And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

onsdag 16. mars 2011

Durham Diaries - Dene of the Dun Cow, part I

All Durham and Northumberland
Is measured up by my own hands
- Sailing to Philadelphia, Mark Knopfler

I couple of my friends have recently been to Durham and after seeing their pictures I very much wanted to go there myself, so Sunday I took the train northwards and spent about ten hours walking around the very charming little town. The trip itself lasted only about an hour and it was a pleasure to sit by the window seeing the scenery gradually change into a more northern landscape with slanting hills and slightly bigger forests than I had seen further south. While crossing the railbridge I could see the cathedral situtated on the top of a ridge - or dene, as the steep-sided valleys of Durham and Northumberland are called - overlooking the river valley. I was immediately struck by its architectural beauty and looked forward to explore it. The weather was cloudy and grey, rain seeming imminent, but I was too excited about the opportunities ahead to mind. The railstation is situated at the top of a slope on the opposite side of the river valley so in order to get up to the Cathedral I first had to go down to the river.

Going downhill from the railway station.

The church of Saint Nicholas.

Durham Cathedral seen from the opposite side of the valley.

Church of Saint Godric.

The railbridge.

Church of Saint Godric.

 Saint Godric (1069-1170) was a tradesman who ventured on numerous pilgrimages and later became a hermit, although he resumed his trading for a brief period in order to accumulate sufficient wealth to become a hermit again. A year later he came to Durham and was employed as sexton at St. Giles and received rudimentary education at St. Mary-le-bow. For the last sixty years of his life he lived five kilometers outside Durham in a manner emulating St. Jerome. He gave advice to several visitors, including his chronicler Reginald of Durham.

There flows the river Wear, not mean in width nor slow of stream
- The History of the English Kings, William of Malmesbury

 To which nor fish nor fowle did once approach,
But yelling Meawes, with Seagulles hoarse and bace,
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

  And Cormoyrants, with birds of rauenous race
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

The use of the Norse word "gate" rather than the word street (which also derives from Norse) is a frequent occurrence in York, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it in Durham as well.

Church of St. Nicholas

Nicholas of Myra

Having seen the Church of St. Nicholas from the other side of the valley I made that my first target after St. Godric, since I have a thing for churches and this seemed to be a rather pretty one. Upon arrival I noticed the door were open and entered, only to find myself at the end of a service. I sat down among the congregation and stayed for the last part of the sermon and the concluding hymn. Afterwards there was a luncheon and the priest encouraged the congregation to converse and have a good time. I got into a conversation with a young woman sitting next to me and her husband, passing some very pleasant minutes in their company. I have many times been struck by how easy it is to get Englishmen and -women talking and it is just one of the many charming features about England.

Unfortunately to my tastes the interior of the Church of St. Nicholas was modernised to a great extent.

Charles William Vane Stewart, some local bigwig who presumably has deserved a statue in the marketplace.

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