THE show supporters spent a fun-filled and entertaining five days in the beautiful county of Northumberland in May.
Forty-four eager participants set off on their journey northwards, ably driven by Pepe, a touring coach driver with Stewarts Coaches, all looking forward to a busy and interesting time arranged by Carole Williams, wife of show chairman Francis Williams.
The journey would take a very long time and because of this there was only time for a couple of comfort stops instead of taking in the usual visit to an interesting site on the way.
Early on the Monday morning, after a sustaining breakfast at Derwent Manor Hotel, the group travelled to Beamish Open Air Museum.
This living museum of the North-East was founded by Frank Atkinson in 1970 and today consists of a town with authentic shops and businesses, among other areas of interest. There is also a pit village with a working school to demonstrate the old ways of education.
Some old railway locomotives are being restored in a large railway shed. There is also a church and old miners’ cottages which are available to view with the interesting addition of pit ponies in stables. Trams, restored buses and other vehicles are used to transport visitors around the beautiful 300-acre site.
Tuesday morning saw the group in Durham to view the magnificent cathedral, among the other delights of this beautiful city.
Built in 1093 to house the shrine of St Cuthbert, the cathedral has been an enduring place of pilgrimage, worship, welcome and hospitality for almost a millennium.
During the afternoon a visit to the botanic gardens was scheduled. The 10-hectare site is set among beautiful mature woodlands on the southern outskirts of Durham city and comprises an alpine garden, winter garden, bamboo grove and glass houses with a recently developed woodland garden and wildflower meadow.
University students have the opportunity here to conduct experiments and research different plant species.
In the evening social time a certain male of the group was presented with some hand-knitted, multi-coloured shorts — rather long in the leg and bright of hue — which caused much hilarity.
Wednesday was an extremely full day and after a very early start, Pepe took us on a detour over the Scottish borders with its breathtaking views and then onwards to Bamburgh Castle with its scenic view of the Farne Islands. We had a brief saunter up and down the hill of this important and formidable building, originally built on a sub-volcanic rocky outcrop, which was previously home to native Britons and was the scene of many subsequent battles.
Journeying on to Alnwick via Jedburgh, where lunch and a bit of retail therapy ensued, the group arrived at the castle in fine spirits ready to explore and digest the setting for Downton Abbey, where the sumptuous state rooms are open to the public when the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland are not in residence.
Opportunity was available to visit the wonderful gardens with their cascading fountain and the interesting poison garden, growing plants such as cannabis and opium poppy.
Last but certainly not least was a visit to Cragside House and gardens, an extraordinary Victorian house, gardens and woodland now belonging to the National Trust.
Once the home of Lord Armstrong, a Victorian inventor, this was truly a wonder of its age. This was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity and is crammed full of gadgets, most of them still working.
There is also a strong pre-Raphaelite influence with William Morris-designed wallpapers, fabrics and tiles.
This last visit proved to be eventful for one member of the group who, upon seeing the Angel of the North during the journey, tried to prove that he could fly and took a tumble from the statue’s feet to the bottom of the mound.
This necessitated an early visit to the first aid post at Cragside but with a sling and some soothing words of comfort, he was able to continue his journey to the finish of yet another amazing sightseeing tour arranged by Carole and Francis.