2003 Letter from Durham:The Durham Cathedral is famed for beginning its life as a Romanesque structure—heavy and ponderous with round arches-- but becoming also one of the first Gothic Cathedrals through add-ons—light, airy with pointed arches. It is home to the remains of both Saint Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede, besides being, as they say, "drop dead gorgeous". Our first President’s family was from nearby and the Cathedral has the Washington coat of arms displayed. You can see from the attached picture where our flag’s stripes came from.

The ruins of Hadrian’s wall (featured elsewhere on this website) were spectacular. They included a barrack for their solders, the house and office of the commandant, (picture of the remains of the commandant’s house attached--the stone slabs are the floor and the heating ducts for the house run under those slabs) a bath house complete with communal latrine. You can’t help but admire the Romans for their engineering skills a thousand years ago. When we arrived at the site, a "Roman soldier" was giving a talk. He was very entertaining and informative. He explained about the life of a legionnaire – and also demonstrated quite clearly their superiority in techniques of warfare. We enjoyed it as much as the kids who were his natural audience.

We drove through the Pennine Hills and saw quite a lot of Northumberland where their house is located. They are on top of a hill in a hamlet of five or six houses named Kiln Pit Hill. Among their neighboring hamlets are two of our favorites: Pity Me and Unthank. There are other towns as well but the names of Corbridge or Hexham are not as interesting. Thomas says that local lore holds that Pity Me began as Petit Mer (Small Sea). Maybe so, but it’s still funny.

Their house is a 17th century stone farmhouse that has recently been fixed up (picture attached). Ever since we started traveling in Europe, I (Adelle) have been dying to knock on the door of these very old homes we see everywhere – and ask them to let me see inside. Now I don’t have to do that. I’ve not only seen but stayed in one! I can report that the house was beautiful. It has two feet thick walls, wonderful exposed beams, a slate roof and a lot of rooms. There is a mud room, a half bath, a big kitchen, a huge laundry, a wonderful pantry, a living and dining room downstairs, and bedrooms, storage rooms and a very modern bathroom on the second floor from the window of which one sees long vistas of fields.

The farm house was built of stone , and is surrounded by lush green fields, criss crossed by high stone walls, hayfields and huge pastures and meadows on which sheep graze as far as the eye can see. Little white and beige cotton balls with black faces dot the green grasslands everywhere.

The kitchen had a stove called an Aga (pronounced auga) which is very common in the local farm houses, but unlike anything we’ve ever seen. It is cast iron, run by oil, and is always on, winter and summer. The top has two chromed 18 inch circular lids on the top covering two sources of heat for frying or boiling. One of them is very hot and the other is for simmering. And there are two ovens, one that is usually 450 degrees and one that is a warming oven. There is no thermostatic control on the ovens. You just have to learn how to use it. And Coral has indeed learned. The other strange thing about this stove is that it emits no odors whatsoever into the house. It all goes up the chimney. You only smell the things that are cooking if you are outside!

Intrepid Traveler
Back to Durham
Back to Hadrian's Wall