Bishop’s Visit – Eyam Village (the Plague Village)

Eyam is an English village in the Derbyshire Dales district that lies within the Peak District National Park. The village is noted for an outbreak of bubonic plague which occurred there in 1665, in which the villagers chose to isolate themselves rather than let the infection spread. The present village was founded and named by Anglo-Saxons, although lead had been mined in the area by the Romans. Formerly industrial, its economy now relies on the tourist trade and it is promoted as ‘the plague village’.

Our visit was marred by wet weather and cold. My investigations proved to be flawed as most of the attractions had closed for the Winter. We drove into the village amidst mist and drizzle, parking opposite Eyam Hall. The stable area had been converted into a visitors centre and some speciality shops but the Hall had closed after the Xmas fete last week. Still we were able to sample the local cheese and check out how a local joiner reuses timber. From there we visited the plague house with their sombre plaques reporting those who died from the plague and the church which was the centre of the resistance against the spread of the plague. Not a lot more to see until March when the weather should be warmer and brighter.

Bishop’s Visit – Chestnut Centre

Any visit to the Peak District has to include the Chestnut Centre particularly if your favourite animal is otters. I have blogged about this centre previously but last time our visit was interrupted by rain. So I will just give you the photos and you can read about the centre in my earlier bog.

Bishops Visit – Arrival in Long Eaton

Our first Australian a visitors arrive today. Doug and Nerida have been friends for over twenty five years and we have done trips down the Volga, up the coast of Norway and through Paris with them but this is the first time we have lived together and travelled. They are flying into Manchester International Airport and we have driven over to collect them. Their arrival is on time and Manchester is much easier to navigate than Heathrow.

After greetings and the short walk to the car, we decide to avoid the motorway on the return journey and by the time we get into Long Eaton it is already dark but their journey through the

villages of the Peaks District gives them a taste of what is to come including unexpected users of the road.

Conscious of the effect of jet lag, we don’t plan much for the next day. Our neighbours John and Pam have told us that Shardlow (a nearby village) has had a glorious history during the great industrial canal era. I don’t need any more than that to make me curious as to what it looks like today.

So I looked on Wikipedia to find the history of the village and it says: “An important late 18th century river port for the trans-shipment of goods to and from the River Trent to the Trent and Mersey Canal, during its heyday from the 1770s to the 1840s it became referred to as “Rural Rotterdam” and “Little Liverpool”. Today Shardlow is considered Britain’s most complete surviving example of a canal village, with over 50 Grade II listed buildings and a large number of surviving public houses within the designated Shardlow Wharf Conservation Area.”

The trip over to Shardlow took little more than 10 minutes and we did not find anything of the past glory. It is cute in some ways but nothing of a “Rural Rotterdam” remains. The most interesting bit was the canal house caught between the canal and the lock


The next day we showed them around Long Eaton and then a trip was into Nottingham to the caves under the city.

“Nottingham sits upon a soft sandstone ridge which can easily be dug with simple hand tools to create artificial cave dwellings. Indeed Nottingham was once known as Tigguo Cobauc meaning Place of Caves and was referred to as such by the Bishop of Sherborne Asser in The Life of King Alfred (893AD). The caves here are some of the oldest remaining in the city, with pottery finds dating them to 1270-1300, and were inhabited from at least the 17th century until 1845 when the St. Mary’s Inclosure Act banned the renting of cellars and caves as homes for the poor. None of the caves are natural, they were all cut into the sandstone for use as houses, cellars and place of work by the inhabitants of the city.

As of 2014 more than 500 caves in the city have been catalogued, including 100 that were only rediscovered in the last four years. Construction of the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre began in the late 1960s, but the opening up of the caves to vandals and plans to fill them in with concrete caused a public outcry. A detailed study by The Nottingham Historical Arts Society led to the caves being scheduled as an ancient monument and the development plans were subsequently changed to preserve most of the caves. The caves were cleared by volunteers from the 2418 Sherwood Squadron Air Training Corps and Rushcliffe School and opened to public tours by the Friends of Nottingham Museum in 1978.”(source Wikipedia)

After visiting the caves we took a walk through part of the city and stumbled onto the city square set up as a Christmas wonderland.

