Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle P1020073

I think that Northumberland is one of the loveliest parts of the United Kingdom, with the Cheviot Hills and in particular the beautiful golden sands along the coast of the North Sea. It also has a large share of castles. Since we moved here we’ve visited all of the coastal castles, except that is the ruins of the castle at Dunstanburgh. It’s a spectacular ruin standing alone on the coast on an isolated headland between Embleton and Craster, looking out over the North Sea.

Last Tuesday we decided it was time for us to go there. It was a lovely hot, sunny day and we walked from the car park down the road to the little village and harbour at Craster, well known for its kippers.

Craster P1020067

From there it’s about a mile and a half walk northwards along the coast to the castle, which is owned by the National Trust (NH) and managed by English Heritage(EH). But we never actually got to the castle, because the heat defeated us and my knee, which has been a problem for a few months now, became painful so we only walked about halfway there, then turned back. I took a few photos zooming in as close as I could:

Dunstanburgh Castle P1020072

Thomas, Earl of Lancaster began building Dunstanburgh Castle in 1313. He was the wealthiest nobleman in England at the time and later took part in the barons’ rebellion against Edward II, resulting in his execution in 1322. John of Gaunt modernised it in the 1380s and later during the Wars of the Roses it became a Lancastrian stronghold, finally falling into ruin in the 16th century.

We will go there again to see more. At least we enjoyed the coastal walk and the view of the castle, despite the heat. And as always I was trying to visualise what it must have been like when it was new and how it had changed over the centuries, thinking of the battles that it had seen, of all the people who had lived and died there.

The Lake District: Aira Force

Last Saturday I wrote about our trip on Ullswater on a grey, overcast morning, a couple of weeks ago. That same day the the sky cleared, and the sun shone as we went to see Aira Force, below Gowbarrow Fell above the shores of Ullswater.  You wouldn’t have thought it was the same day, as the extra layers of clothing had to come off!

Aira Force (from ‘fors’ the Viking word for waterfall) is a beautiful, wonderful place – a series of waterfalls, cascading down a fracture in the ancient volcanic rocks in a deep gorge. People have been visiting Aira Force for about 250 years. This is the plan of Aira Force on the National Trust board at the entrance to the Glade (with my added notation):

Aira Force plan P1010130

 From the Glade you start to ascend the waterfall walking through the Pinetum, which includes firs, pines, spruces, cedars and yews planted in the 19th century. The photo below shows the trunk of a Monkey Puzzle tree, the top way above me:

Pinetum P1010133The paths are circular, most of them dating back to the early 19th century when visitors were escorted by tour guides. There are three bridges across the Aira Beck – the first reference to a bridge was by Wordsworth in 1787. Below is a view of one of the bridges:

Bridge P1010140There are also several sets of steps:

Steps P1010144and of course, the cascades, falling 66 feet from the top to the bottom:

Waterfall P1010149I managed to snap a rainbow:

Rainbow P1010148

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

Cragside: The Turkish Baths

I haven’t done a Saturday Snapshot for months!

Turkish Bath P1090264

Here are some photos of the Turkish Baths at Cragside, in Northumberland that I’ve been meaning to post since our last visit. There’s a lot to see at Cragside. It’s now owned by the National Trust and was formerly the home of William George Armstrong (1810 – 1900). We didn’t manage to see this suite of rooms the first time we visited as there was quite a queue.  But on our second visit there weren’t as many people. You go down stairs from the Library lobby to go into the rooms below the Library. The guide book describes them as:

The suite of rooms includes a steam bath, a cold plunge, a hot bath and a shower, as well as water closets and a changing room. They are the lowest and the first completed part of Norman Shaw’s first addition to the original house. His plan, which shows that modifications were still being made, is dated 5 May 1870, and Armstrong’s friend, Thomas Sopwith, recorded in his diary that €˜the Turkish Bath at Cragside was used for the first time on November 4th 1870€².
The baths were part of Lord Armstrong’s innovative provision of central heating for the whole house. The space occupied by the baths is cleverly situated between chambers with huge water-pipe coils, which, heated from the boiler to the north, were the source of hot air that was ducted up into the main house. (NT guide book for Cragside)

Turkish Bath P1090265

Turkish Bath P1090266Apparently, Lord Armstrong was keen to build up foreign business and thought that:

Chinese or Burmese, or Japanese arms ministers would be more likely to agree to handsome contracts, if they were both well entertained and comfortable – even in a Northumbrian winter. (NT guide book for Cragside)

I think it’s an excellent idea and wish we had space for something similar!

Saturday Snapshots: Wallington

Griffins' heads, Wallington

Wallington is now owned by the National Trust but was for generations the home of the Blackett and Trevelyan families. It’s in the village of Cambo, Northumberland, to the west of Morpeth, approached down a series of country lanes. We visited it just over a week ago, never having heard of it or of Cambo until I looked in the NT handbook. There’s a lot to see, including these strange objects on the front lawn – they’re griffin heads that were originally on Bishopsgate in London (according to wikipedia this was the gate where the heads of criminals were displayed on spikes).

I took lots of photos, mainly inside the house, which was built in the late 17th century. We didn’t have time to see everything and spent most of the time looking round the house. I’ve just posted a few of my photos today (click on them to enlarge):

First the entrance to the property is under a Clock Tower topped by a cupola on nine Doric columns:

Clock Tower, Wallington

This opens into a grassed courtyard where people were sitting having picnics and children were playing ball games. Crossing the grass takes you to the entrance to the house:

Wallington entranceI think the Central Hall is impressive, but one of the house stewards told me not all visitors like it. I suppose not everybody thinks an Italianate Renaissance palazzo type courtyard is right for the house, or perhaps it’s the wall paintings they don’t like.

