This weekend, we took a four day trip up the A1 towards Northumberland
, where I grew up. We stopped first in Shotley
Bridge, where our friend Margaret Hodgson
lives. Regular readers will remember that Margaret is our amazing family friend who recently drove down to see us on her way to sing at the Albert Hall. Oh, and she turned 90 this year.
We had a good time visiting her, she cooked a lovely dinner, the kids were on best behaviour and we'd been booked into a nice pub for B+B. The next day, we left fairly early and made our way across country to Morpeth
, where I went to school for most of my education. The old town has changed in many ways, and is still the same in many more. The high street is usually a defining feature of any market town, and Morpeth
had joined the 21st century courtesy of a Costa Coffee and M+S Simply Food store, but was also pleasantly
rooted in the past with many small family stores still there and apparently successful.
We walked along the river, fed the last of our biscuits to the ducks and negotiated the 'steppies
', a set of stepping stones that I'd crossed many times on my way out of school.
Further up the road, in Longhorsley
, we had lunch at the Shoulder of Mutton. Our family home is a couple of miles from here, this was always the village local and has been through a number of iterations on the way to becoming a very nice pub / restaurant
and we enjoyed our meal here. We drove down the road and dropped in on our old neighbours, Pattie and Clive, who run Kington B+B
as well as leading generally busy lives. It was very good to see them again and we chatted for a long time around the kitchen table.
We then went next door, to the house I grew up in, where the current owner was very friendly and even invited us to come through the house and show the kids where Daddy grew up. It was both good and strange to see the old house again, so little had changed but it certainly wasn't home any more. Reality is often smaller than one's memories, in many ways.
That evening, we stayed at Thistleyhaugh Farm
, run by the Nelless
family. I went to school with two of the boys, Duncan and Angus, who now run the farm and have just completed the conversion to organic farming, producing their own feedstocks
and organic beef and lamb. They seem, as ever, truly contented and the farm kitchen table is still a wonderful place to sit, chat and catch up. We can also highly recommend their accommodation, if you are ever in the area, but do take good note of the map. My memory still lets me drive those back roads on autopilot but as Gesa
noted, you'd have trouble finding the place in the dark
morning we said our goodbyes and headed South to York, where we wanted to take Max and Issie to the National Rail Museum
. Eventually we left the car at a Park and Ride, caught a bus and made our way to York Station, where we paused for a sandwich.
Max, who had been somewhat touchy all weekend, got tremendously upset when he realised that we weren't going to get on a train, and had trouble with the concept that just 200 yards further on were more steam trains than he's likely to see in one place ever again. We got there eventually, and the railway museum was a success.
That evening, we went to stay with my aunt and uncle, Gillie and Gary. My cousins Paul and Simon had travelled up from London too, and we had a wonderful dinner together before settling down for a quiet evening. Sadly, Max had other ideas and created merry hell when asked to go to bed, finally succumbing
to extreme tiredness sometime after almost everybody else, and still waking up at 6:30am demanding to play. How does that happen?
Gillie and Gary live in Hessle
, near Hull, and their area is tremendously beautiful with a big country park around the approaches to the stunning Humber Bridge
, and a lovely area of the River Humber
foreshore just yards from their front door. It's been many years since we visited, and it was really good to see them all together at home before we set off. As with so many friends and family, it's hard to know when we will next see each other, and every week brings another set of gatherings, farewells and adieus. We'll be back in England, of course, and I remind all our readers that there is an open invitation to visit us wherever we are, but we know we'll miss everybody very much.
So our tour of North Eastern England was an enjoyable trip, despite the tricky behaviour of our children, and it was good to revisit some important places of my childhood and youth yet, once again and as ever, it is the people there that mean so much to me, and us, and it is through them that our views and memories of these places are formed and adapted over the years. Thanks to you all. Bye for now.
Labels: Cambridge and holidays