Thursday, 2 June 2011

North East Attractions (as well as Hadrian's Wall)

Just Good Friends
We had no grumbles about the weather when we stayed at Fallowfield Dene in Acomb this time.  Every day was warm and sunny.  Perfect for exploring the area - and there is plenty to see and do.  Apart from the fantastic scenery and of course Roman forts along Hadrian's wall (Chesters has the most amazing and large collection of Roman artifacts) there are many simple pleasures to be found as you travel around.  What could be nicer than a pleasant drive on quiet and good roads, then a walk alongside green fields, followed by a homemade ice cream and a stroke of the cows that gave the milk for your iced confection?

Sis and I did just that when we visited Vallum Farm off the Military Road (B6318).  They also do meals, homebaked cakes and snacks in the log cabin tea room.  There is also a big play area for children and seats outside, so it is a fun trip out for families in school hols.  Other interesting businesses on the farm site include a fish and game smokery, and a dog hydrotherapist!  You could check out their website for details and a map.  I've tried the link from this post and it doesn't work so it would be best if you search for it yourself.
A target for walkers off the Military Road
Drive the other way towards Cumbria along the Military Road and you'll reach a sign for Lanercost pointing to the right.  You just have to take that road.  Lanercost Priory is a ruin now, but a big one.  Part of it was re-roofed in the 19th century and is now the parish church which is fully used today. 

Lanercost Parish Church and Priory

You'll be treated to wonderful scenery (well monks always chose the best sites didn't they?).  Grasshopper and I had a fascinating and varied trip there.   While we were touring the church the organist was practising, so we enjoyed a free musical treat.  Fans of the Arts and Crafts movement will be interested in the three windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris's company.  The ruins and graveyard capture the imagination.  Some of the stones used in building the Priory were 'recycled' from Hadrian's Wall.  You can see the Roman markings on a few. 

There are some very old tombs, and a heart rending but beautiful effigy in terracotta of baby Elizabeth Dacre Howard who died at only four months in July 1883.

The Priory has had a turbulent history.  Frequently attacked by the Scots (including Robert the Bruce), it housed Edward 1 and his retinue for five months in 1306-7 on their journey north to fight.  This strained the priory's resources.  Then Henry V111 did his worst and the Priory passed to the Dacre family who made part of it into a comfortable home. 

The Dacre Great Hall (on the first floor of the building next to the church) is now a very unusual village hall.  We were lucky it was open to visitors that day.  There are faint remnants of wall paintings dating from the sixteenth century and a huge fireplace.  When we visited, one of the village ladies was cleaning the diamond paned windows.  Quite a task.  The hall was to be decorated for a wedding that was being held there later in the week.  What an atmospheric place for a reception.

Next door to the Priory off the main road is a lovely tearoom, restaurant and shop selling very smart gifts and local produce (also of course, ice-cream).  It was lunchtime when we arrived so I chose Caesar Salad.  Grasshopper had a panini.  There was a huge pot of strong tea, which they were happy to top up with more hot water.
Time for Lunch at Lanercost

View of Lanercost Priory from the River

There is plenty of parking, so you can leave your car at the cafe while you tour the priory, church and village hall.  We also walked through the nearby pasture to the meandering river.  There were new lambs to coo over and some fancy hens in a pen.  The view back across the field to the priory and the  gentle hills in the background is very easy on the eye. 

We left to drive back to Fallowfield Dene feeling uplifted and relaxed.  A great day out.

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