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Monday, 26 January 2009


I bit the bullet, after watching the Barack Obama Inauguration on my aunt's giant flat screen TV, and swapped this.........For this......That also required the installation of a new aerial attached to the chimney of my Grade II listed Georgian cottage. The rest of the street already have aerials strapped to their chimneys so I'm sure it will go unnoticed. I celebrated by going into town to replenish my purse. The cost of the aerial and installation had emptied it. I happened to saunter past Clark's shoe shop which was having a sale. Last summer I yearned for these shoes but talked myself out of buying them with the rationalisation that 45 GBP was a lot to pay for a pair of purple patent pumps. There's not much in my wardrobe that they will go with. In fact there is only one frock and it still has its price tag on it. But today they were 13.21 GBP and they fitted, so home they came. They and the frock will get an outing in a couple of months time when I holiday in warmer climes.They will not be worn for treading paths such as this one. An ancient right of way in Teesdale where feet and hooves have worn down the path. Many hundreds of years ago it would have been level with the base of the wall. The fields on both sides are high enough for sheep to peer over the walls. Some small signs of spring have been seen. Yesterday there was new growth on the rhododendrons we passed on the Great Aycliffe Way and velvety buds on small willows growing in sheltered spots. The sun shone and it rained a bit, but better than last weekend when we got caught in a snow storm on top of the fell near Eggleston, just a few minutes after wandering down this path in the sun. The old Norwegian adage about "no such thing as bad weather...only bad clothes" was so true. We just put up our hoods and blessed our waterproofs.

Cheers Gillian

Monday, 19 January 2009


The windswept and wave battered coast of County Durham is not used for beach holidays by the British even though it has outstanding sandy beaches and stunning cliff scenery. A visit to Marsden Bay on a Saturday of blue skies and sunshine in the middle of January was not overcrowded!

This is a view looking south along the cliffline towards Sunderland. Marsden Bay has a sandy beach covered with pebbles, rocks, seaweed and the occasional flotsam and jetsam of the present day. The cliffs are riddled with caves said to be the haunts of smugglers in times past. The Permian Magnesian Limestone forms the cliffs and stacks and the bays are cut into the softer Dolomite. The elements combine to alter the face of this area and rapid changes follow stormy weather.

The immense changes that have occurred during my own memory are displayed in some of the before and after pics on this site. I remember visiting the beach as a child with my family and finding the area as crowded as the 1930s photo shows it to be and the "rock" a lot closer to the cliff than it is now. NO! dear reader, the rock has not moved but it has shrunk all around because of the wave bashing it has received and appears to have moved out to sea. Sadly I don't remember the massed choir performance from the top shown in one of the old pics.

It can still be approached at low tide. It is possible to climb and circumnavigate it and its rock pools are havens for the curious of all ages, but people no longer picnic on the top as they did decades ago in the company of the kittiwakes, gulls and guillemots. Rough steps can still be seen, hewn into the rock on the far side but they defy easy access.

In fact most people now eat here at the Marsden Grotto Pub and Restaurant. I have had excellent seafood and fish there in recent weeks and it remains one of my favourite haunts.
From the beach it is an amazingly dreadful eyesore. The worst stye in the world. The lift which carries you from the carpark to the bar was built in the 1930s, obviously not an era of outstanding design in the service industry. But the pub has a grand history of hospitality, smugglers, characters and ghosts. The christmas tree traditionally re-sites itself to its chosen spot if attempts are made to relocate it and the ghost of a smuggler shot dead by the excise men has a tankard of beer left on the bar every night. Sometimes he drinks it, sometimes he doesn't but disaster follows if the tankard gets broken. Marsden Arch collapsed after the tankard was broken in 1996...
Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


Sue noticed that I was still using the knitting bag she made for me a couple of years ago. You bet! It's a perfect size for toting around socks in progress or, as it is at the moment, hats in progress.

I have fallen in love with the DROPS pattern, no.110-34. It is so easy and adaptable. I did the red one in sock wool (Lana Grossa) on 4mm needles. I did it longer than the pattern (cast on 80 stitches) and adjusted the short rows to 66 and 52 stitches. I cast off when it wrapped round my head. I threaded some eyelash yarn through the holes left by the turn round at the short rows and I wear it turned up.

The beige one is knitted from some stuff I got from Sue's stash! at about the same time as the knitting bag. It is a 14ply acrylic from Target called Mosaic and I don't even know if Target still sell yarn. My sister is wearing that one turned up too.

