Back from the North

After a nice Christmas break back in my home town of Newcastle I’m now back to Cardiff. The weather was a bit of a contrast after last year’s snow and ice, as it was unusually mild in the North East this year although a bit dark and blustery. I travelled there and back by train too, without any significant hitches either way, arriving on time on both journeys. It was a very restful holiday for me – which is just what I needed, if truth be told.

On boxing day we took a drive through the beautiful countryside of Northumberland where, as usual the winter weather produced some dramatic lighting effects. Although I only had my Blackberry with me I managed to get a snap of Warkworth Castle, which came out quite well, the castle looking brooding against the setting sun:


And a bit later on, over the moors, the wind clouds and sunbeams produced some ominous-looking patterns, which the little phone camera struggled to capture…

The portents turned out to be inaccurate, however, as Newcastle United managed to win their Boxing Day fixture, away against Bolton Wanderers, a team from the Midlands.

Anyway, I hope you all had as pleasant a festive period as I did. Now it’s all about preparing for the new year and new teaching term, and of course blogging will resume!

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6 Responses to “Back from the North”

  1. Huw Clayton Says:

    “Bolton Wanderers, a team from the Midlands.”

    I had no idea that they had wandered so far from Bolton! Or is that a very broad definition of “Midlands”?

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Warkworth Castle was the home of the Percys, who have a connection with my adopted county of Shropshire. Early in the 15th century the Percys reckoned that King Henry IV (aka Bolingbroke) hadn’t kept his side of the bargain to pay the Percys to keep the northern border secure against the Scots, and they sent their army south under ‘hotspur’ Percy to challenge Henry. Henry sent his son, the future Henry V, north with their army, and the two forces clashed just north of Shrewsbury in 1403. Hotspur was killed and the Percys lost. Unfortunately this outcome enabled Henry IV to ramp up his persecution of the Lollards, the peaceful evangelical Christians who had recently come together around the teaching of John Wycliffe (a century before the Reformation).

    • The town of Warkworth is in an extremely interesting location, just half a mile or so inland from the small port of Amble. It is within a loop where the river Coquet bends to the North , so it is defended on three sides by the river. The Castle lies at the southern end of the loop, clearly designed to protect the southern side of the town. The modern town still follows the mediaeval layout, complete with market and narrow lanes, now filled with shops and places to eat. It’s a lovely place now, but the emphasis on defence makes it clear that times were tough in years gone by. It’s the sense of timelessness youn get looking out over the sea from the Castle that makes it such an extraordinary experience, like a temporal umbelical chord stretching back six centuries.

      A couple of miles to the north-west is Alnwick Castle, bought by the Percy family in the 1300s and now the Percy family’s main residence. It’s better preserved than, but not as atmospheric as Warkworth. Nowadays it’s used for rather naff mediaeval banquets and suchlike, but remains an important historical site.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Shrewsbury is also built in a near-360-degree loop of the River Severn with a castle protecting the land access and the mediaeval street layout retained!

      I made a point of dining in the White Swan at Alnwick when I was there some 20 years ago, because the dining room and ballroom wre taken off the Titanic’s sister ship when she was scrapped.

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