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Effigy of Robert Neville at Brancepeth Church. Died 1319.

Today was characterised by unseasonally low temperatures, rain and a hint of snow in mid-afternoon.

We departed our lodgings in York after breakfast and drove north to the village of Brancepeth in County Durham.Prime purpose of this visit was to connect with the formerly prominent Neville family. We parked close to the huge castle which is still privately owned, not a visitor attraction, and then visited the adjacent Parish Church dedicated to St Brandon.

Brancepeth Castle, England

St Brandon’s Church was a typical Church of England Parish Church, dating back to Saxon times but mainly from 12th-15th centuries.. Unfortunately, the building suffered massive fire damage in 1998 and came within a whisker of total destruction. However, the church was able to be sympathetically rebuilt, at cost of  GBP3.2m, a project which was completed in 2005.

In course of the St Brandon’s restoration a number of early English cross slabs ( early tombstones) were discovered in the clerestory which feature a range of designs including four circles,shears, swords and spears.

St Brandon’s Church, Brancepeth, England

Inside the restored St Brandon’s Church, Brancepeth

Early English decorated cross-slab

Next we continued north to the region of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. We had lunch at the Twice Brewed Inn but had to forego planned visit to Housesteads Roman Fort due to inclement weather. Instead, we visited nearby Birdoswald Roman Fort which connects directly with the Wall.

Snow-capped hills, viewed looking south from Birdoswald

Hadrian’s Wall at Birdoswald Roman Fort

Excavated remains of Birdoswald Roman Fort, Hadrian’s Wall

The landscape around Hadrian’s Wall was heavily populated with flocks of sheep and young lambs, a feature which provided photo opps.

This evening we checked into our hotel in Haltwhistle, a small town located in the geographic centre of Britain.The hotel structure is very old, dating back to the 1500s and containing elements of both Bastle House and Pele Tower.

Centre of Britain Hotel, Haltwhistle, England

Tomorrow, we continue north with visits to a couple of Northumbrian villages and Rosslyn Chapel.

Front elevation at Castle Howard, England

This morning, we departed our lodgings in York and drove north for 15 miles to Castle Howard, a 300 year-old grand house which is the home of the distinguished Howard family.

Features at Castle Howard include:

  • Baroque architecture with hints of Catholicism.
  • Great Hall with high dome and frescoes, carvings and wrought ironwork.
  • Ornate chapel with work by pre-Raphaelite artists including William Morris.
  • Temple of the Four Winds located away form the main building and offering 360 degree views.
  • Garden statues.
  • Ray Wood with extensive botanical collection.
  • Grand entrances.
  • Lake with water birds.
  • Connection with Brideshead Revisited, both T.V. series and film.

Spring blossom at Ray Wood, Castle Howard, England

Grand bedroom at Castle Howard, England

Great Hall, Castle Howard, England

Atlas Fountain, Castle Howard

Castle Howard viewed from Temple Terrace

Temple of the Four Winds, Castle Howard

Video clip of Castle Howard, front elevation.

The visit to Castle Howard was enhanced by dry, sunny weather which lasted until 3.00pm when rain set in.

We departed Castle Howard mid-afternoon and returned to York to spend time in the famous and historic Shambles shopping area which is now tourist orientated but has its origins in the medieval period.

Shambles shopping area, York, England

Shambles, York, England

Finally, we returned to our lodgings in York.

Tomorrow we visit Bracepeth (Yorkshire) and then Hadrian’s Wall.

Preston England Mormon Temple

This morning, we departed our lodgings at Welshpool, close to the Wales-England border and drove north for about two hours to our first stop at the Preston England Mormon Temple at Preston in N.W.England.

Preston England Mormon Temple

After a short visit to the Mormon Temple we drove east for about 90 minutes to our next destination of York, England. En-route the temperature dropped to around 1 degree C. We saw snow on the hills and encountered heavy hail in York which affected road conditions. These low temperatures are unusual for late April.

Bootham Bar, York. Part of Medieval defences.

Hail covered road, York, England

On arrival at York we drove around the city and viewed the medieval city walls which were built on Roman predecessors. Guests spent about two hours visiting the famous Minster ( Cathedral) which sits at the heart of the city.

York Minster, England

Inside York Minster, England

Inside York Minster, England

We later checked into our lodgings, in York. Tomorrow we spend more time exploring York and visit Castle Howard, a mansion verging on a palace just north of the city.