On the Toon…

Last week we spent a few days in Newcastle upon Tyne visiting friends and, for Paolo a conference, and for me some cheese and yarn shopping. I rather like Newcastle, it so different now compared to the Newcastle I visited in the 1980s when most British cities were pretty grim. I like the fact that it’s not overwhelming, totally walkable, has lots of green open space. Our friends currently live near Heaton Park which is perfect for walking the dogs, and used to live near the Castle Leazes area of the Town Moor, an area of common land where ‘Freemen’ have the right to graze cattle, a right they exercise, including on this part of the moor behind St James’ Park football stadium and which also contains a university hall of residence.


I also like the fact that Newcastle is a real mix of different architectural styles, giving a sense of change and dynamism over time, and exemplified by these three buildings:



In the centre is the ornate baroque Emerson Chambers designed by Benjamin Simpson and built in 1903, flanked by Monument Mall on one side and the wonderful Fenwick building on the other:


A fabulous buidling, I just love the line and the windows and the whole feeling of this building.

I also love Fenwick for their cheese counter. They have a wonderful selection of local cheeses including one of my favourites; Brinkburn, a wonderful semi hard goats cheese that is perfect with Stockan and Gardens thick oatcakes from Orkney, and it does have to be the thick ones. They also have Snowdonia Black Bomber, a fabulous tangy mature cheddar which retains an nice soft texture, which also goes remarkably well with oatcakes.

They also have a spanish blue cheese Valdeon which if you get the chance and you like blue cheese you really must try. Its from Posada de Valdeon in the Picos De Europa, a mountain range in northern Spain and one of my favourite places. We’ve camped here for a number of years and walked in the mountains and they are incredible.

At the end of this walk we took a wrong turn going down the scree directly ahead of me when I took this photo; the paths aren’t marked and the maps aren’t quite Ordanance Survey, and we ended up coming out of the mountains several miles down from where we had intended and from where we had parked. Paolo went off ahead to get the car and I walked along the road with the dogs with a plan to meet Paolo in Posada de Valdeon. We were sat in the town square as he drove in and as I got the dogs, their bowls and all our gear together Paolo drove past not seeing us and assumed we were still in the next village along. People there reported that we had been seen leaving the village so he came back to Posada and as I tried for a second time to get our stuff together and flag him down, Rachel, our older and not very impressed dog refused to move. She literally planted herself on the ground and no encouragement would get her to budge. In the end I left her there, to the great amusement of some local teenagers, went off to load our stuff in the car and sent Paolo back to get her. So this cheese brings back great memories and even without such memories it tastes fantastically good.

Anyway back to Newcastle, there are still more interesting buildings and monument that I was going to write about, but maybe another time because I just have to tell you something yarny.

That something is The Knit Studio – a wonderfully located yarn shop in a 13th century cloister of the priory:

I can just imagine sitting on the bench under the walnut tree and knitting in the summer. In the winter the Knit Studio itself has a wonderful ambience and hosts knitting groups so if you’re in the area do check it out.

I was relatively restrained but did come away with three balls of this gorgeous yarn:

Not a great picture I’m afraid and the vibrant turquoise doesn’t show up, but I love this yarn, it’s gorgeous to knit with and extremely good value. I’ve recently used some in the sample of my new hat pattern and this is the hat I’ve been wearing since finishing it.

You’d think the pictures of Blackfriars and the rest of the Newcastle pictures were taken on different days, but actually they were all taken on the same very changeable day, sun, rain and winds that would blow you off your feet – last time I was in Newcastle it snowed and snowed, so I’m beginning to associate it with extreme weather, but good times nonetheless.

Grey’s Monument

Monument to the 2nd Earl Grey who was Prime Minister in the 1830s and one of the architects of the Reform Act, 1832 reforming parliament, and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

Aparently at times you can go up the monument and onto the viewing platform, that would be an awesome view, both along the coast and inland.

This is a mosaic in pub doorway – an everyday gorgeous object.

It caught my eye as we walked past and made me think about how often such details are lost in the drive to modernisation.

Newcastle hasn’t been immune to that drive so it’s especially good to see the things that have survived.

This final picture also exemplifies what I was alluding to before, how the built environmnt can is enriched by differing styles and the times they reflect.

This is the gate to Chinatown , with a new buidling to the left and the Gallowgate end of St James’ Park football stadium drectly behind the gate.

We were in the neighbourhood to have lunch at Mangos – fabulous dim sum!

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