Central Hall, Wallington P1080991The wall paintings illustrate the history of Northumberland. They are the work of William Bell Scott, a friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The photo below shows three of the paintings, featuring Egfrid, King of Northumberland with St Cuthbert, Danish Vikings landing at Tynemouth and the death of the Venerable Bede.

Wall paintings, Wallington P1080993Just a few more photos – below a photo of one of the cabinets containing a collection of model soldiers, 3,800 in total. These belonged to the three sons of Sir George Otto Trevelyan. They set them out following the plans of the battles of Marlborough and Napoleonic wars to re-enact the battles. Now they are laid out in regiments:

Model soldiers, Wallington P1090002There are the usual rooms – Kitchen (my photos of this are a bit dark), Parlour, Study, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Library, Nusery, Bedrooms and Galleries, all with many paintings, sculptures, beautiful furniture and collections of ceramics and textiles.

I was intrigued by this large boot in one of the bedrooms:

Boot Bath, Wallington P1090021It’s a Boot Bath – used by Sir William Blackett in the 18th century. It’s made of metal sheets soldered together. I don’t think I’d have liked using it, but it was designed for modesty – just your head and shoulders could be seen when you’re sitting in it – and for warmth! It was originally used in a bedroom downstairs and placed near a fire. I don’t think I’d like to have been one of the servants either, whose job it was to fill it up or empty it.

One final photo. After going round the house and part of the garden we needed some refreshment: a cup of Earl Grey tea with coffee and walnut cake for me and and mug of coffee with chocolate fudge cake for David (you can see my reflection in the teapot):

Teatime, Wallington P1090036

That’s enough for now – more photos another day, maybe of the Cabinet of Curiosities on the top floor of the house.

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

Saturday Snapshot: Cragside Again

Following on from last Saturday’s snapshots of Cragside here are a few more photos.

There were many other visitors when we were there and it was difficult sometimes to get a good photo and I had to be quick before someone moved in front of my camera. So, some of my photos are a bit out of focus and rather dark. (It’s amazing that you can take photos in National Trust properties – in the past it was strictly forbidden. I asked one of the room stewards why they allowed them now and he explained that because you can take photos on mobile phones it was impossible to stop people. It’s good to take your own photos, but actually there are much better ones than mine in the guidebook.)

The first room we saw was the kitchen. As you can see the area is fenced off. It’s not very big but there are also sculleries and larder and cellar storage beneath the kitchen, with a ‘dumb waiter’ to carry food and equipment up and down. The Butler, Housekeeper and Cook each had their own areas.

In the next photo you can see the spits with joints of meat in front of the range.

There is a dishwasher. Rather primitive compared to the modern models this dishwasher has wire compartments for crockery, a motor turned it whilst hot soapy water was squirted into it from a boiler. This had been invented in 1886 by a wealthy American, Josephine Cochrane whose servants had chipped her fine china.

None of the rooms at Cragside are very large, apart from the Drawing Room, and I could imagine being comfortable in most of them, such as the Dining Room. It has a lovely inglenook fireplace with stained glass windows designed by William Morris.

The windows either side represent the Four Seasons. the photo below shows two of the windows – Spring and Summer.

I still have more photos, but these are enough for one post. (Click the photos to see a larger view.)

Cragside is open to visitors from today. I  would really like to go there again this year, there is so much I didn’t take in and I only had a brief look at the grounds.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot

My photos this week are a few of Cragside in Northumberland, now owned by the National Trust. It was built in 1863, with further extensions over the next 15 or so years, by William Armstrong, who later became Lord Armstrong. Armstrong was a remarkable man – a scientist, an innovator and a successful industrialist.

We visited it last year. Here is the view of the house approaching from the public car park:

and the view from the gardens:

It has to be one of my favourite National Trust properties and it’s a very popular house with everyone else too – the place was packed when we were there last April. There is so much to see inside the house, too much for one post. The house was very modern for its times, with all the latest and advanced technical devices of the day.

One of my favourite rooms is the Library, with its  stained glass windows, comfy chairs, leather sofas and the latest lighting available. This was the first room in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity.

The light suspended from the ceiling has four bulbs within the ornate and fringed light shade. I tried very hard to get a photo without any of the other visitors, but gave up when there was just one person looking out of the window – anyway he gives scale to the room.

There are four more bulbs around the room, place in globes, sitting on vases:

The books are in oak bookcases around the room:

Note the library steps at the left-hand side of the photo.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

At a later date I might post more photos – of the kitchen with its dishwasher, the lovely dining room with its William Morris stained glass windows and of the amazing Gallery, with its collection of paintings and sculptures. As for the Drawing Room, this was not to my taste at all with its huge marble chimney piece.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

ABC Wednesday: P is for …

… Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit first made his appearance in 1902 in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Peter was a very naughty rabbit, who disobeyed his mother, despite being told the terrible fate of his father who had had an accident in Mr McGregor’s garden and was put into a pie by Mrs McGregor. He squeezed under the gate into the garden, ate lots of vegetables and then came face to face with Mr McGregor and escaped by the skin of his teeth.

Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 ‘“ 22 December 1943) was an English author, illustrator, mycologist and conservationist best known for children’s books featuring anthropomorphic characters such as in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and rural lifestyle. (From Wikipedia)

Her original watercolour paintings and sketches are in the Beatrix Potter Gallery at Hawkshead, Cumbria. Hill Top, the house which she bought with the proceeds from sales of her books and which she used as an artistic retreat from London, is in Near Sawrey, near Hawkshead. She left it to the National Trust. It is open to the public and it remains just as it was when Beatrix lived there.

I love the watercolours in her books and this is my attempt at painting Peter Rabbit, copied from The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

An ABC Wednesday post.