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Sunday, 21 March 2010

SHILDON The Cradle of the Railways

This stone stands at the very place that Locomotion 1, a steam engine designed and built by George Stephenson, was linked to the carriages carrying the first passengers to travel by steam the world. There were an awful lot of coal wagons attached to the train as well, because the owners didn't want to waste the cost of the journey! Apparently the couple of passenger wagons were packed like sardine tins and many other passengers hung to the fenders, bogeys and other railway bits.The train went from Shildon, through Heighington, Darlington, Preston Park and on to Stockton. It was commonly known as the Stockton&Darlington Railway because people from those two places had invested in it. But it started way up in the fells north of Shildon.
The Durham Walkers are stopped at the entry to the Shildon Tunnel on our 6 mile Sunday Saunter to celebrate the first day of spring. Ian, who led the walk, is a goldmine of information on the railways and coalmines of the area and a pleasure to listen to.

This plaque gives you the dates and details. It is to be found along the path close to where this early railway crosses the Roman road (Deer Street) from York to Edinburgh, via Hadrian's Wall.

In very early days, ponies hauled the wagons along a railway. Sleepers across the line would have tripped them up so sandstone blocks, shown here, held the rails and the ponies trod a safe path between them. If the gradients were too steep for ponies, great, winding engines were used to haul the wagons up the inclines. These stone sleepers are on the Shildon side of the Brusselton Incline. At the eastern end of this line is Shildon. It had been a major British railway centre since the start....but in 1984 the great engine sheds were closed. The miles of sidings were removed and over 2000 jobs were lost overnight. And a great deal of history.

These are the old engine sheds.
York is a grand city. It has millions of tourists a year and has been awarded the "National Railway Museum" and all the perks that go with it. But it was not the cradle of the railways. Shildon, as some sort of consolation prize, has been awarded the overflow. It is called Locomotion. It's a great place to visit and is free and unhurried. Enjoy it but don't have the soup at the cafe.
Happy First Day of Spring to all of you in the northern hemisphere!!!
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 19 March 2010

Bonnie Bobby Shafto

This is Bobby Shafto's front garden. It has been turned into a deer park and the fallow deer are very tame and can be approached easily, albeit quietly and carefully. They too, were enjoying a really sunny and fairly mild early spring day. We were walking with Walter and the Durham County Walkers, around Byers Green. At one stage we walked through the grounds of Whitworth Hall, which was the family home of the Shaftos for twelve generations.
It is now a hotel and serves coffees, elegantly in the conservatory for those who can't afford the full meal or room tariff.
The little church at Whitworth has the tombs of a crusading knight and his wife adjoining one end and....

.....and the Shafto family crypt in the corner of the graveyard. The snowdrops and crocuses are in flower but the daffodils are still dragging their heels this spring. They are up but still tightly budded. We are far enough north to show most blossoms up to a month after the south of England.

When we returned, Bobby-the-Builder had transformed the space beside the new bathroom into a walk-in dressing room.
We spent a happy hour hanging up all the clothes.
Cheers Gillian

Monday, 8 March 2010


I'm leafing through decor mags, analglypta(yuk) wallpaper books, paint charts, and sundry other catalogues in order to "put together" the main bedroom. Having been advised that the bedroom ceiling should be papered in order to soften the blemishes in the plaster, I chose a cream damask vinyl paper. I'm now told that the sheen on the vinyl will highlight the blemishes so I should use an embossed paper and matt-paint it. That made me re-visit other decisions. I think a small ceiling-rose would be nice and this one suits. A pale apple green has been chosen for the walls. White for the woodwork, cream for the ceiling and some fancy colour touches on the rose. The old black fireplace is to be white and cream and the nets are cream.
I am looking forward to a trip to the curtain fabric shop in Finchley, later in the month to select fabric for the roman blinds.
The cat has been amusing herself and us by playing with the toys.

She is particularly intrigued by the ducks which glide across the stage of the "Duck Shoot"and was very helpful while my sister had a go at target practice. Even so, their combined effort has yet to reach three figures. (for those who care the current record is 390, jointly reached by Mick and me).
This game satisfies my urge to hit a moving target without hurting anything.
Talking about moving targets!!! I have no photo evidence of this, but when Tig brought in a large mouse/small rat the other day and was silly enough to put it down near the gas stove, it made itself a new home underneath. She played sphinx at the front of it for much of the next day till DJ moved the cooker out from the wall. Tig raced round to the back to take advantage of the new vista but of course, the mouse went with it. Then DJ lifted the end up and she shot underneath and came out the other side with it firmly clamped in her jaw. Split second stuff. Much praise and patting and then I booted her out to finish it off in the yard. Sometimes I rescue her prey and return it to fight another day but I reckon that this time she deserved her trophy.
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 5 March 2010

Lovely Day for a Walk

We went to Addisons to drop off some stuff to go into their general auction next month. They were getting ready for the special Spring Auction.
It looks good but our bits will wait for the April auction.
We then went on to the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle where we parked and set off for a walk to Egglestone Abbey along the River Tees. The Tees breaks through a limestone pavement and the abbey ruins can be seen in the distance.
The Abbey ruins date from 1165.

The church and tomb are later than the vaulted hall below.

We walked back along the bank on the other side. It was a gorgeous day and we were alone for most of the way.

We shall return here for a proper picnic when the weather gets warmer. Why don't you join us?There is a bench beside the river on a sun-drenched grassy bank looking over this rocky beach and the Abbey beyond.
Cheers Gillian

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Fun and Games

The new art box has worked. I have produced the picture I am most pleased with this term.
I was more careful in my application of colours and dibble-dabble. This is what you do when you are not happy with your work so you keep adding little bits. Eventually you become quite "Rackamesque" and goblins and fairies peep out from behind the trees and twigs turn into trolls and streams ripple with gold coins.... well, something like that. This time I stopped and let it dry. Tigger spends the early hours of the morning on the top floor landing windowsill, chattering at the jackdaws which flutter from roof-gutter to phone wire. She helps me choose wool by playing with her favourite colour and has led me from the Noro blue, to some yellow and grey striped stuff for the next pair of socks.

I may yet catch up with my allotted task of one pair a month. I'm only half a month behind.
A small corner of the snug has been tidied up . DJ made suitable holes in the back of this shelving unit so that wires can be hidden and a stereo set and the printer can be housed. The records (vinyl LPs) and CDs will be stacked there and I can play music or listen to the radio while I fiddle on the computer.

As well as all that, there are games to be played. Duck Shoot has worn out more batteries than I can count since we started the challenge at christmas. It uses infra red rays to line up a pistol with the passing ducks and score.

The jaguar has also been for a tour or two and frightened the cat while in motion but as soon as it stops she attacks the aerial with the bead on top and has now bent the wire.
There is another game called "Big Loader" which goes on a track and shifts loads around a circuit, but the motor has some gears slipping and it can't climb the steep bit to offload. I shall post it next so that if anyone has a spare one in the loft, we might be able to buy a spare engine from you.
Tomorrow we take some stuff to Addison's Auctions. It's time they got some back and then we shall walk along the Tees from Barnard Castle to Egglestone Abbey and back.
It's all fun and games!
Cheers Gillian