Well don’t say I didn’t warn you! Last time I did say I’d save the Dominic Cummings gags for this post… But eye’ll try my hardest to restrict it to the Perfect Vision title. I promise I’ll stay focused on the matter in hand and you can let me know if, as a result this post is better or worse. Better? Or worse?
That’s quite enough of that!
Joking apart, I think Mr Cummings has seriously boosted the post-lockdown tourist numbers to the town. After we drove over the County Bridge below the castle, we could see hordes of visitors milling about in the town centre. Luckily we’d managed to secure the last hard-standing pitch in the campsite. I guess much of the activity was down to it being a Bank Holiday weekend.
We were given a very complicated set of directions from the campsite to the town, involving a farm, a donkey, several stiles, a wood, a pond and a bridge. To our amazement we didn’t take a single wrong turn and soon found ourselves alongside the River Tees below the dramatic ruins of the castle. We made this a quick Saturday reconnaissance visit as the rain was beginning to fall. There was just time for a quick coffee, a FaceTime session with the family, and a whizz round some of the many antique shops. Gill did her usual Scottish trick of making me take photos of the labels on anything she liked. Just so she can check online to make sure she’s getting the best value, and maybe save a wee bawbee.
Sunday dawned with warm sunshine, and more of a sense of purpose as we’d found a self-guided walk online. This walk took us on a zigzag route through the oldest part of the town. We had to duck down side alleys and through tiny yards to discover some of Barnard Castle’s history. We found places we’d never have discovered on an aimless wander (our usual technique) so we were delighted to come across an old chapel where John Wesley had preached. He’d be spinning in his grave if he knew that the building – now a private residence – had subsequently been used as a wine store! We passed Blagraves House Restaurant, another place where Oliver Cromwell is alleged to have dined in the 1600’s. This adjoins Gray Lane, once the site of an Augustinian Friary. I didn’t even know they had chip shops that long ago.
On Thorngate, following instructions we looked up to the top of the houses at the weavers’ windows, rows of small square panes all along the upper level in the appropriately named Weft House. At the foot of this lane was the former Thorngate Mill overlooking the river. We had a good snoop round to compare it with the mill conversion we now live in. We gave the building 8 out of 10 for the views and the beautiful restoration of the old brickwork. It only lost points because there were no balconies where you could sit and appreciate the view with an evening sharpener.
What a fascinating afternoon! I don’t know about you but I tend to walk around in the here and now. By switching to a historian’s sepia view, it wasn’t hard to imagine the Lord of the Manor’s pastures of the Demesnes being cultivated by the townspeople. This image was easy to overlay on what is now just a gentle grassy slope down to the river alongside a children’s play area. We finished our meandering walk at St. Mary’s Church where we failed to spot the hidden boar emblem high on the walls. Perhaps we don’t have such perfect vision after all. We did successfully spot the Cholera memorial however. In 1849, the disease swept through the town, and the simple cross commemorates the 143 lives lost.
Barnard Castle is yet another place we’ve added to our return visit list. I reckon we’ve only scratched the surface of everything it has to offer. Meantime we’ve laid in the coordinates for a bonus stopover as we’ve added an extra two days to this trip.
More soon! 🙂
As always, click or tap any pic to enlarge.