|Half a Heritage Open Weekend
||[Sep. 11th, 2015|10:55 pm]
It's the time of year when heritage properties open their doors, and those whose doors were open anyway try to make it sound as if they were doing something extra, so that you will visit them. It falls this year at a time when we are busy enough with other things that I could wish it were not this weekend - but if not now, when? We've had a busy August, and if it were any later, we'd miss it. Hence this breathless, let me tell you what we've done so far, post.
- Yesterday we drove north into Northumberland. We spent the morning at Bothal church, admiring the fragments of old stained glass incorporated into the windows, and the stone heads decorating the walls:
the old trees in the churchyard (we both heard the woodpecker, but neither of us saw it) and the gravestones festooned with yellow tape to warn us of dangerous instability ("part of Northumberland County Council's rolling memorial testing programme").
- After an early lunch at the Plough, we joined a heritage walk around Mitford, which took us to the ruins of the Castle:
which the family had abandoned in the seventeenth century when they moved to the Manor House:
before moving on again in the early nineteenth century to Mitford Hall (a much less interesting building, at least from the outside). And yes, those Mitfords, though our guide didn't seem at all interested in that period of the family's history.
- We spent the evening with friends and at a book launch: by happy chance, Ann Cleeves was launching her novel The Moth Catcher on the evening which had been designated Moth Night. We sat in the sunshine outside the Baltic Gallery and watched the Millenium bridge blink its eye, and were stumbled upon by frumpo and H who had been at a talk elsewhere in the building.
- We didn't visit the Anker's House in Chester-le-Street this morning. The home of a medieval anchorite, attached to the church and now also housing a small local museum (I think that's right) it's one of the places that is open throughout the year, but which we never get round to visiting. Being in Open Day mode seemed like an opportunity, but when we phoned, as the Heritage Open Days listing encourages you to, to check, we learned that there was a funeral in the church this morning and a wedding this afternoon, so it would only be accessible between midday and one thirty. Hmm...
- We decided not to make a rushed lunchtime visit, as we had booked a tour of Durham University's Palatine Centre. This was billed as an 'Art Tour' - the University has an extraordinary collection of modern art - but would also allow us to see the inside of a controversial new building. This could be a post in itself, but it's late, and we have visitors tomorrow. So have just one picture:
which shows a detail of Fay Pomerance's Sphere of Influence, and gives some idea of the lightness and airiness of the interior. Now picture those upper galleries hung with prints and screenprints and lithographs and paintings by Picasso and Andy Warhol and Bridget Riley and Graham Sutherland and and and... But picture also that this sense of space and ease has been achieved by building out to the very edge of the land available, looming up above the terraced houses opposite (which gives you wonderful views of the cathedral too)...
As far as the Art Tour goes, the things I would like to spend more time with were not the ones in the spotlight. We passed a couple of cabinets of African sculptures - mostly bronzes, I think, but they weren't labelled and they don't appear in the very smart booklet we were given to take away with us. And I loved an Edward Bawden linocut of Covent Garden. But you can keep your Andy Warhol screenprinted flowers...
It's been a busy two days - and more to come!