Bishops Visit – A Roman’s Life – Housesteads Fort and Hadrians Wall


When asked about Britain I am invariably asked about Hadrian’s Wall and have I been there. Well until today, my answer was I plan to visit one day.Today I changed that answer to “yes I have and I visited Housestead Fort, the best preserved Roman fort along the remnants of the wall”.

As days go the weather was pretty ordinary. We left Hexham and its Abbey headed for Housesteads said to be “just round the corner”.


Grey and misty to start with sun trying to break through. Then we got onto the B6318 from Wall and the mist descended as we followed a swaggering hay truck obviously overloaded and sneaking along this back road. Then there was a sudden lifting of the mist and the visitor’s centre appeared suddenly before us.

Inside the centre we learned two things, one, that the fort and museum were some distance from the road and the centre and, two that part of the road we had just driven on once formed part of the wall. As this was winter and we were the only visitors at the time we were given the privilege of driving into the museum car park. It meant we had to pass through a cattle gate and drive a meandering road up to the museum and the fort.


The museum is small but includes a video presentation of the fort and diagrammatic reconstructions of fort as well as a short history of its use and decline. Following the video we walked up to what was formerly the South Gate an into the foundations of the fort, its barracks granary and other buildings. From the North Gate I could view the wall running east and west and view the undulating landscape watched over by centurions 1900 years ago from my same position. The fort must have seemed a real barrier and threat to the tribes of the north.


There is not a lot to see unless you can imagine the buildings that once sat upon the foundations. But equally there is a lot to activate your imagination. After walking around I made my way to the south east corner and lowest point of the fort to view the roman latrines. Placed at the lowest point to gain downward flow (old saying “Shit flows down hill”) of water and waste the latrines were impressive in the mastery of the design to move the waste with gravity and running water.

Time was against us doing further exploration as we were due in Inverness that evening – some 5 to 6 hours driving and the weather had turned decidedly against us.

Bishops Visit – The Best of Barnard Castle.


We set sail today in the most brilliant sunshine, clear blue sky and moderate temperature such that I could have mistaken it for a spring morning. High spirits abound as we travel north making good time and arriving in Barnard Castle about 10.30am. Barnard Castle is a market town in Teesdale, county Durham with an unusual market rotunda in the centre of town called the Butter Market. It has been a court, a goal and a market over the years. The town grew up around the castle of the same name and is home to Bowes Museum.


The Bowes Museum, housed in a chateau-like building, was founded by John Bowes and his wife Josephine, and is of national status. It contains an El Greco, paintings by Goya, Canaletto, Boucher, Fragonard and a collection of decorative art. A great attraction is the 18th century silver swan automaton, which periodically preens itself, looks round and appears to catch and swallow a fish.



John Bowes lived at nearby Streatlam Castle (now demolished). By reason of his father’s late marriage in England to his mother John did not receive the hereditary Scottish title which passed to his Uncle. His Streatlam stud never had more than ten breeding mares at one time, but produced no fewer than four Derby winners in twenty years. The last of these, “West Australian”, was the first racehorse to win the Triple Crown (1853).


Bowes Lyon lineage
Bowes Lyon lineage

Born into the wealthy coal mining descendants of George Bowes, he was the child of John Lyon-Bowes, 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (1769–1820) and his mistress or common-law wife Mary Milner. His uncle’s line ultimately produced the Queen mother Elizabeth Bowes Lyon.

The museum had a very interesting interior decorating section showing the interior designs from Tudor to today and along side this was a fashion exhibit and a most interesting visual art display. In the photos I have taken you will see what appears to be three different portraits but in fact it is the one portrait which changes expression. Also there is a second portrait in which the earrings in the picture move.

Bowes is a very different and interesting museum but well off the beaten track. Nevertheless it is well patronised by those who discover this oasis. We overnighted at the Hadrians Hotel in Wall, a village outside of Hexham. Before visiting the wall we called into Hexham and found an interesting old town with a fabulous mall Abbey and history. These photos are included.