19. Jun, 2021


SATURDAY 19-06-21

Well that was two precious hours of my life that were wasted and I will never get back again. England were so bad they made Scotland look good, in fact they looked the better side. The Scottish goalkeeper David 'Butterfingers' Marshall could have spent most of the match laid on a sun-lounger beside his goal sipping cocktails.

That does at least give Boris the Clown the opportunity to gain the moral high ground by refusing to allow 2,500 UEFA football VIP's to fly in to watch the Tournament final at Wembley without them having to face the same restrictions as other travellers. That decision will result in the officials moving the final to another country with slacker covid screening regimes, which won't matter at all because based on last night there won't be any UK teams playing in it anyway.

We were up and showered in good time this morning as we were heading in to Alnwick (pronounced Ann-ick) to visit the castle. Showering was not straightforward as we were parked with a pronounced lean to one side which resulted in the water pooling on the opposite side to the two drain holes. To remedy this I was swishing my foot from side to side at the same time as showering to sweep the water uphill and down the plugholes. I felt like a closet Wayne Sleep.

It was a thirty minute walk downhill in to town where we came upon the local Morrisons supermarket. It isn't very big, but big enough to sell a daily newspaper which gave us the weekly TV guide. It's the only reason we buy it. In to my backpack it went, and having asked directions we soon arrived at the entrance to the castle a full twenty-five minutes before our requested time slot of 10:30. There was a bench seat close by and we watched as excited young kids and their parents with earlier time slots went in ahead of us.

So a bit about Alnwick then:

The town dates to about AD 600, and thrived as an agricultural centre. Alnwick was the home of the most powerful medieval northern baronial family, the Earls of Northumberland. It was a staging post on the Great North Road between Edinburgh and London, and latterly has become a dormitory town for nearby Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The town centre has changed relatively little, but the town has seen some growth, with several housing estates covering what had been pasture, and new factory and trading estate developments along the roads to the south.

The name Alnwick comes from the Old English wic ('dairy farm, settlement') and the name of the River Aln.

The history of Alnwick is the history of the castle and its lords, starting with Gilbert Tyson, one of William the Conqueror’s standard bearers, upon whom this northern estate was bestowed. It was held by the De Vesci family for over 200 years, and then passed into the hands of the house of Percy in 1309.

At various points in the town are memorials of the constant wars between Percys and Scots, in which so many Percys spent the greater part of their lives. A cross near Broomhouse Hill across the river from the castle marks the spot where Malcolm III of Scotland was killed during the first Battle of Alnwick. At the side of the broad shady road called Ratten Row, leading from the West Lodge to Bailiffgate, a stone tablet marks the spot where William the Lion of Scotland was captured during the second Battle of Alnwick (1174) by a party of about 400 mounted knights, led by Ranulf de Glanvill.

In the winter of 1424, much of the town was burnt by a Scottish raiding party. Again in 1448 the town was burnt by a Scottish army, the infamous 'Seeyoujimmies' (I made that up!).

Sir Thomas Malory mentions Alnwick as a possible location for Lancelot's castle Joyous Garde.

A Royal Air Force distribution depot was constructed at Alnwick during the Second World War with four main fuel storage tanks (total capacity 1700 tons), and road and rail loading facilities. The tanks were above ground and surrounded with concrete. The site was closed in the 1970s and its demolition and disposal was completed in 1980.

At our allocated time we approached the entrance with myself armed with my Smartphone, enjoying one of its very few outings. Upon inspection of the email I was sent confirming the booking and its bar code scanned we were allowed in.

In all honesty, unless you're a kid there wasn't much to it as much of the castle was out of bounds. By far the most impressive part we looked around were the State Rooms, though I was miffed that they didn't allow photography in there. I do understand why they don't want flashguns going off which could damage the paintings etc, but surely they could ask everybody to check they have turned their flash off, and to test it. It is very annoying, I've given them our money, now I want something in return. Maybe there are some internal pictures on the internet, if so I'll add them to the blog, They can't have it both ways.

They did have some masters on the walls in there including some painted by Turner and Canelleto. Which reminded me of  a chap I knew who bought an original painting at a car boot sale in Brighton some years ago. He was convinced he’d found a long lost masterpiece by the painter and sculptor, Michelangelo and had excitedly bought it for a few pounds. However when he got it home and took a closer look he found it was a joint effort painted by ‘Michael and Joe’. His research found they were a couple of gay airline cabin crew who pooled their talents. One was good at painting the top half while the other enjoyed bottoms.

I digress...........

It was good to see a group of kids and adults receiving broomstick flying lessons, no doubt the highlight of many a kids day.

Whereas back down the road at Bamburgh Castle had been altered from a castle to look like a Nazi-style Colditz fortress, Alnwick Castle looked like a Nazi-style Colditz fortress that was in the process of being changed in to a castle.

It only took us an hour and a half to do everything, so then we decided to see if we could get tickets to see around the gardens. It wasn't until we had booked online that we realised the gardens were run  as a separate business and our entrance tickets didn't give us access to them. We found the ticket office and The Chef went in. During the buying process she was asked if she wanted to do Gift Aid and she said no, so the price quoted was twenty-eight pounds for two tickets. She was not prepared to pay that and left empty-handed. It would be interesting to know if the ticket price gets hiked up if you refuse to let them claim back the tax you paid on the entrance fee.

So we wandered down in to town for a mooch round. There wasn't much there at all really, but the sun did come out for a while making me feel silly carrying around our macs and a folding umbrella in my backpack. One day they'll get a weather forecast right up here. After a cheap lunch of Morrisons sausage rolls and Greggs latte coffee we made our way 'home' - uphill all the way.

We made the most of the sunshine and sat outside with our coats on as although the sun was out, so was the breeze.

This evenings fine dining experience from my darling Chef is a pork pie salad, which no doubt I will wash down with a glass or two of red glug.

Later this evening I shall turn the vehicle around so that we're sloping in a better direction, plus they're talking about heavy rain from about 05:00 tomorrow morning, and our hard standing of paving slabs is quite a way from the roadway and to get to it I'll have to drive on very wet grass, and having had experience of that in the past, I think facing forward to get off in the morning will be advantageous.

Tomorrow we head towards Amble for a couple of nights at a 'Britstop' there. This will mean that we will need to spend four nights independent of any exterior resources, so we need to deploy the folding solar panel on the dashboard for topping up the batteries as well as carry a full tank of fresh water and an empty toilet cassette. I had a nice long chat with the landlord at the pub three months ago when I was booking our overnight stops, and he seems a nice chap and so I may throw myself upon his mercy and ask to empty our toilet cassette while we're there. For us that is the greatest limiter to our 'wild camping'.