Rocks and Clouds

Sunday, June 25, 2017   Norton-on-Tees  to Durham



The B & B we stayed in overnight  was a former mansion of undetermined age. 23-IMG_2570Although there were other people staying there, it was quiet and only a 5 minute walk to restaurants and a grocery. We met our new friend Johnathon and his wife Laura for a drink last night at a local pub.

The sun shined all day but the wind never relented. Again the forecast was for winds of 17 mph, but we estimate more like 25 and in our faces most of the way. The ride was only 23 miles, but more than 1500 feet in elevation gain.

We arrived in Durham about 1:30 p.m., dropped our bags and bikes at the hotel and walked 15 minutes back into old city centre. We went to Durham’s castle 22-IMG_254720-IMG_2545and cathedral13-IMG_252718-IMG_2542 which are next to each other on a hill (of course.) Our hotel was also on a hill, just not the same hill with the river winding through the middle. The train station, where we will catch the train to Carlisle tomorrow morning and to which we walked to find the best way to get from our hotel to the station is also on a hill, just not either of the other two hills. You get the picture?

The castle was closed to visitors because the castle is part of the university, used for student housing, and this is graduation week, it was closed to visitors. The cathedral was open 16-IMG_253515-IMG_253312-IMG_252613-IMG_2527

as was the new exhibit about the history of the cathedral, some of the surrounding area, and the Magna Carta. Durham Cathedral owns 3 original copies of the Magna Carta and 3 copies of the Forest Charter which essentially accompanied the Magna Carta and gave the ordinary people rights to hunt, fish and gather firewood in the king’s forests. We learned that the original Magna Carta (signed by King John in 1215) was, at his request, declared “Void” by the pope about 3 weeks after it was signed as having been given under duress applied by the barons who had revolted against John’s laws.

John died the following year and his 6 year old son became king. The youngster, through regents, approved a second Magna Carta in 1216 also accompanied by a Forest Carta which was followed a few years later with essentially an amended MC. The history is fascinating considering that the 1215 MC is the document upon which the U.S. Constitution and the operative documents of virtually every democracy around the world are based.

Photographs were not permitted of either the interior of the MC exhibit nor the cathedral, which was unfortunate as the cathedral is very large, has huge beautiful windows, and is in many respects unique. It is a very important historically as well as a religious site. The many pillars are huge and fluted and it has 9 chapels behind the altar. You can still see painted art work 800 years old on some of the pillars. The church contains the remains of Saint Cuthbert a cleric of the 6-7th century.

Later that evening Maggie researched our bike routes once we get to the continent and came up with a plan to ride the Elbe River bike route from Hamburg to Prague.  After arriving in Amsterdam we just have to ride across Holland and half of Germany to get there!

Monday, June 26, 2017 Durham to Carlisle

It was an easy trip to train station after having scoped out the route last night. The trains were on time and the transfer in Newcastle easy since there were ramps within the train station. We arrived in Carlisle at noon and were met by the coffee truck., 01-IMG_2548found our hotel which was about 100 yards from the station and less than that from the gates to the medieval city.26-IMG_2631 Our stop at the tourist office was fruitful as they had the map of the Hadrian’s Wall bike route #72 as well as a couple of other maps and pamphlets that we have been looking for.

Before we did any serious sightseeing in Durham, Maggie called a store in London and was able to purchase the English guide for the Elbe Bike route London  and had it sent to the fellow we are staying with the night before our we take our the to Amsterdam.

Carlisle’s historic old city is quite compact. We were able to walk from the visitor’s center to the castle in less than 5 minutes. It is big and imposing.14-IMG_2561


Part of the fascination with these ancient buildings is what is unique in that structure.

It is hypothisized that a guard on duty but bored carved pictures in the sandstone next to his post.  They show talent. 07-IMG_2554

We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the castle and the military museum that was within the castle walls.

Neither of us have been to England’s Lake Country which is quite close by Carlisle so we rented a car and plan to drive there tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017    Carlisle-Lake District (LD)-Carlisle.

It was an interesting day. We picked up the rental car and were on our way to the village of Keswich, in the Lake District (LD) before 9:30. The weather did not cooperate. It rained all day and was foggy which limited our views. It is mountainous and has 5 major lakes. 55-IMG_2602-001

53-IMG_2600-001The fields are  separated by rock walls constructed without mortar.  45-IMG_2592-001Driving through the LD requires concentration and nerve. The roads are narrow and windy with encroaching foliage on both sides often hiding rock walls and overhung with tree branches. Some are reduced to 1 or 1 ½ car widths especially at bridges. On this heavily overcast, rain day people were everywhere. However, like many other small, quaint towns and villages, since there are very few places to stay that can accommodate busloads of tourists, the area empties at about 3 p.m. and the shops close at 5.

