What’s a girl to do when her daughter is visiting from the steaming south of Texas and they want to explore a new part of England, but it’s so cold outside that they can see the ice crystals floating in a kind of frozen mist? I’ve learned quickly that if you let the bad weather in England determine your plans, you will almost never go outside. If I don’t want to become a full time hermit and agoraphobe, I have to put on my big girl pants and go out in the cold.
I’ll also need my big girl thermals, extra socks, a layer of fleece, another layer of fleece, a scarf, a hat, gloves and a very thick jacket.
That’s exactly what we did one frozen February day. We wrapped up like overstuffed burritos and hopped the train to Durham.
The Durham Cathedral and Castle are UNESCO World Heritage sites, but before we took our tour of the buildings we first took a tour of the bailey.
The bailey is the land surrounding the castle hill, bordered by the River Wear which loops around and forms a very conveniently defensive peninsula.
Back in 1072 when the first fortress was built atop the hill by Waltheof, the Saxon Earl of Northumberland on the orders of William the Conqueror, it was a typical “motte and bailey” style castle, meaning the main fort was on a hill (or motte) and the surrounding lands within the outer wall (or bailey) were a bit more level and used for tents, stables and cook houses, among other things.
In the medieval days the entire peninsula was surrounded by a defensive wall. Parts of the wall can still be seen in the grounds of the Bailey colleges of Durham University.
The cathedral sits within the original castle grounds, and it deserves it’s own post. Today I’ll show you the riverside walk that brought us all the way around from the east side of town at the Elvet bridge, to the Framwell Gate bridge on the northwest side.
The river path is not a long one. We walked at a fairly slow pace, but still reached the stairs on the northwest side of the river within about forty five minutes. It’s a flat and easy walk, but the steep stairs leading back up to the cathedral gave us a workout! I imagine if you ran them three or four times a day, you’d be one seriously crazy but fit human being.
Walking on a frozen day in February meant that we had the path nearly to ourselves. We only passed a few dog walkers, and even the dogs were wearing boots and jackets.
The cold meant that the previous week’s snow was still there to decorate the landscape, and we even had a little cheerful snowman to greet us near the end of the path.
The carved benches, and this monument are just to the south of the Framwell Gate bridge. We were too cold to sit and enjoy the scenery from the snow covered benches, but we still enjoyed the view while we jumped up and down and tried to get the feeling back in our fingers.
We finished our walk around the bailey, admired the icicles hanging from the bridge, and huffed our way up the many steep stairs up to the cathedral.
Forty five minutes of strolling and chatting with friends around the peaceful bailey while we took photos lead to a really good morning, and numb fingers, toes and nose. It was time to get inside!
Make sure to come back to see my next post about the cathedral, including photos of the cloisters made famous in the Harry Potter movies.