In the grounds of Durham Cathedral. Photo by Andrew Weaver
This year the PNTA annual mini holiday was a little different. This time we went in May for 4 nights instead of 3 nights in September. This meant we could travel a little further afield to explore new places.
Northumberland came up trumps for us. The weather was kind, the long journey was made enjoyable by avoiding motorways when possible, so we could appreciate the changing scenery.
On the way up we spent time in Tatton Park wandering around the gardens at their best, with rhododendrons and azaleas ablaze with glorious colours.
Our first day was spent visiting Durham Cathedral – St Cuthberts- a prime example of Norman architecture, dating from the 12th Century. The two groups had excellent guides who tried to educate us in its history. We were shown The Venerable Bede’s last resting place among lots of other things. The afternoon was spent in Beamish- rather like St Fagans with knobs on, and were able to really stretch ones legs or sample various modes of early 20th century public transport to get to various locations such as the town, the farm and the coal mine. The coal mine especially was amazing. It was chastening to go into the drift mine, bent almost double in places with incredibly dim lighting, led by a man who had himself worked in such conditions. The trolley bus was fun.
On our morning in Alnwick Castle we managed to pack in a conducted tour of the castle with special reference to being a location for Downton Abbey filming and (for some) a jet propelled circuit of the spectacular 21st century garden. This was followed by a trip to a location very close to our leader Dick Coggins’ heart. (In fact Dick haled from Newcastle so most of the locations were close to his heart!)
Cragside’s situation in a valley now surrounded by lakes and millions of planted trees and shrubs had changed dramatically from when William Armstrong had built his house in the mid to late 1800s. It is a shame he never saw how spectacular the trees had become.
The last day was spent exploring the Roman Fort at Halsteads, walking on the odd wall and admiring the views in every direction. The afternoon proved quite a contrast at Wallington NT house and gardens.
Our homeward journey was broken in Chester and Aberaeron for refreshments.
This was our first PNTA trip and I would like to heartily thank Dick for all the hard work he put into the planning of the trip and holding things together during the trip. Being responsible for the group’s happiness and wellbeing is no small feat. We are going to miss him a lot but wish him well on his next big adventure.
Report by Annie Weaver