Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Day 35 begins


Day 35 begins

I knew that there would be cyclists and even twitcher's this morning so got up and packed away relatively early. The day was warm and the sun was about to break cover of the clouds. I would be in Durham by evening I concluded, so set off to find a breakfast and tea. I had been going for only about 30 minutes when I met a group of youths and leaders coming along the path towards me. I spoke briefly with Paul a leader and Carl a young man, about where I was going and what I was doing. Paul a keen walker for charity causes too was amazed and said as much to the young man with him. I think that they were working at building confidence in people to get them back into work environments. Paul said that it was a council based training plan for locals. I hope that I explained this well. He had to go to keep up with the main group but he took my details to hopefully check out Imagine.

Now I arrived to Station Town and was soon out the other side into another village Wingate, that was joined to it. I asked a few locals for a cafe but none knew of one open. I went into a shop to buy a few pieces of fruit and asked for a cafe. They told me it was next door in the side street and was actually the same business as the fruit/butchers/whatever shop. Robinson's cafe was lovely and they didn't mind me plugging in and writing some of my blog. I had paid for a small breakfast and tea, but what came was a massive pile of food, and it was delicious, though I had to pack some of it away as I couldn't eat it all.
Before long a lot of people kept filling the place and I kept checking that I wasn't occupying seats that could house other paying customers. I love to be in these busy environments but I try not to do the owners out of customers who would like to sit and eat.
I got into conversation with Hy, who's car had broken down. She was out for the day with her daughter Fran and granddaughter India. They were waiting for the AA and she told me that this had happened before, last time they went to a cafe. I said you need to stop going to cafes then... It was a joke obviously and I diagnosed that it was a faulty battery that had stranded them. Hy offered me a lift to Durham as she said it was a bit of a bore to walk all that way without much to see. I took her word for it and gratefully accepted, more for the intuitive side of it than the walking. I also got into conversation with the lady who ran the cafe Margaret, her husband Trevor, and one of their customers, Annabelle. They were interested what had possessed me to walk all the way around Britain. I couldn't really put my finger on it, more than to say that I was trying to remove my ignorance of what it is to be a British citizen and know my own countries. I hope that they follow my blog as they were about to offer me something I am sure,, maybe a bed for the night but I was due to be leaving when the AA man had fixed the car of Hy and her possy.
On the way to Durham I discovered that Fran and India actually live presently in Singapore, a place where I have not been for a long time. They were amazed that I had been born there, they knew the place much better than I do, as I was a babe in arms when my parents returned to the United Kingdom. I was glad to have taken the ride with them as it meant that I arrived here with time to look for the accommodation that had been heralded to me by several people now. I gave my friends the customary farewell and Fran a hug for being such a great insightful person, no dead wood here....(private joke)

The cathedral loomed on the top of the hill as I crossed a river and climbed steps to the south side. I met Harry Potter on his (her) broomstick. A group of people a family from Germany were on the lawn in front of the Cathedral a girl was wearing Harry Potters gown and Quiddich outfit and trying to fly the broomstick. I helped out by taking a picture where her feet were off the ground as she sat astride the broom. She went on to tell me all about the college and the castle and that fact that it was indeed open as a bed and breakfast during the summer months when students were away. Apparently over 100 students live within the castle walls during term times, only the state rooms are free. I sadly didn't get miss Potters name, but went off in search of a room with a view.

The Castle do indeed do bed and breakfast. I asked for the chance to stay here and the man on duty said that he would ask his superior, a lady called Wendy, if she could do me a deal as I was also walking to raise funds for 5 charities. Wendy came down to speak with me and I told her all about my project and the fund raising angle and they did indeed do me a very reasonable offer. I wanted this unique opportunity to spend a night in an actual working castle where the seat of education had ruled for many centuries. Durham is the third firmly established University in Great Britain, behind only the two famous biggies, Oxford and Cambridge. It boasts many unique avenues of learning too, and what with this spectacular accommodation it must be one of the best places in the entire country to have been schooled. (Ask Jeremy Vine, B.B.C Radio and television show host)
I nearly fainted when she said that I was also included in the breakfast arrangements for the morning in the great hall. I walked to my room on a cloud even if it was in the dungeons and below the views over the river. I dropped my things had a shower and set out to explore the town and the grounds to the castle. The great hall was like something from Harry Potter. It was very reminiscent of the great hall at Hogwarts though smaller. And I was sure Dumbledore came up the steps behind me. It was beyond awesome, it was a treat on so many levels and I felt incredibly humbled to be here, in a building used and inhabited for over 800 years continually.

The Cathedral was also open and surprisingly again it was free to enter. I had the great luck to be able to attend the evensong, (vespers) and was inspired to write several poems whilst in the Cathedral. I was struggling to take it all in, and later on the walk around the grounds and Cloisters saw that in fact it had featured in the Potter movies for part of the filming on location.

At 6.30 I had arranged to meet Duncan the night watchman he was going to let me use the washing facilities for the students during term time. It was in my kind of budget too....Thank you Duncan. Thank you Durham Castle.

Out in the town I saw a lot of people, and briefly met a few that I had seen at the Cathedral earlier. Santosh and Mini were a from Newcastle and they were here visiting as Mini's brother was over from Dubai with another friend. They like me had been swept away by the wealth of history and character of this inland Cleveland town. The town was very small really, at least the heart of it.
I found my way around easily and even though there was much to see, I compacted it all in to walk around discovering the sights. I ended the night in the pub called the Swan and Three Signets, which was above the river by the main old bridge into town. The walk back to the Castle was sweet even if it was all uphill. The mood of the town/city was very warm and friendly and I marveled at my good fortune to be staying here in this old historical landmark. Duncan the night porter who had earlier shown me to the washing facilities of the students was still on duty and we chatted easily for a while before I said my farewells and went to rest my very weary head. I had noticed from various photographs that I had seen in the Pub that some of the features of the town and castle were altered. The galloping horseman in the town center for example was facing downhill now. I was told that it had been altered about 2 years ago, though not given a real reason why. Also the castle had a doorway now in the courtyard that had not been there several hundred years ago. (I would learn more tomorrow about this and other things on the castle tour.)
I settled in to my very comfortable room and let the castle walls protect me as I slept soundly, not a real prisoner but down in the depths of the castle keep.

Day 35 came to a most spectacular end. Thank you Durham Castle and staff for your kindnesses.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...sleeping in a real castle..of course,i'm not jealous at all!!!!!!!!!!
    You do, don't you?