August 12, 2013

Last Days in Yorkshire and Northumbria

“Oats.  A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”  Samuel Johnson

Carol writes: 
THIRSK:  Caravan Club campgrounds can sometimes have very unusual locations, such as the one we stayed at in Thirsk in a grassy field just outside the fence of a racetrack.  Thoroughbred horse races were being run the next day, so we were asked to camp for one night in a lovely green field next to the racetrack fences so that the race attendees could use the Caravan Club campground as a parking lot.  Since we had no access to any of the campground services in this lovely field, the nightly fee was reduced and was a bargain at just 5£ (5 pounds is around $7.50).

The North York Moors National Park was just outside of Thirsk, and we were eager to experience our first views of the famous English moors.  Small patches of heather were just starting to bloom with lovely little purple flowers.  We took a short hike out onto the moors and found a cozy picnic spot where we enjoyed the solitude.

We spent the weekend in a peaceful little campground surrounded by open-range sheep pastures,

just a few miles from the beach at Robin Hood’s Bay. 

We got caught up on laundry chores with a couple of loads in the Wonder Wash.  We served as a source of entertainment for our neighbor, who got a kick out of our laundry methods and chatted away with us while he put up his TV antenna.  We had some lighthearted kidding back and forth and joked with him that we had two loads of laundry done before he even had TV reception.

DURHAM:  The next day we headed toward Durham to see the famous Durham Cathedral, one of Britain’s best examples of Norman architecture. 

Durham Cathedral, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built as the final resting place of England’s beloved St. Cuthbert from Lindisfarne, a 7th century inspirational leader of Christianity in northern England.  The other gravesite of major historical importance inside the cathedral was the tomb of Venerable Bede, an 8th century Christian scholar who wrote the first history of England.  No picture-taking was allowed inside the cathedral. 

Since the timing was right, we decided to attend an evensong service at 5:15 in the cathedral.  As we waited for evensong to start, we had a sunny seat outside the church next to Durham’s ancient gravestones and a stately Celtic cross.

Music plays a big part of Anglican services.  We were told that the visiting choir that evening was from Glendale, Ohio, very near where I spent my childhood, so that was even more incentive to attend evensong, our first-ever Anglican service.  We enjoyed hearing the Glendale choir accompanied by the massive cathedral organ, and the entire service was a very moving experience in our seats in the intimate choir section of the cathedral.  I was surprised at the Anglican liturgical similarities to the Catholic faith that I am so familiar with.  Many of the prayer responses by the congregation were identical to those used in Catholic Mass.

LINDISFARNE (HOLY ISLAND):  In order to fully appreciate the life and times of St. Cuthbert, we decided to make a visit to his home on Holy Island, formerly known as Lindisfarne.  Lindisfarne has a special allure because twice a day at high tide the asphalt causeway is covered with sea water and Holy Island literally becomes an island.  We checked local tide tables and found out the next safe crossing time would be early afternoon, then we set off to see Lindisfarne Castle and the ruins of the old priory where the magnificent illuminated manuscript of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (known as the Lindisfarne Gospels) were written around 700 AD.  We hope to see the actual manuscript when we visit the British Museum toward the end of our stay in the UK.

The most dramatic feature on Holy Island was the National Trust site of Lindisfarne Castle, which has had a long and varied history dating back to the 16th century, long after the time of St. Cuthbert and the priory monks.  Set into the bedrock of a prominent solitary hill, the most impressive feature of the castle is its location, with views of the North Sea from two sides. 

The rooms were furnished in early 1900s style from the era of its last inhabitant, a wealthy Edwardian bachelor from London who sought a quiet country retreat.

One of the most interesting parts of the tour was the lovely walled garden, all by itself in the midst of a stark and barren landscape, with only the local sheep for company.

The nearby priory ruins were once the home and original burial ground of St. Cuthbert.  The haunting skeletal remnant of previous glory was reminiscent of others we have seen, a victim of the dissolution of the monasteries, courtesy of King Henry VIII.

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  William Shakespeare


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