The one on the needles at present is Rowan Tapestry, which always looks so lovely when it's stacked on the shelves in a wool shop that I had to buy a couple of balls even though I had no idea what I would knit with it. Well.....this hat seems to fit the bill/ball. In fact one ball seems to be sufficient so I'm still looking for a project for the second ball.
I'm knitting this one on 4.5mm needles cos the hats seem to suit a looser tension. This one is even longer than the other two and so will have a larger turn-up and be really cosy round the ears for a long ramble.

There's a lovely new wool shop opened in Barnard Castle, opposite the Butter Mart or Market Cross, so I made a visit today and spent a happy half hour selecting some yarns for a cardigan. It is a Berroco free pattern and uses a combination of yarns. As these are not available in the UK, I will have to do a lot of playing around with yarns and needle sizes. I bought a ball of Sirdar Juniper to start with. It is soooo pretty that I want to start knitting it RIGHT NOW. It seems that the Rowan Tapestry hat will become a WIP for a while.
I have reasoned around it by telling myself that I don't need a third hat straight away!!!

Cheers for now Gillian

Sunday, 4 January 2009


I live quite close to Cockfield Fell which is the largest scheduled ancient monument in England. This is because it has a history dating from pre-Roman times and has remained unenclosed ( not owned by anybody) in all that time. These days locals can request the right to graze animals from the Fell Reeves for an agreed annual rent and so horses, sheep, cattle and poultry range freely across the pastures. The village is located to the south of the fell and we started our walk there.

These gaudily coloured buildings are old pigeon crees (lofts). Once a common hobby of coal miners, the crees were built from any available materials and I think the gaily painted fence-tops at the front were to deter the birds from roosting there and to encourage them to re-enter their boxes. Sadly these are no longer in use. Many of the miners are no longer alive or able to care for their birds. Pigeon fancying and racing are still more prevalent in the north of England though, and I have seen the owners gathering in country lanes nearby to release the racers.

The fell has been occupied, farmed and mined for over two thousands years. The evidence of mining ranges from mediaeval bell pits to the shafts and drifts (adits) of the last century.

This pockmarked country shows the remains of the old mine workings. These indicate the locations of the old bell pits. The hole in the ground was the shaft and the miners dug down and around themselves to extract minerals such as coal and iron ore. When the hole got dangerous and the roof started falling, they got out and started a new one next to it. That left a bell shaped hole where they had been. The old holes were often filled with the spoil from the next hole.

Quarrying has scarred the fell along the line of the Cleveland Dyke in order to extract Whin stone for use in road building. This stone left the fell by railway. The picture below shows the remains of the Gordon House Colliery tramway which descended to the Haggerleases branch of the Stockton to Darlington Railway. The branchline ran along the valley of the Gaunless river, a tributary of the Wear.

Along the valley bottom are the remains of many "Bee Hive coke ovens". These were used to produce coke from the highly volatile coals of the local mines. The coke was used in iron smelting and highly sought after. The heat created in these closed ovens was sufficient to cause the firebrick lining to glaze with use.

We wandered back up the fell from the valley, past the horses and ponies, the Swaledale black-faced sheep, the chickens and the lads and dogs out rabbiting. The weather was fine and still and the views were distant as we sat on the heathland grass tussocks and had our picnic.

Today I woke to a few inches of snow. More has fallen since but the sunshine is encouraging me to go out even though it is too weak to melt the snow.

Tomorrow another ramble is planned and I am hoping that the snow will last so that I can make footprints.

Cheers for now

Saturday, 3 January 2009


Within the new "walled garden" there is a small cottage. It is a Georgian, three-storeyed terrace in a little run of dwellings on the village green. It is only one room wide and the front door opens straight onto the sitting room without any vestige of a porch or hallway.
I have managed to squeeze myself and some of my furniture into the small spaces it provides and have sent the rest off to auction. It has taken a couple of shuffles to get it comfy and uncluttered and now I proudly show it off. The upper picture shows the entry and half the sitting room.

The back door leads to the new, but much smaller, walled garden via a stable door and a future blog will display the garden in better light. The kitchen is small but very well set up and easy to use.

The end of the living room can be used as a small dining area. I went to IKEA today to get this small table to fit the available space but it took three attempts to escape from the car parking area that surrounds the MetroCentre gigantic retail park. Each time I go I think I have got it sorted and will remember the secrets of the exit route. I have never got out without a hassle. Maybe next time!!!

The small cottage I'm living in now is the previous home of the notorious serial killer Mary Ann Cotton. She was arrested from this house in the late nineteenth century.

More about this next time!!!!!

Cheers Gillian