At the end of November, Mum and I went to Durham with our lovely friends from Red Bus Days Out. As it’s quite a long way, we’d to set off early – in fact, I was a bit surprised to learn that there are two eight o’clocks in a day – and we’d to break the journey at Ripley for a comfort stop. Now Ripley’s a very pretty village with a castle and lots of other interesting buildings to look at.
I find it a bit scary however, as whenever I’ve been there, there are always some Red Kites flying about and, although they are beautiful birds and I love seeing them in the sky, I’m a bit frightened that one of them might take off with me. Mum says I’m being silly, as they mostly eat carrion from roadkill and so on. But I know that they sometimes eat mice and voles as well – and some mice are almost as big as me and any bird could make a mistake swooping down from that height….so, whenever we go to Ripley, I hide in the bottom of Mum’s bag until we’re safely back on the bus.
From there the journey went quickly as, for once, there weren’t any roadworks to hold us up, but when we got to Durham it went a bit more slowly as it was the first day of their Christmas market and so many roads were closed to make more room for shoppers to walk around and buy things. We were directed to a coach park which at first seemed miles from anywhere, but once the guide had been on the bus and told us about a short cut, via a footbridge over the river and then up into a new shopping centre, it didn’t take long at all – though Mum’s knees protested a bit about having to climb up the 55 steps from the side of the river to the level of the market place.
In spite of this, she was still able to walk up the hill to the cathedral which was the main reason for her going on this trip as, although she’d been there three or four times before, she’d never had time to have a really good look around. (Though she did tell me that twice in the past, when she was a lot younger and fitter, she’d climbed to the top of the central tower, but I wasn’t sure if I believed her or not – and she did look relieved to find that it was closed for repair work at the moment and so she didn’t have to prove that she could still do it.)
As well as the beautiful building itself, Mum wanted to see if a big project – to which she’d made a small contribution in 2014 – had been completed as yet and, to her delight, it had been. This was the model of the cathedral, made out of Lego bricks and measuring 3.84 metres long, by 1.53 metres wide and 1.7 metres high. Started on July 11th 2013 and completed on July 25th 2016, the model was made up of 300,000 bricks, which had been sponsored by members of the public at £1 per brick, thus raising £300,000 towards the setting up of the Open Treasure exhibition in the cathedral. (Mum’s contribution was ten bricks in the bottom of one of the huge pillars which hold up the central tower.)
The model was situated between the gift shop and the cafe, which itself was situated in what had been the monks’ wine cellar in the days when Durham cathedral had been a monastery. The size of the room made both Mum and me think they must have been rather fond of wine if they needed such a big cellar to keep it in…
To reach the model from the cathedral itself we had to walk right around the cloisters. Usually this would be a lovely quiet place where you could stop and gather your thoughts, but that day it was part of the Christmas market and had stalls on all four sides selling fabulous-looking food and drink, including bread, cheese, pies, pickles, cupcakes, home-made sweets, plus beer and cider and wine.
I had my eye on some Sage Derby cheese, but Mum wouldn’t buy me any and instead insisted that I went with her to the Open Treasure exhibition which she’d help to fund with her ten Lego bricks. I didn’t think there’d be much there to interest a little bear, but I was wrong and so I’ll tell you more about it – and about Durham itself – in a later post. 19. A DAY OUT IN DURHAM – PART II
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