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Posted:  Tuesday 30 October 2018

South East Associates
County Durham Away Break

- 17th to 21st September -

It’s September and we’re back in the glorious North East!
This time we have a group of twenty-six exploring the history, industry, wealth and splendour of wonderful County Durham.

During our five-day visit we were delighted at each turn, by breath-taking scenery, plunging waterfalls, rugged moorland, magnificent architecture and the world-famous industrial heritage site at Beamish.

This visit truly had something for everyone.

Here are just a few of the highlights we enjoyed during this stay:
High Force

This spectacular waterfall, and the gentler Low Force waterfall just a mile downstream, are located on the upper River Tees.  High Force has a fall of 22 metres and as such it is one of the highest in the country.

This part of County Durham, in the north Pennines, is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - AONB.

Here the river flows off the hard whinstone rock before cutting through softer limestone and sandstone below, to form a narrow, deep gorge that is now 700 metres in length.

On the day of our visit the torrential rain and gale force wind combined to provide an immensely powerful scene.

Whilst the hardier members from our group chose to complete a ten-mile adventurous walk, led by Kevin, in these atrocious conditions, the rest of us enjoyed the highly-praised, locally-baked cakes in the Visitor Centre at Bowlees.
Each to their own, as they say in these parts!

Beamish Museum

The North of England Open Air Museum is located at Beamish, near the town of Stanley in north Co. Durham.  Since opening in 1972, the museum’s guiding principle has been to preserve working examples of everyday life in urban and rural North East England at the dawn and climax of the industrial revolution.

We thoroughly enjoyed their sympathetic restoration and interpretation of life, as it would have been for people during the Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian eras.

This experience accurately captured the changes in urban and rural life from 1820 through to the climax of the Industrial Revolution.
All thanks to the appropriately costumed guides and their intimate knowledge of life within a typical town, railway station, pit village, school, colliery, waggonway, brewery, pubs and masonic hall, for bringing this experience to life.

Period trams and coaches further enhanced our journey through time, without exhausting the travellers as we investigated every exhibit at this wonderful 350-acre site.

Gateshead tram at Beamish - N W Associates collection 2010
- Sorry about the soap ad! -

For those wondering where the expression ‘you have your grannie’s smile’ comes from, just visit the dentist’s in the town centre to learn the gory details!

Stop Press: Thanks to a recent National Lottery grant of £10 million, buildings and artefacts from our generation will soon become part of the Beamish life experience, as they reproduce a 1950’s town.

"Who’d ‘a thought it?"  We’re history in our own lifetime!

Durham Cathedral

For many Associates our visit to Durham Cathedral was the absolute highlight.

It has huge religious,
historical and architectural

It holds the relics
of Saint Cuthbert,
the head of Saint Oswald
and the remains of
the Venerable Bede.

This magnificent cathedral
is set high
upon a rocky promontory,
with the medieval city
huddled below
and the River Wear
looping round
to form
a highly defensible site.


The profile of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is instantly recognisable.

Whatever your interest, Durham Cathedral is definitely one for the bucket list!

Bowes Museum - header picture

As the rain poured down and the gale wind blew, Bowes Museum proved a wonderful respite.

This is a place unlike any other: a French Chateau-style museum with a vast collection of European fine and decorative arts.

Bowes Museum - N E Associates collection 2012, with permit

Most of what we saw here - including the extraordinary building and the grounds it stands in - are the work of a wealthy English gentleman, who was shunned by high society, and a French actress-turned-artist who became the love of his life.

Together, John and Josephine Bowes dreamed up a most unlikely ambition - a huge purpose-built museum in rural Teesdale - and worked tirelessly for many years to make it a reality.

Very sadly, both died before their museum opened.  Nevertheless, in 1892 it did open and stands today as a unique building with an exceptional collection and a remarkable story to tell.

Group Dinner and Entertainment

Of course, no Associate event would ever be complete without wonderful food, copious refreshments and joyous entertainment.

Great thanks to Beamish Hall Hotel for the former and to musicians Dave Shaw - Northumbrian Small Pipes & Accordion – and Tom – Mandolin - for the delightful after-dinner rendition.  Their selection of ‘traditional’ jigs, reels and shanties really brought our whole experience alive!

Peter Mordue

(fd 28/10/2018)

(ph 29/10/2018)

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