Friday, 22 July 2016

Keswick Cumbria.

Your find Keswick in northwest England at the heart of the Lake District situated on the edge of the ‘queen of the lakes’ Derwent Water. The area offers some good, but very busy, walking country; in fact you can’t walk any distance without meeting other people - unlike North of the Border. The market town it self was exceptional busy because at the end of July and the beginning of August Keswick hosts a Christian Conference and I was reliably informed that this brings in an extra 15000 visitors. The town is also famous for the amount of walking equipment shops and it is said that if you can’t get a pair of walking boots/shoes in Keswick to satisfy, you can’t get them anywhere.
Our well organised base.... 
.... on the edge of ....
.... Derwent Water.

The very well organised Keswick Camping and Caravan Club Site was our base for our three nights stay. The site had got over its flooding and was back up and running but some of the shops and houses in the town were still to have their renovations finished including The Pencil Museum which was not due to be opened until the end of July which was a shame because it was one of the places I particularly wanted to visit after seeing it in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers (2012).
The Dandelion Cafe.
Nichol End Marina.
After looking around the town and lunch by the Loch we walked around the eastern edge of Derwent Water as far as Nichol End Marina via coffee at the Dandelion CafĂ©, the banks of which form a beautiful garden down to the waters.  
Theatre by the Lake.

Tours of Derwent water.

The view from Friar's Crag.

On the Sunday we attempted the western side of the Loch. Here you go past the Theatre by the Lake that must be one of the most picturesque settings for any theatre.  Each year this modern looking building stages up to nine productions of its own on its two stages. Presentations that have won it much critical acclaim. It also plays host to literature, jazz, film and mountain festivals. Moving on past the boathouse and landing stages where visitors can get trips around Derwent Water, you get some splendid views of the countryside surrounding the Loch especially from Friar’s Crag. After lunch at Strandshag Bay the circular walk was continued back to the bustle of Keswick for ice cream and a sit in the town centre to watch the world go by.

Thursday, 21 July 2016


On a visit south of the border there is one thing that I noticed more than anything else ‘Union Jack Flags’ which seem to have sprouted like weeds, perhaps its because the Little Englanders have got their country back? They were everywhere; the English appear to be obsessed with a symbol that represents there imagined superiority along with their small mindedness and bigotry.

The countryside around the Kings Lynn area where we were based is very flat and extremely boring. The fields are full of vegetables with very little in the way of beasts! But there are one or two places to visit even if your stay is quite short and the main reason you travelled down in the first place was to see old friends.

Burnham Thorpe.
The Lord Nelson.
Our first visit was a small rather snobbish English middle class village called Bircham Newton where 4 cups of coffee will set you back just over 14 quid! But strangely you could get a copy of The Morning Star in the local Post Office! From there we went to Burnham Thorpe for a three-mile walk before lunch in the local pub. It was called the Lord Nelson because of its association with the seafaring Lord. He was born in the village and his father was the rector of the local church. The pub was built in 1637 and was originally called The Plough that was until 1798 when the name was changed to honour Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile.

Heachem Sea Shore.

Following a lunch of well-filled sandwiches we went to Heachem a quiet seaside resort situated beside the Wash, which has a vast array of colourful beach huts for hire. Along with a nice walk along the front there's an amusement arcade and a cafe that sells a grand selection of ice creams.

Cliff Top Gardens Hunstanton.

Reddish Limestone Striped Cliff.

The following day a very different type of seaside resort appeared on our itinerary. Hunstanton is what I would describe as a traditional English 'kiss-me-quick' seaside location, the type you would not find anywhere else in the world. A classic 19th century holiday resort 'for all the family' with plenty to do with its fairground, aquarium and seal sanctuary, leisure pool, theatre, a number of amusement arcades and a long promenade all accompanied by the proverbial Bingo soundtrack.  In good weather boats carry tourists out to view grey seals that have colonised sand bars in the Wash. There are also some cracking award winning gardens a top of the towns reddish limestone striped cliff  and should be seen as a credit to the local authority and its Parks Department.

Ely Cathedral. 
Our final visit before heading back north was to the cathedral city of Ely, Cambridgeshire. Built on the highest land in the Fens it boasts a gothic looking Cathedral that can be seen on the skyline for miles around. Founded as an Abbey in AD 673 with construction of the Cathedral starting in 1083 and restored in the 19th century.  A busy wee town with a market, some decent shops and various coffee outlets including a rather nice one in the Cathedral grounds. Plenty of history to explore locally, if you have the time and inclination.

and a decent coffee garden. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Durham - 132nd Miners Gala.

Our visit to this historic city that forms the county town of County Durham in the North East of England was to witness something I have always wanted to see - The Durham Miners Gala. It takes place every July and celebrates the heritage of the miners who lived in surrounding villages and who worked in the coal industry until Margaret Thatcher and her Tory government decimated its production along with their community's in the 1980's. Something that resonates right up until this day where as this is first year a Gala has taken place without a single deep coal mine in existence in Britain.
An early start in Durham Town Centre.

Some of the biggest Unions take part.

The colourful parade takes place through the streets of the town over a four-hour period and consists of Miners Pit Union banners being paraded accompanied by a brass or pipe band. They all stop outside the Royal County Hotel in Old Elvet and perform in front of its balcony, which is loaded with dignitaries, before they carry on to the Racecourse to display the banners and listen to the political speeches at what is referred as 'The Big Meeting'.

Various Bands accompany the Banners.

People of all ages take part.
This year was also different because of the precarious state of British politics. The Tories are in the middle of a leadership battle with all the top Brexit people scurrying for cover but not before they have turned a great many people into bigots and racialist by scapegoating immigrants and Muslims. An ideal time you may think for the Labour Party to lead the county out of this dark period of austerity? For the first time for many years Labour has a man capable of leading this charge but because of the Labour Party’s Tony Blair loving right wing has decided to make an attempt to sack their democratically elected leader and throw the party into turmoil just at a time when it’s needed most. Today’s guests were chosen very carefully to reflect the feelings of the people and their families they were attending the event.

A small smple of the banners on the parade. 

Along with one of the Giants of the Labour movement MP Dennis Skinner was Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn both of who gave rousing speeches that made you wonder why Britain was in such a shite state. Along side these two great men were lined up some of the counties Union leaders including Frances O'Grady General Secretary TUC, Tim Roache General Secretary GMB and Mick Whelan General Secretary ASEF. Also addressing the vast ensemble of people gathered in the field were two of Cuba's Miami Five heroes Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez who were only recently granted visas and are about to start a nationwide speaking tour. We were also privileged to hear the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers of the Mexican Republic leader in exile Napoleon Gomez Urrutia speak about importance of the solidarity of the working class no matter what country they were born or worked in.
The Labour Leader.

Frances O'Grady. 

Dennis Skinner.
After the politicking newly created banners from Durham's former mining communities are lead by a brass band to Durham Cathedral where the Bishop of Durham in a ceremony that filled the historic building to its capacity blesses them.  As well as Bewicke Main, Haswell and Sherburn Collieries, the Eppleton Colliery banner was paraded in memory of nine workingmen who were tragically killed 65 years ago in an explosion.
The Eppleton Banner. 
The current Cathedral is a wonderful piece of Romanesque style built between 1093 and 1133 and well worth a visit if you’re in Durham for whatever reason. Make your way through the cloisters and ascend down to the shop and restaurant to see the magnificent 300000-piece model of the Cathedral where members of the public add a Lego brick for a pound. This is being promoted to raise money for the on going church renovations.