER ANY SUBSTITUTIONS”. Sorry about the caps, it is a c&p. All this sounded very pretentious to me but I am told by people whose opinion I respect that he is a really pleasant bloke. The rather draconian food policy derives from the fact that he has a kitchen the size of a shoebox which is equipped with one fridge, well, how much kitchen does a sandwich bar need? Gordon Ramsay, eat your heart out.

If you can get a table, and I say if as there is typically a six week wait, it will set you back £60 or £90 with a paired wine flight. Heaven knows where he keeps the wine! Whites in the fridge and reds under the sink presumably. In truth, with some of the weather we were having he could have put the whites on the back doorstep and they would have chilled nicely if they had not been washed away to the sea down Oscar Road. I doubt I shall ever dine there but good luck to them and back to my walk.

It was a mere five minutes walk from STARK to the Dickens House Museum which I have never been in and is said to be the inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. This would make sense as it is about 10 feet across a footpath to the Albion Hotel which has a Dickensian association as the plaque outside indicates. It also has a Fergian (what a word!) association as I have stayed here and played a gig in the lovely garden with my mate Tim.

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The real Bleak House.

I also took the image above of Bleak House which is certainly not the best one I have of it but I took it to demonstrate a point. With a little compact camera (no telephoto lens or anything) I took the images of the Museum and this one whilst standing in exactly the same spot which shows just how compact Broadstairs is for the visitor. About as compact as my camera really.

On then up the High Street and I may as well have been walking to Beano’s for my breakfast as I know it so well. I have walked up and down here literally thousands of times. I thought I would include the images above for a bit of amusement. Not far up the hill is the pretty uninspiring row of shops, with J. Prentis the greengrocer at the far end. I must declare an interest in that I know John who is a really nice guy but his fruit and veg are really good with lots of locl produce. Cobnuts were the seasonal offering with a cobnut being a locally grown variant of a hazelnut.

I looked up as I knew there was another blue plaque there indicating that Dickens had stayed in a house on that site at some point but, as the image shows, it has been changed, very possibly by John to what you see above. I won’t bore you with the details but it is to do with a dispute between him and the landlord of the upstairs premises which are, frankly, an eyesore and have been for years. It certainly made me smile.

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How lovely, two pubs side by side.

On up the hill past Pierremont Hll where the future Queen Victoria once stayed, past the War Memorial and then I stopped briefly to take the image above which indicates much of what is happening in Broadstairs. The two premises shown are both obviously former retail outlets and are both now pubs. The one on the right is Mind the Gap (a reference to the nearby train station) where I have been once or twice and played an impromptu gig with a standing invitation to do so again any time. It is one of the many micropubs I have spoken about in this series of entries. The bar on the left is Houdini’s, which I unusually have never been in. The USP here, as the name suggests is that most of the staff are practicing magicians who will amaze you with their prestidigitation at the drop of a (top) hat. I just hope the rabbit does not jump out.

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Friends Meeting House.

I carried on past the station and Beano’s which took a serious amount of willpower and then right into St. Peter’s Park Road where I stopped to take a quick image of the rather pleasant Quaker Meeting House which houses not only Society of Friends (Quakers) but also, somewhat oddly to my mind, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. I cannot imagine there are too many practicing Calvinists in Thanet but apparently there must be enough for a congregation. I live and learn.

The path then follows some quiet residential streets until you get to St. Peters which I also know quite well having played gigs on all four pubs in the village. It is not a big place and I think it is commendable that it supports so many “boozers”. Again, two of them are micropubs (the Four Candles (the smallest brewpub in Britain) and the Yard of Ale) and the other two are more traditional establishments (the Red Lion and the Little Albion). Both the micropubs regularly win awards as the attached websites show and both are excellent. The image shows the Candles on the left and the Albion on the right. When I passed the Little Albion was undergoing a much-needed refurb as you can see by the newspapers in the windows. I could tell you all sorts of stories about it but I won’t bore you.

St. Peters and Broadstairs are now more or less joined and the local Council features both names but while Broadstairs is now the much more important entity it was not always thus. The village has a very long history with the first Church being built here in 1070 to serve the habitation in the area when Broadstairs was merely a few fisherman’s huts. Strange as it seems now, it was reputedly the largest parish East of London in the first half of the 19th century. Nowadays, it is basically a dormitory town with about 20% of the population being retired.

A short walk past the pubs I came to the charming set of mosaics pictured above, the work of well-known local artist Martin Cheek and local schoolchildren. See if you can spot which characters are depicted. This is yet another example of the very artistic nature of the area that I mentioned in the previous post.

The two images above are nothing to do with the Turner and Dickens theme other than they are on the path named for them. The first shows a detail of a hedge around a private dwelling the like of which I do not think I have ever seen. It is so thick that it has to be trimmed as shown so as not to obscure the street sign. The people here must really value their privacy! The second is of a large and presumably very old tree that I liked the look of purely because of the numerous trunks.

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St. Peters parish church.

