Thursday, October 28, 2010

A daytrip to Durham ... but not by bicycle

Wednesday, 27th October: The last few days have been non-cycling days, in fact on Wednesday I didn't even manage to cycle down to the newsagent to buy a paper. Sometimes other things just have to take priority. At the moment my daughter is considering her options for further education, so she is checking out various Universities. She has a short-list based upon a number of factors, including the quality of the course and the sort of place she wants to live in. Some of the places she has visited on her own and some we have been with her. Durham is on the list and as this week is half-term she booked a tour of Durham University and so we had a day-trip to Durham and back to check it out.

We drove up as there were three of us although the train from Cambridge to Durham is actually pretty convenient. It takes around 3.5 to 4 hours with your choice of 1 to 3 changes en-route. The cost of the tickets is not quite so compelling, an off-peak return is not far off £290 for three people. We drove as it gave us more flexibility to look around once we were there. The road distance was around 440miles, return and the cost of diesel was around £90, which is not the fully amortised cost of running a car, but unfortunately once you have bought it you might as well use it. It was virtually Motorway or Dual carriageway all the way and there was only one patch of roadworks (where they were upgrading from dual-carriageway to Motorway) and one area of congestion, Cambridge to Huntingon.

As I mentioned the worst bit was on the A14 up to Huntingdon after that we joined the A1, the longest numbered road in the UK at 410miles. I have not actually driven up the road for quite a long time, (measured in years) and it as a lot better than I remembered it and indeed, than my Satnav "remembered" it. In fact the SatNav suggested taking the M1 which according to Google Maps would have added another 60miles to the round trip and taken longer (and hour on the round trip). I did of course ignore my Satnav and took the A1. It turned out that the map in my Satnav was under the impression that there were a few roundabouts on the way that weren't there anymore. (Once it reconciled itself to my chose route.)

We easily found where she needed to be and parked along a side road and went for a look around. Durham is quite a small place, with a population of 40,000 and is home to 15,000 students. (Although I am not clear where the 40,000 includes the student population or not.)

When I am on my own I tend to ramble around (in a cycling sort of way) and take pictures of things that catch my eye. I will move around to try to improve the picture and get rid of distractions. When I am with my wife and daughter I am outnumbered and so have to take my "pictures on the run". Which means I often get back thinking if only I'd moved a bit or taken the picture from a different vantage point.

As we walked along Church Street we passed a church, which was interesting because of the colour or the leaves of the trees. The day we drove up the skies were blue and it was sunny. What was most noticeable was as we got further north autumn was more advanced. This blaze of browny-orange caught my eye, set against the green around the trees. It is in the Graveyard of St Oswald's Parish Church. The link is not very interesting as the Website is currently being revised.


The same tree but taken after I had walked up the road a bit and then had to nip back into the Graveyard. If I had more time I would have wandered around even more. What I really mean is if I'd been on my own. As it was I had to run after my family, although the hill had slowed them down a bit.


In order to get up the hill to the Castle and Cathedral we had to cross the River Wear, which we did on the first bridge we came to - the Kingsgate Bridge, a fairly modern footbridge. When I use the term modern it is of course relative, the bridge was designed in 1963 and opened in 1966. Apparently during RAG Week in the '60s some students suspended a car beneath it. The bridge in the picture is also used as a footbridge although there was a dumper truck on it when we went past later in the day. It is the Elvet Bridge and was constructed in 1169. The river flows through 4 arches, but there are others, with 10 arches identified and perhaps another 4 hidden beneath the street..


Whilst taking the picture I noticed a couple out in a rowing boat below.


The view of the River, looking the other way from the bridge, the colour of the trees is still predominantly green although yellow patches are appearing.


At the time I took this picture of the Cathedral I really would have liked to see if I could get a better viewpoint. But, on seeing it on a larger screen it has come out better than I had expected. What I wanted to do was climb The Tower. There are three towers, actually, a central tower and two western towers. The central one is 218ft/66 m in height and the other two are 144ft/ 44m tall. The building looks remarkably crisp and modern, but dates from 1093-1133.


The last time I visited Durham, umpty years ago, was when I was being considered by Universities and went up for an interview - that was how it was done in those days. I think I stayed in the Castle and certainly travelled by train, they made me an offer, but I could and did refuse it, I went for somewhere more modern. The University has changed a great deal from those days and a significant building program is (and has been) taking place though. Durham Railway Station is quite small, but is a principal stop on the East Coast Main Line. The railway station and Viaduct date from 1857 and were not originally on the main line. The viaduct lies to the south of the station, so I must have travelled over it.


We went for a walk around the Market Place. It was a bit chaotic as cobbles in the street leading to the Market place were being renovated and chunks of the already narrow road were fenced off. I did have time to take a picture of this statue in the Market Place, it turned out to be the Marquess of Londonderry.


This was a quick picture on the move - just to remind myself what the Sustrans Route was that passes through Durham. It is the NCN 14, also part of the Three Rivers Cycle Route - 264Km/164 miles in length and covers a network of traffic-free railway paths. Now that sounds like some good cycling.


On the way back I took a picture of the Elvet bridge from the other side. You can see work is taking place on the bridge. I assume it is now only for pedestrians? There were so many people walking up and down the bridge I couldn't take multiple exposures, or rather I could but it would not have looked very good, with ghost people.


At the same time I took another picture of the Kingsgate Bridge off in the distance. Imagine slinging a car under there - the bridge does not look strong enough.


There was time for one last picture on the way back to the University,or at least the bit where my daughter needed to be for her tour. It is the Central Tower of the cathedral.


She really enjoyedher tour and the enthusiasm (and knowledge) of the people who gave it. Apparently Durham has Europe's worst Nightclub.

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