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:
Farmers used to plough across the inside of the circle.These days they don’t, but farm all around the circle:
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.
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.
Lindisfarne is one of my favourite places, cut off from the mainland of Britain twice a day by the tides and accessed over a causeway. We went there last Tuesday and here are a few photos I took then together with one I took on an earlier visit.
Lindisfarne Priory was founded in 635 by Aidan, an Irish monk who came to the island from the monastery on Iona, founded by St Columba. It was the home of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
I took the photo below in February 2011, on a cold winter’s day. It shows the statue of St Aidan in the Priory grounds with Lindisfarne Castle, across the bay, in the background.
The monastery was originally wooden buildings and the remains that we see today are those of the 12th century priory, probably standing on the site of the 7th century monastery. The Priory’s former grandeur is still there to see:Lindisfarne was also the home of Cuthbert, who became the prior in 685. Eleven years after his burial it became a shrine when his body was exhumed and was found to be undecayed. One hundred years later when the monks fled from the island during Viking raids they took his relics with them, eventually re-establishing his shrine in Durham Cathedral in 995.
This sculpture of St Cuthbert is cast in bronze, originally carved from an elm tree. It shows a contemplative Cuthbert:
Last Tuesday was one of the hottest days of the year. We had intended to visit the castle as well, but as so many other people had the same idea we just went for a walk round the foot of the castle, then along the coast and back inland. This is the route we took.
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains – a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne?
Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Princes in the Tower.
A fascinating blend of history and mystery.
A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths. I posted the opening lines in yesterday’s post. This book is the fourth of the Ruth Galloway investigations. The description on the back cover is –
Night falls on Halloween eve. The museum in King’s Lynn is preparing for an unusual event – the opening of a coffin excavated from the site of a medieval church. But when archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise, she finds the museum’s curator lying dead beside it. Ruth and Detective Inspector Nelson are forced to cross paths once again when he’s called in to investigate the murder, and their past tensions are reignited. And as Ruth becomes further embroiled in the case, she must decide where her loyalties lie – a choice that her very survival depends on.
It was the perfect summer’s day and we went over to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, one of my favourite places. We’ve been there a few times, but never in such good weather. We went round the Priory, walked up to the castle and then along the coast and back inland again. Here’s one of the Priory – I’ll put up some more photos of the day later in the week.Whilst on the island D bought me this book:
Lindisfarne: the Cradle Island by Magnus Magnusson – a history of the island from the beginnings to the present day, telling the story of people and nature. Known as ‘the cradle island’ it is the ancient shrine of Celtic Christianity and the home of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Last Saturday I posted photos of the coronation procession I took part in in 1953. Irene asked if I would post photos of what was happening in my area for the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Well, it was relatively quiet where we live, nearly 350 miles from London. We watched some of the River Pageant on television:
I liked the aerial views and the close-up shots of the Queen and Royal Family, but it was different from actually being there:
The next day our son and his family came to stay and we had a barbecue on the decking, decorated with our daughter-in-law’s hand knitted bunting:
Food was eaten, drinks were drunk and games were played:
Then in the evening we went to one of the 4,200 Diamond Jubilee Beacons that were lit all over the UK and the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Commonwealth and Overseas UK Territories. Ours was at Watchlaw Farm in Northumberland, where there are magnificent views of the Cheviots and the Tweed Valley:
The beacon was lit just after 10pm:
and soon it was blazing away:
Click on the photos to enlarge them.
D took a video which is on YouTube – watch out for the rocket towards the end of the video!
Last Monday we visited Bamburgh Castle on the coast in Northumberland overlooking the North Sea. It’s a dramatic sight, a huge castle extending over ¼ of a mile, built on a volcanic outcrop, 45 metres above sea level. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)
Bamburgh Castle was bought by Lord Armstrong (who built Cragside) and renovated by him at the end of the 19th century. The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family, and is open to the public. It also hosts weddings and corporate events and has been used as a film location since the 1920s, featuring in films such as Ivanhoe (1952), El Cid (1961), Mary, Queen of Scots (1972), and Elizabeth (1998).
The entrance is through two gatehouse towers, which still have some of the original stonework. They were altered and added to in the 19th century.
From there you walk along the Battery Terrace, with its cannons facing the sea, placed there ready to defend the castle when Napoleon threatened to invade Britain.
From the Battery Terrace you can see Lindisfarne to the north and the Farne Islands to the south. Lindisfarne is just a dot on the horizon above the first cannon in the photo.
The photo below is of the Keep, which was originally built in the 12th century. It sits on a massive plinth to prevent attackers digging beneath it and setting fires to collapse it.
And finally a view of Bamburgh Castle taken from the road from Seahouses to Bamburgh:
Not very far from where we live stands Twizel Castle, high up on the hillside above the River Till. You can see it from the road glimpsed through the trees. I imagined what it was like to have lived there and wondered who had built it. It’s now in ruins, was it one of the castles that had been attacked centuries ago by the Scots, from just over the border?
One day instead of just looking as we passed it we stopped and walked up to see it properly. It’s up a steep footpath:
and this is what we found:
and inside, dereliction:
It’s amazing it’s still standing:
This castle is not what it seems. It was never lived in as it’s an 18th century castle that was never completed. It stands on the site of a medieval tower house, that was, indeed, destroyed by the Scots in 1496. It’s a Grade 2 Listed Building and is on English Heritage’s At Risk Register. For more information see Images of England and Gatehouse Gazetteer.
Berwick-upon-Tweed is an interesting English town near the border with Scotland, with three bridges crossing the Tweed. There are the Elizabethan Town Walls, Ramparts, Barracks, a ruined castle and quaint passageways like Dewars Lane, which dates back to medieval times. This is what it looks like today.
The white building on the right at the end of the passageway is now a Youth Hostel, Art Gallery and Bistro. It was built in 1769 and was originally a granary. Its fantastic tilted walls are the result of a fire in 1815, after which it was propped up rather than being rebuilt. It was used for storing grain up until 1985 and was then left unoccupied, gradually becoming derelict. It has recently been restored by the Berwick Preservation Trust.
The artist L S Lowry sketched it in 1936 on one of his many visits to the town and it is now part of the town’s Lowry Trail. Below is Lowry’s pencil drawing of the Lane.
There is a field at the back of our garden which is on a steep slope (it is much steeper than it looks in my photos). A couple of weeks ago I spotted three roe deer at the top of the field, grazing, and quickly took a few photos using the zoom lens.
They soon were aware I was around and began to move away.
They jumped over the fence and were soon out of sight. You can just see their white rumps – one getting ready to jump and two on the other side.