Long Road from Jarrow: A journey through Britain then and now by Stuart Maconie

I knew of the Jarrow March/Crusade in 1936, but not much about it beyond the fact that men from Jarrow in Tyneside marched from their home town to London to present a petition against the mass unemployment and extreme poverty in the north-east of England. Stuart Maconie has filled in the gaps in his excellent book Long Road from Jarrow: A journey through Britain then and now. In October last year he retraced the route they took, 300 miles, comparing what conditions and attitudes were like in 1936 with those of 2016. The men were accompanied for part of their march by Ellen Wilkinson, who was the MP for Middlesbrough East and it was Ellen who presented their petition to the House of Commons. But despite their protest and all Ellen Wilkinson’s efforts on their behalf it didn’t result in any improvements for employment in Jarrow.

Maconie a writer, broadcaster and journalist, writes fluently and with conviction. The Long Road from Jarrow is a mix of travel writing, social and cultural history and political commentary, with the main emphasis on the current social, cultural and political scene. It’s a thought-provoking book that both entertained and enlightened me. Maconie writes about the past, the history of the places he walked through and the tales and reminiscences of the people he met. He also writes with enthusiasm on such topics as football and music and food. It’s a lively, chatty account that includes the thorny topic of Brexit, the current and past state of the north/south divide and considers what it is to be ‘British’.

I was fascinated and thoroughly enjoyed this walk through England, past and present. My copy is an ARC from the publishers via Netgalley.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1617 KB
  • Print Length: 365 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1785036319
  • Publisher: Ebury Digital (20 July 2017)

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Stone circles are amongst the most tangible and durable connections to the past. They have fascinated me ever since I was a young teenager and saw Stonehenge. We were on our way to Girl Guide camp in the New Forest, travelling overnight by coach from Cheshire and reached Stonehenge just before dawn. I was just about awake as we scrambled down from the coach and made our way over the field to be at Stonehenge as the sun came up. It was magical.

We were the only people there and in those days Stonehenge was fully accessible. I’ve been there since, and seen it on TV but I am so glad I had that experience before full access to Stonehenge was available, before there was a carpark and a visitor centre, shop and cafe. Now you can only view the stones from a short distance away along a tarmac pathway – after you’ve planned your visit in advance, parked your car and been driven 10 minutes by a shuttle bus, because entry to Stonehenge is by timed tickets. (Access is free at the solstices.)  I understand the need for all this but it still makes me shudder.

When I discovered that there is a stone circle near Keswick I was keen to go there whilst we were staying in the Lake District last week. Although there were more people at Castlerigg Stone Circle than I would have liked I really did appreciate the informality of the site.  There are no restrictions and you can wander around the stones as much you like. I suppose you’d have to get there at dawn or at least a lot earlier than we did to be there on your own.

Castlerigg is set on a plateau near Keswick, surrounded by hills, including Skiddaw and Blencathra. There is no carpark, visitor centre or shop – and I hope it stays that way. You can park in a little lane, where there was an ice-cream van selling delicious home-made ice-cream on the day we were there.

This was our first sight of the stones:

Approaching Castlerigg Stone Circle (1)  P1010056

Stone circles are ancient monuments. There are over 50 stone circles in the Lake District, made with locally available stones. Nobody knows what their function was, although there is much debate about whether they had a ritual and religious use, an astronomical significance or an economic function.

Castlerigg dates from around 5,200 BC which makes it older than the pyramids! Here is part of the circle. It is about 30 metres in diameter, which makes it quite difficult to take photos of the whole circle:

Castlerigg view 2

As you can see that the stones vary in size. The tallest stone is 2.3 metres and the largest weighs about 16 tonnes.

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And here are two photos of parts of the interpretation boards:

Int Bd Castlerigg P1010051

Int Bd Castlerigg P1010052

Castlerigg Stone Circle is described A Guide to the Stone Circles of the Lake District by David Watson, published in 2009 with colour photographs, maps and directions to the sites. The cover photo shows Castlerigg Stone Circle.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshot

We’ve been away last week – we went here:

Caringorms P1080750the Cairngorms – and there was snow in May.

Cairngorm shop P1080752Lower down the snow fell too but didn’t stick. The photo below is of a beautiful little loch in the Glenmore Forest Park, An Lochan Uaine the ‘green lochan’ (although in my photo it looks blue – it was really green!). ‘Lochan’ is Gaelic for ‘ a small loch, or lake’.

An Lochan Uaine P1080677The green shows up more in this photo:

An Lochan Uaine P1080681

We have many more photos, which no doubt, I’ll be posting and writing about later. Click on the photos to see them enlarged.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy.

Berwick's Elizabethan Ramparts

Following on from last Saturday’s Saturday Snapshots here are a few more photos of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is the northernmost town in England. It’s a Border town that changed hands between England and Scotland 14 times until it finally became part of England in 1482. It’s a walled town; the original medieval walls were built in the 13th century and the Elizabethan Ramparts, dating from 1558 are virtually intact.

Berwick Elizabethan Ramparts

The fortifications replaced the medieval wall on the North and East sides of the town. The photo above shows part of the Elizabethan wall that is now the boundary wall of a car park.

Below are two photos of sections of the walls:

Berwick Ramparts 1

Berwick walls & bridges

The photo below shows a Russian cannon, captured in the Crimea. Before the Second World War this part of part of the walls was once bristling with artillery. All that remains now is this cannon which was brought back as one of the trophies at the end of the Crimean War (1854-56). The top of the barrel of the gun is embossed with the double-headed eagle emblem of the Russian Tzar.

