Ramblings of a Different Kind

When is a cruise not a cruise? Answer: when it’s been booked to take place in 2020 and is invariably cancelled due to the dreaded worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Regular readers of this blog will notice that there hasn’t been a single post made since November 2019; the longest time I’ve gone without writing anything since I started this blog nearly 10 years ago. With life and any semblance of normality on hold in 2020, there has simply been nothing to write about. 😦

We had our long-awaited Balmoral cruise, which was due to start on 29th March 2020, cancelled on 13th – only 16 days beforehand, just before Britain went into lockdown and we were only allowed to leave our house for food purchases, hospital appointments or for one hour of exercise a day. Surely our next holiday, a relaxing week river cruising on the upper Danube in June on the Brabant would go ahead? Nope. 😦

We replaced the cancelled March Balmoral cruise with a two-week Caribbean cruise on the Braemar for 10th December. December is ages away – surely this nasty coronavirus will have gone away and life will be back to normal by Christmas? Apparently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) weren’t taking any chances, and they put a ban on any ocean-going cruises for the foreseeable future, which included December. Another cruise cancelled. 😦

Never mind though, I still had my February 2021 Suez Canal cruise on the Boudicca to look forward to – or did I? This two-week cruise formed one section of the 140-night world cruise which was due to start in November 2020 and was therefore cancelled. 😦

Today, we should have been jetting off to Santiago, Chile, to start a fantastic land-based escorted tour of this fascinating country, including three nights on Easter Island, one of the remotest islands in the world. But when COVID-19 is raging throughout South America and the FCO is advising against travel there, we decided several weeks ago to postpone this trip for a year. So we find ourselves with a fortnight off work, wondering how to fill the time. πŸ™‚

Here in northern Blighty we have just come out of the coldest and wettest August on record, with temperatures barely in the teens and lots of rain largely deterring us from going out and exploring our own green and pleasant land. Not so much Chile as chilly. πŸ™‚ We did have some tentative sunshine on August Bank Holiday, marred only by an arctic breeze necessitating the need for a jacket and – yes – even a woolly hat.

Back to today… we decided we’d join the Crook and Weardale Ramblers, of which we have been a member since 1989, for a five mile walk starting in Witton Park, County Durham. We wouldn’t normally be able to join a Wednesday morning walk because we would have been at work, but today we were off !!! πŸ™‚

Whilst there was still that nip in the air, there was a weak autumnal sunshine as we drove to the starting point of the walk. There, we met up with the other ramblers who were joining us this morning, and off we went. The air was fresh and clean and day seemed ideal for striding out.

Our first brief stop was at the memorial dedicated to the Bradford brothers, who were born in Witton Park. There were four of them and three lost their lives in the Great War, two of them being awarded the Victoria Cross for valour during WW1, the only brothers to have done so.

George and Roland Bradford of Witton Park, County Durham
The Bradford brothers

Continuing on our way, we ambled along until we came out along a grassy track taking us to Paradise, a pleasant nature reserve and walk along the River Wear.

You can go to Paradise and back when you go to Witton Park, County Durham πŸ™‚

It was lovely and relaxing just walking leisurely along in the sunshine, much better than being at work (if not quite as good as going to Chile!). We passed alongside a serene lake and came across a dog walker whose young dog was quite distressed at the loss of his ball! He had dropped the tennis ball in the lake but was too unsure and inexperienced to swim after it, even though the ball was only about a metre or so in front of him. Trevor had a brainwave; he used the nearby life belt, throwing it into the lake and encircling the ball, which we could then pull back into the dog’s reach with the attached rope. One happy dog, one happy owner! πŸ˜€

We continued on our way until we came to Escomb Church, which is one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon churches in England and one of only three complete Anglo-Saxon churches remaining in England, the others being St Lawrence’s Church, Bradford-on-Avon and All Saints’ Church, Brixworth. It was built circa 650AD. The church warden was about, and she kindly opened the church to allow us inside, on the condition that we sanitised our hands before entering and didn’t touch anything; another new ‘normal; in 2020. πŸ™‚

Escomb Church, one of the oldest Saxon churches in England
Inside Escomb Church

It was lovely and peaceful in the church, and we spotted parts of the masonry which had been brought from the nearby Roman fort of Vinovia.

In the graveyard outside we briefly paused to read some of the inscriptions on the stones; one I looked at at random contained the epitaph:

“Here Lieth the Body of Ralph Simpson
who Departed this Life
September the 10th Anno Dom. 1720″

Wow, that’s almost 300 years to the day ago.

Ancient gravestone

All in all, the walk was about four miles, or you could add an extra loop of a mile on to make it five. As it had clouded over and there were a few spots of the inevitable rain, I decided to finish at the four mile point, and wait in the car for the others to complete the last mile, which only took another 20 minutes or so. By the time they arrived back it was just after 1.00pm, nice time for lunch. We’d already spotted the Saxon Inn over the road from the church, so we decided to go back there for a well-earned pint and a spot of lunch.

The Saxon Inn, Escomb

I enjoyed a nice plate of Hunter’s Chicken with salad and chips while Trevor had scampi; we each washed it down with a pint of cold John Smith’s which I enjoyed so much I had another one! πŸ™‚

It was 3.00pm by the time we arrived back home after an enjoyable bit of exercise. By now the wind had got up and the rain had started in earnest, so we’d timed it perfectly.

Not the day we’d planned, but a pleasant one nonetheless. πŸ™‚

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