In the library at one of the villages there was a Post Holocaust exhibit about the town taking 1000 Jewish children from Poland who had survived the concentration camps but had nowhere to go and no one to go to. The principle people in the video exhibit were 4 of those children, now in their 80’s, who recounted some of their experiences. It was moving and enlightening.

On our journey over the highest pass out of the LD Ed hit a rock on the side of the road  that punctured the left front tire which went flat almost immediately. Fortunately there was room on the side of the road to pull off and be mostly out of the traffic. He and another motorist who had stopped to render aid were able to change the tire, which all took about an hour. We were able to drive on the spare although with the safety blinker on because we were limited to 50 mph on the big road.52-IMG_2599


Wednesday, June 28, 2017 Carlisle

The first order of business after breakfast was to return to the rental car place and explain what had happened. The people were very understanding. The charge was about $225 because the tire was not fixable. They were apologetic about the amount, but we were charged nevertheless. For future reference, they told us that we were fortunate as some of the rental cars do not come with a spare tire, only a kit with some type of gooey material that gets forced into the flat tire and seals the leak and the tire could then be re-inflated using a canister of air/gas also provided. That would not have worked with our tire as it was sliced in 2 places and would not have sealed.

On our walk back into town Maggie recalled that our credit card had some benefits that might apply to our situation which seems, after checking the card’s benefits on the internet, to be the case.

We next ventured to the Carlisle Cathedral which was built in the 12th century and modified a few times after that. 03-IMG_2605Some of the original building is clearly visible as are some of the changes either because of remnants of the former structure are visible on the walls or because of the lack of symmetry. 12-IMG_2616Regardless of the changes, it is a very pretty cathedral with many very old items on display. It has a beautiful ceiling, 17-IMG_2622a choir that is very ornate and complicated, some original stained glass, 07-IMG_2611

and a campus whose newer buildings (15th-17th century) are consistent with the more important buildings around it. 19-IMG_2624The treasury contains beautiful silver and other pieces of church significance presented in a very nice setting.

The day was cold, cloudy, and very windy but no rain. When we returned to our room we turned on the heat and checked the weather on the weather channel.  They say it’s 50 degrees and feels like 41 degrees here in Carlisle.  This is summer. The next 48 hours are supposed to be really awful.

Thursday, June 29, 2017 Carlisle-Brampton

Today was “some other day” in the nursery rhyme “Rain, rain go away….”.  The ride to Brampton was wet from beginning to end IMG_2636briefly interrupted by a stop at a lovely tea room where we dried off, had a cappuccino and a fresh warm cherry scone. This little café smelled wonderfully. They make 8 different flavored scones among many other sweets.  We mostly dried off before going out in the rain and riding the last 6 miles to Brampton.

We were greeted at the Howard Arms Inn by three locals sipping their beers while seated at a table next to the welcoming fireplace. IMG_2637At this point it was 52 degrees, with a “realfeel” of 44. We spoke and joked with them before going to our room and changing into dry clothes, again on our way out for a walk and then again when we came back from our walk. They said they’re at that table all day every day of the year except Christmas. They weren’t kidding. Brampton is a very small, old market town with a 19th century church renowned for its stained glass.IMG_2643 We stopped into the visitor’s centerIMG_2649 and got a couple of maps and flyers about Hadrian’s Wall sights and had our afternoon cup of coffee at a place called “Off The Wall”. Get it?   Next was a visit to a wonderful antique store chocked full of unique and beautiful items dating back to the 17th century.IMG_2652 The prices seemed very reasonable, but the items were too much for us to carry.  While we were eating dinner at our Pub/Inn, a string of people carrying musical instrument cases about the size for a mandolin walked thru the front door and disappeared up the stairs into the large hall where we had left our bicycles for the night. Our waiter told us that they were a group of people who came to the pub every Thursday for ukelele practice. After dinner we went to where they were practicing and peeked in. The leader invited us in where we spent the next hour and a half listening to them play and sing. They were a group of 24 from all over the area including Scotland, which is only about 30 miles away at this point.  We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and chatted with a few during their breaks.7-IMG_26622-IMG_2654


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