Another few minutes walk brought me to the Church for which the village was named and which I had been in before, notably for the wedding of my friends Simon and Becky which was quite some event as it happened during Folk Week. Becky is an excellent fiddle player and singer who is originally from the village and who I have played many gigs with and Simon dances with a folk dance side from Northumberland where they now live with their young son.

Being in Folk Week, the logistics were a bit frantic for many of the guests. If memory serves, the wedding was at 1500 and at lunchtime I had a gig with my mate Pete May in the Charles Dickens pub in Broadstairs which is yet another of the Thorley Taverns I mentioned in the last entry. People were somewhat confused by me turning up to play looking semi-respectable as I habitually play in jeans and a T-shirt and Pete was fairly smart as well. We finished the gig bang on, explained why we could not do an encore, set down in record time and then hit the traffic in Pete’s vehicle! We ended up taking a crazy detour and arrived at the Church about two minutes ahead of the bride. We did well as there were other musicians slipping in the back during the service. Everyone knew the score (musical pun absolutely intended) and it was no problem as was the state of dress of many of the congregation. Simon’s dance side turned up in full “morris” gear to provide a guard of honour and many other dancers from other sides turned up in their costumes, having danced out that lunchtime, it was quite a sight.

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Red Lion pub.

After the service we all retired across the road to the Red Lion (pictured) for a few before heading the short distance to the Village Hall where the reception was to be held. There was food laid on but Becky had not booked a band, well she had no need to as a fair proportion of the guests were musicians who were under orders to bring their instruments which we did. The entertainment effectively took the form of a ceilidh with a fairly large and constantly changing band including your humble narrator. It was one of the best weddings I have ever been to and the memory of the bride hammering her fiddle with the band whilst still in her bridal gown is one that will remain with me forever.

As I always do, I stopped to pay my respects at the War Memorial outside the church and take a few images for inclusion in the War Memorial Register. I found it amazing how many men from this small village, which must have been even smaller then, died in the First World War. Lest we forget.

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St. Peters parish church.

I was surprised to find the church was open on a weekday out of season but I gratefully went in for a look round to find that I was understandably the only visitor. There was a man there “minding” the place which I think is a terrible shame. Churches used to be open all the time as places of sanctuary and shelter but the realities of modern society render this impossible now. He was very friendly and pointed out many things of interest but he did manage to surprise me somewhat when I told him I was walking the Turner and Dickens path and the presence of the mosaics mentioned above, he claimed to have never heard of it despite obviously being a local and a parishioner there. We got to chatting about this and that until he slightly apologetically told me he had to lock up and go for his lunch. When I checked the time I discovered that we had been chewing the fat for the best part of an hour. Still, no harm done as I had nothing specific to do except go for a walk and it was an interesting conversation. I do love never specifically planning anything.

The attached website has an excellent history of the Church but a brief precis is that the nave is the only late Norman portion of the church still extant and dates to 12th century although most of the rest is 15th century. It was extensively restored in the latter part of the 19th century and much of the stained glass, of which I am so fond, dates to this period. A couple of interesting snippets about the church are that the late former Prime Minister of the UK, Ted Heath, who was born in the village, sang in the choir here and the church was used as a naval signalling station in Napoleonic times. The latter fact means that the church retains the right to fly the white ensign (the flag of the Royal Navy) although I am not sure if it exercises this privelege. This interested me as there is a church about 15 minutes walk from my home in the East end of London that regularly flies the red ensign (flag of the merchant marine). I wonder how many churches in UK are allowed to fly naval ensigns.

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St. Peters churchyard.

To the rear of the church is the extensive graveyard which I have visited before and which I found fascinating especially as it has a number of Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) tended graves which I have a particular interest in. I did not spend too much time on them as I had examined them exhaustively on a previous visit but I took a while to look at the Garden of Remembrance and I paused to take one of the images you see above which shows a portion of the graveyard which has been left to grow pretty much wild. I don’t know the reasoning for this. It maybe deliberate policy to encourage wildlife as is becoming popular, it may be that they do not have the resources to keep the whole place up to scratch. Certainly other parts of the site are very well-kept so I really have no idea. The images below are of the well-surfaced path which passes through the rather ornate castellated gate you can see.

 

One piece of advice I would give to the visitor is to try to arrange one of the St. Peters walking tours which I have never been on because they are so popular. Three of them involve the graveyard, a general one (including the grave of the Giant!) and one each for graves pertaining to the World Wars. The most popular is the Village Tour when numerous volunteers from the area dress up in period costume to greet the tour with various anecdotes. I think it is a great idea and those that have been on it say it is excellent which is presumably the reason it has won so many awards. I really must get round to it some day.

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St. Peters Footpath.

The churchyard gate marks a boundary in more ways than one. Whilst in the precincts of the church you can see houses nearby and know you are in a reasonably built up area but as soon as you walk outside you are in open fields. Certainly there is constant traffic noise from the nearby A255 which is always busy but it certainly looks rural enough although utilising modern farming techniques i.e. huge fields which neither Turner nor Dickens would have recognised. Frankly, it is fairly flat, featureless and boring, especially on a cold and damp October day. The path here is called St. Peter’s Footpath and remains so until you are well into Margate.

