10. Jun, 2021


THURSDAY 10-06-21

Today I took a big step forward in our growing confidence in rehabilitating ourselves following lockdown. I used the shower facilities at the campsite. Caravan & Motorhome Club toilet and shower blocks are always of a high standard and so I was confident everything would be fine. As it was windy I thought it best not to go in just my dressing gown carrying a towel and toilet bag as I would do normally. There's only so much dog-walkers can handle.

We have to wear face masks as we enter the building and then remove them once in the shower cubicle, though I suppose those who go in to the washing area for a wet shave would be wide to remove theirs as well.

It was just fine and a real treat to have lots of water, as hot as you want it. Then it was dressed, mask on and leave the building. It wasn't until I got outside that I noticed that I should have taken an orange rubber wrist band out of a container of, presumably sanitising solution, and hung it on a peg, so that others would know how many campers were inside, then on leaving the building I should have taken the band off the hook and put it back in the solution. It's just as well the Kamp guards didn't see what I had done, otherwise I may have been taken round the back for a good beating.

It was another day of sunshine and cloud accompanied by a keen breeze which made it impossible to know what to wear. That said, we managed to tunnel our way under the campsite fence and be waiting for the 09:43 bus in to town. It's not far, but I didn't fancy walking it along a narrow busy road with no footpath. Our bus passes were accepted and after a short journey we found ourselves in the middle of Barnard Castle.

So a bit about Barnard Castle:

The earthwork fortifications of the castle were rebuilt in stone by Bernard de Balliol I during the latter half of the 12th century, giving rise to the town's name. The castle passed down through the Balliol family (of which the Scottish king, John Balliol, was the most important member) and then into the possession of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. King Richard III inherited it through his wife, Anne Neville, but it fell into ruins in the century after his death.

The remains of the castle are Grade I listed, whilst the chapel in the outer ward is Grade II listed. Both sets of remains are now in the care of English Heritage and open to the public.

Although never a major manufacturing centre, in the 18th century industry centred on hand loom wool weaving, and in the early 19th century the principal industry was spinning and the manufacture of shoe thread

Walter Scott frequently visited his friend John Sawrey Morritt at Rokeby Hall and was fond of exploring Teesdale. He begins his epic poem Rokeby (1813) with a man standing on guard on the round tower of the Barnard Castle fortress.

Charles Dickens and his illustrator Hablot Browne (Phiz) stayed at the King's Head in Barnard Castle while researching his novel Nicholas Nickleby in the winter of 1837–38. He is said to have entered William Humphrey's clock-maker's shop, then opposite the hotel, and enquired who had made a certain remarkable clock. William replied that his boy Humphrey had done it. This seems to have prompted Dickens to choose the title "Master Humphrey's Clock" for his new weekly, in which The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge appeared.

William Wordsworth, Daniel Defoe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Hilaire Belloc, Bill Bryson and the artist J.M.W. Turner have also visited the town.

In May 2020, Barnard Castle came to national attention when the chief advisor of the British Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings, was discovered to have driven to the town with his family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following media allegations that he had broken lockdown regulations by driving to the town, he told how he drove there to test his eyesight to reassure his wife that he was able to drive them back to London the next day.

Barnard Castle town can be summed up in one word - disappointing. There really wasn't much to it at all, just a busy main road running through it with castle ruins on its edge.

We took a slow walk up one side of the road and then down the other, with the boredom being relieved by a look around Morrison's supermarket.

It was difficult trying to get a photograph without either parked cars, traffic or street signs in the picture. I just don't know why people come here. It didn't take long for us to contemplate which bus we should be getting back to the campsite. The Chef suggested the 12:55 and I agreed.

To pass the time we ambled to the castle ruins, for that is all they are. Yet people are prepared to pay good money to look round them.

The cheapest ticket for adults was £6.20 concession, which does not include the seventy pence donation, making a total of £6.90. But it doesn't end there because then there's Gift Aid - I quote from their website:

The Gift Aid admission price includes a voluntary donation of 10%. Provided you have paid enough UK Income or Capital Gains Tax * (to cover all of your Gift Aid donations in this tax year), English Heritage is able to reclaim tax on the whole amount you have paid - that's 25p on every £1. This extra money enables us to undertake vital conservation and education projects and ensure that many of England's most important historic sites can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

That means that English Heritage then claim back the income tax you would have paid on that £6.90, so that's £1.72, making a total of £8.62 they get to pocket and that £1.72 won't now be available to be spent on the NHS, education, benefits, care of the elderly etc. That's why I'm against it.

Having worked up an appetite we were ready to make our way back up the hill to the chippies where we were to buy our take-away lunch - cod and chips twice. On the way there we passed the 'Y EYE MAN' opticians apparently owned by a Geordie, where I believe they specialise in eye tests for Government Chief Advisors.

With lunch in our hands we made our way back down to seating near the bus stops to sit and enjoy them, after which The Chef popped down the road and bought a couple of coffees from Greggs.

The 12:55 bus was a welcomed sight and to help fill the day we were even contemplating just staying on the bus to the end of the line and have a look around, but knowing our luck there wouldn't have been a bus running to bring us back.

Sat here we can't help but notice the large number of Club members who are dog owners, but not just one dog, many have two, more seem to have three and one couple have FIVE. Two long-haired Alsatians, one boxer, one black and white thing that looks like a French bulldog and another larger dog which gets carried around in a bag. In my opinion nobody has a caravan or motorhome anywhere near large enough to comfortably accommodate them all. It's fine if the owners want to live like that, but I think it's selfish to subject the dogs to such a confined overcrowded living area.

As for the news, well it's all still depressing. I see that Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber is saying he will be opening his theatres up on 21st June without social distancing regardless of what the government says, and he is prepared to be arrested for doing so. Well all I can say darlink, is nobody during this pandemic has died from NOT seeing Romeo & Juliet prancing about on a stage, or miserable French peasants standing on a barricade. The Arts I'm afraid is a bit like a sixty-inch LCD flat-screen TV with a Dolby surround sound system -  nice to have perhaps, but certainly not essential. So if you get prosecuted darlink I hope you get 28 days prison sharing a cell with the infamous 'Straight Bum Lover', Leroy Carr-Parker. That should get your head sorted.

Tomorrow we leave here for some pub grub for the next two nights before moving north. I shall close this chapter now and entitle the next one 'To Beal'