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In addition to the Lake District, I have been to some other very interesting
places in Northern England, such as Hadrian's Wall, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Durham, and York.
Durham really stands out as one of my
favorite places for
its beauty and serenity. It boasts the third oldest university in England, and is built on an
ideal U-shaped river peninsula, in the Wear River, that dates back to Norman times.
In the middle of the peninsula stands Durham Cathedral, one of Europe's finest
examples of Norman architecture, and an old Norman castle beside it, is well-integrated
into the campus setting, giving Durham a uniquely "Old World" and academic atmosphere.
Pedestrian bridges crossing the Wear River offer tranquil walks to nearby shops and neighborhoods.
I've been to Durham twice, and I hated to leave...Just like the Roger Whittaker song says,
"I've got to leave old Durham town, and leaving's going to get me down..."
This is one of the most interesting sights I have ever seen. From the side it looks like an
unordered arrangement of tree trunks...|
Grey Towers of Durham
|...But when you stand inside of these 13 trunks that died of Dutch Elms
disease, you see that they are carved with detailed craftsmanship. They depict the "Upper Room"
where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper. The trees blend together to make an almost
flat scene, but they are spaced apart. The artist who did these carvings is Colin Wilbourn,
in 1988, and it is located below Durham Cathedral near the river.||
"Yet will I love thy mixed and massive piles
Half church of God half castle 'gainst
And long to roam these venerable aisles
With records stored of deeds long
Sir Walter Scott, 1816
Update: Sadly, I found out that the carving by Wilbourn, mentioned above, was removed in February, 2001,
because of deterioration of the tree trunks.
Newcastle-on-Tyne is a big city located in Northeast England, toward
the coast, and is a major industrial area of Northern England. Outside of London, I
have not really spent a lot of time in any other large cities in England, except to travel
through, or near, but in October of 1992, I spent the better part of a week in Newcastle.
Newcastle is where Gordon Matthew Sumner was born in 1951, the son of a milkman. He grew up
in Newcastle and later became known as Sting. However, I went there to visit an old
friend from London named Leary Bacchus, who had moved up there to pursue a job offer.
Traveling with me at the time, were two young Canadian guys, one of whom was a cousin of my
wife Linda, who were just visiting England for the first time, and didn't have a lot of money
to go places. We drove to Newcastle in my car, which took almost a whole day, only stopping
in York, which has to be one of the most historic and haunted cities in Britain, to
do a little sightseeing.
We stayed in a typical council flat, that Leary rented, in a large apartment
block, located just about a half-mile from downtown. It was in an area that made me
more than a little concerned about the safety of my car being parked outside at night, but
fortunately, nothing happened to it. Since the flat only had one bedroom, the two Canadian
guys and I slept on the floor in sleeping bags. Newcastler's have a distinctly
northern accent, and a bit of an urban grittiness that I was not used to, which actually
made for an interesting contrast from London. I enjoyed exploring Newcastle, and though I
didn't get to see much of Leary (he worked all the time), and even though it was cold and
rainy much of the time, I had a good experience there. This trip to the north exposed me to an
environment that I was not hitherto familiar with, and I got my car and the Canadian
guys back in one piece, so it was quite a success!
During my stay in Newcastle I took a daytrip to Durham (mentioned above)
by train, which is about 15 miles south of Newcastle. (All together, I have been to
Durham twice, because I returned there in 1993 with my Dad, sister, and her boy friend.)
Also, I drove my car a few miles NW of Newcastle to Hadrian's Wall. This was my
first visit to Hadrian's Wall (I went there again in 1993) and it was an unforgettable
sight. I'd seen plenty of Roman ruins before, but this was the one I'd been
holding out on, just hoping to see one day, if I ever got near it. It was the
Roman Empire's answer to the pesky Scots, which would not submit themselves
to Roman rule. During the wall's heyday it stretched about 80 miles across the
neck of Northumberland. I visited Fort Chesters, one of the larger mile-forts,
along Hadrian's Wall, which is a very good archaeological site, where one can walk through the
foundations of the Roman barracks and bathhouse. It rained a lot that day, and I wished that I
could have spent more time exploring more of the wall, but the weather just wouldn't
cooperate. I did manage to go to the Wall Museum at Housesteads during a downpour, and saw
a lot of good historical memorabilia about Hadrian's Wall. All-in-all, there is still
plenty more to see in Northern England, if I ever get a chance to go back!
"I couldn't believe that not once in twenty years had anyone said to me, 'You've never been to
Durham? Good God, man, you must go at once! Please -- take my car.' ...So let me say it now:
if you have never been to Durham, go at once. Take my car. It's wonderful" --Bill Bryson,
Notes From A Small Island
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