Berwick Ramparts Canon

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Castle Stalker

I was delighted to find this romantic ruined castle during our holiday on the west coast of Scotland. This is Castle Stalker, a 15th century tower house built by the Stewarts of Appin. It’s on a small island in Loch Linnhe, just north east of Port Appin (the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, a fictionalised account of the “Appin Murder” of 1752).

It was quite late in the day when we got there and the light was fading, so my photo is rather dark. I’d love to go back and take a trip across the loch to the island and see round the castle. It’s privately owned and there are tours on just 5 weeks of the year. There’s a brief history of the castle on the Castle Stalker website.

Castle Stalker is the location of Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh in the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

 

Saturday Snapshot: On Holiday

We’ve been away last week, over at Kentallen on the west coast of Scotland – near Glencoe. These were the views of Loch Linnhe from our bedroom windows, taken late afternoon on the day we arrived. Click on the photos to enlarge them:

Here’s a close-up of the flag:

We got back home last night and I’ve got lots more photos of the places we visited – I just need time to sort them all out.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home with Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Horncliffe Bridge

The Union Chain Bridge links England and Scotland over the River Tweed at Horncliffe, just a few miles from where we live. Below is a view of the bridge seen from a footpath on the banks of the river. This was the first suspension bridge in Europe to carry road traffic. It still carries vehicular traffic.

Scotland is on the left as you look at the photo and England on the right.

Designed by Captain Samuel Brown, the bridge was opened in 1820, when it was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world, with a span of 137 metres (449 ft). It is a Grade I listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument.

I took the photo below standing on the bridge looking towards Scotland:

And a closer view of the bridge on the English side of the border:

Just up the road from the bridge is the Chain Bridge Honey Farm, a fascinating place where you can see a live colony of bees, behind glass, making honey, and where you can buy honey and other products such as candles made from beeswax. I’ll maybe write more about that in another Saturday Snapshot post.

The Visitor Centre at the Honey Farm also has a beautiful mural painted by local artist,Tony Johnson. My photo below shows a section of the map – my blue arrow points to the Chain Bridge. Also shown in this photo is Smailholm Tower (on the left of the photo as you look at it) which I featured in an earlier Saturday Snapshot post.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home with Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Duddo Stone Circle

Stone circles fascinate me. They have done ever since I was a young teenager and went to Stonehenge. It was dawn as we were travelling to the New Forest for our annual Girl Guide camp there. The coach driver stopped so we could get out and see the sun rising over the stones. This was in the days when the stones were open and we ran across so we could be in the circle when the sun came up – it was magical. These days Stonehenge is fenced off and going there is just not the same experience.

There is a small stone circle not very far from where we live and we went to see it last Saturday. Duddo Stone Circle is a group of five Neolithic/Bronze Age stones – radiocarbon dating indicates they were erected around 2000BC. Originally there were seven stones. Excavations in the 1890s revealed the socket holes of the missing stones and also the cremated human remains in the central pit.

This is the view of the stone circle standing proud on a low hill next to the small Northumberland village of Duddo as you approach the stones along a permissive path:

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Farmers used to plough across the inside of the circle.These days they don’t, but farm all around the circle:

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It’s fantastic up inside the stone circle. Unlike Stonehenge (which is of course much bigger) you can walk right up to the stones and go inside the circle. The stones are sandstone, varying in height from 1.3 metres to 2.3 metres. The site is listed on the Schedule of Ancient Monuments – No. 1006622.

It was very windy last Saturday and I found it hard to keep my camera steady, but I did manage to get some close ups of the stones. Stones that have been sculpted by the wind into weird shapes.

P1060995

We had the stones to ourselves and it was easy to imagine what it must have been like up there on the hill all those years ago, with views all round to the Cheviots and the Eildon Hills in Scotland and to wonder just why the stones were there and what they had meant to the people who erected them. The Defra information board below the stones indicated that the fragments of human bones found in the central pit dated from 1740 – 1660 BC suggesting that the use of the site for burial was a later event. Its original purpose remains a mystery – I like that.

Also in Duddo are the remains of a medieval tower house. We didn’t have time to look at it last Saturday, but we’ll go there another day.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot

On a grey, dismal day in May we visited Smailholm Tower in the Scottish Borders. It’s a four-storey tower house on a base of volcanic rock, a stark feature on the skyline between Kelso and Selkirk in the Tweed Valley.

(click on the photos to enlarge)

It was built in the 15th century by the Pringle family on Smailholm Craig, providing protection from the elements and from raiding parties of English reivers (raiders).

Standing 650ft (200m) above sea level, it’s walls are 9ft (2.5m) thick and 65ft (20m) high and it has one small entrance in the south wall and tiny windows.

Inside it’s quite dark and most of my photos inside aren’t very good. There’s a spiral staircase giving access to all five floors and the battlements.

In 1645 the Pringle family sold the tower and Smailholm Craig to the Scott family. Sir Walter Scott lived at Smailholm for a while with his grandmother and Aunt Janet after he’d had polio because they thought the fresh country air would be good for him. It was his aunt who told him tales of the Border countryside which gave him his passion for folklore and history.

The three upper floors house an exhibition of costume figures and tapestries to illustrate Sir Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Borders, his collection of ballads. The photo below is of the Queen of the Fairies:

and below is one of little Walter Scott and his Aunt Janet:

I was fascinated by the roof of the tower, because it’s covered in turf, making a living roof:

There are spectacular views of the surrounding countryside on the way up. Below is the view of the Eildon Hills through a window:and even more panoramic views from the battlements:

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.