Whilst on the Footpath I passed an area known as the Shallows for which various suggestions are given as to the origin of the name. What is not in dispute is that this is where the poor old Baptists had to meet to worship in the 17th century when they were being persecuted for being Non-Conformist. That is probably pleasant enough on a warm, summer Sunday but not much fun in the midst of winter.

I kept walking and was glad to note that I was not flagging too badly although my knees were making their presence felt a little, and were to do so a bit more the next day, but it was flat and easy walking. Whilst I had walked under the railway line in Broadstairs I was to walk over it on a footbridge on the outskirts of Margate. The various websites make much of the local youth, under supervision, being encouraged to turn their aerosol graffiti habits to positive effect by decorating this structure. Whilst this may have been true when the websites were constructed the “artists” have either reverted to type or their less altruistic brethren have been at work as it is just a mess of ugly “tagging” graffiti now which I did not even bother taking an image of.

 

Just beyond the vandalised footbridge is the entrance to Dane Valley Woods which is marked by the rather pleasant carved sign you can see above. I would ordinarily have liked to explore that a little but a look at the muddy path (also pictured) and my still relatively pristine white trainers put paid to that notion. That was a bit of a shame as a look at XXXX the attached website shows the woods to be a very creditable project to “be a sustainable, community-owned wildspace in the heart of Margate encouraging participation in creating and managing the woods for enjoyment, health, learning and wildlife”. Fair play to them.

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Past the woods and I was into Margate with settlement springing up as suddenly as it had disappeared in St. Peters although my way was still named St. Peter’s footpath. I knew I was due to come upon a windmill called Draper’s Mill fairly shortly as I had seen it signposted from the other direction previously and I could just see the top of the sails from a way off. I wasn’t actually expecting it to be open (if indeed it ever does open to the public but I suspected it must) although I probably wasn’t expecting what I saw which was a cherry picker and a gang of workmen dismantling the sails. Routine maintenance I suppose.

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Draper’s Mill (under repair).

The mill was constructed in 1845 as one of a set of three on a site where a mill had stood since at least 1695. It worked in the manner intended until 1916 when the sails were superseded by a gas engine although I singularly fail to see the point of a “wind”mill that does not utilise the wind. In 1927 the disused sails and fantail were removed completely. In 1965 the mill was threatened with demolition but the Headmaster of the primary school opposite founded a charitable Trust and saved it thankfully. I am so glad he did. Just in case you are interested, those sails span 66 feet (20 metres).

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Signpost, Turner and Dickens path.

I kept on walking, still on St. Peter’s footpath and then things started to unravel a bit. I don’t know Margate anywhere near as well as I know Broadstairs but I know it well enough not to get lost. Whilst I did not get lost per se, what I did lose was the path. It had been signposted well thus far and, indeed, for a long portion of the path it was the only visible route but the signage just petered out with the post above which is the same one I teased you with before.

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Another one bites the dust!

I kept going in generally the correct direction but could find no sign of a sign if that is not appalling English. I quartered about but still nothing. Ah well, no problem and I made my own way into town. I suppose that theoretically it would have been possible to look up the route on my ‘phone but that is all a bit technical for me. Pausing briefly to take the image of yet another dead pub for the Lost Pubs website I headed down Ramsgate Road into town.

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I know you want a picture of a fry-up.

When I got into town I debated walking down to Droit House which is the official start / end point of the path but I had walked far enough and decided to jump on a bus back to Broadstairs. I knew that I could still manage a bite of brunch in Beano’s although it would have been just as easy to walk five minutes down the hill to Beano’s in Margate but back to Broadstairs I went. I know it is unusual for you to get my “breakfast” pic so late in the piece but here you go. I know you would not think it was not a proper page of mine if there was not an image of a fry-up on there somewhere!

It had been a great day in terms of me learning what I was capable of as I recovered and I was well pleased with my progress but the day was not yet over. As I have mentioned before, Jackie manages to get some great acts in the Wrotham despite it being a relatively small venue and this evening was a case in point. She had booked a guy called Keith Kenny from New Jersey and he turned out to be excellent not to mention a really nice bloke when I chatted to him afterwards.

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Keith Kenny and his surprising suitcase.

I had noticed on his cartoon promo material that apart from a caricature image of him there was a red suitcase which I took to be merely indicative of him being a travelling muso butit is not. As you can see in the image above (again, I did not want to use flash and annoy others) it is onstage and actually hides an electronic drumkit and between that, his pedal board and his loop machine he manages to sound like an entire band all by himself.

Of all the excellent music I saw during this trip he really was one of the most impressive acts and I would definitely go to see him again. He does a short tour in the South of England every Autumn and I believe this was his third year in the Wrotham. It is a measure of how well Jackie runs the music here that not only does she get returns from international acts but I know he has already asked to play next year because he loves it there. Do yourself a favour and check out his website.

After the busy day I did not stay too long and it was a relatively early bed for Fergy.
In the next post I mange to get further than the Pavilion in Ramsgate and discover a few hidden and not so hidden gems so stay tuned and spread the word.