Saturday, 16 February 2019


We found our way to the place Sarah and Gareth had rented for a week in Alnmouth. We were only going to be there one night but we managed to fill two days quite well, mostly with food. 

After stowing our gear and packing up baby supplies we headed off to Barter Books (in Alnwick, yes I have that right). I've written about this place before - yikes, 10 years ago! What has changed is that the entry area which used to 'only' have a coffee spot (with honesty box) and a coal burning fire now is filled with shelves of books. As usual, I forgot to look through this section, forgot it was there, until we were leaving.

The main change is that they 'found' another room that has become their cafe. Now, it looks like a series of rooms to me, as they are all tiled in different colours and about every other one has its own fireplace. The food is pretty decent as well but it is a busy place. You may have to queue for a table then queue to order. If you are on your own or with small children you may find it difficult to hold down a table. It's that sort of busy.

I knew I had photos from the last visit here, with my friend Pat, so I didn't snap any. Neither did I find any books I wanted which was a surprise (and a relief). I did photograph the Percy Lion across the road while waiting for Struan's pram to be unfolded and filled up. 

You can always tell the Percy Lion from any other because the tail sticks straight out at the back; I've never been able to decide if this is wildly impressive or just ludicrous.

The Percy name is all over this area, probably all over Britain. The Percy's are the family who live in Alnwick Castle and own a great deal of land around here. My house is built on land once owned by the Duke of Northumberland (but I own it now, freehold). Many properties are terms 'leasehold' and you pay a 'peppercorn rent' for the land. I expect it all adds up, however, and a buyer of a leasehold property will want to look at the period remaining on the lease, usually arranged for something like 99 years at a time. I excluded any leasehold properties when I was searching, just because I didn't want the extra complication. 

I have just got lost in reading about the Percy's over on Wikipedia. They are firmly entrenched in British history of course. Two that I have run across in my reading are Henry Percy, the sixth Earl of Northumberland was the accepted suitor of Anne Boleyn before Henry the VIIIth spotted her. Another Henry, 9th Earl of Northumberland, spent 16 years in the Tower of London, having been implicated in the Gunpowder Plot to overthrow James I. The real culprit was a Percy cousin, Thomas Percy, who was killed in his flight from the Sheriff and whose head was displayed outside Parliament. I was pleased to see that this Henry was born at Tynemouth Castle, where his father was governor. 

They must have found a way back into royal favour in spite of remaining Catholic, probably during the English Civil War, as they were promoted from Earls to Dukes. The present Duke of Northumberland, Ralph (12th Duke), was born in the same year as I was. His wife is known for creating Alnwick Garden, as much a tourist site as the Castle (which is not part of the National Trust). The Garden is, I gather, a charity in itself (I've always said that charity in Britain is Big Business). Apparently its creation caused quite a bit of turmoil. Loads of info in this article. Interesting stuff, but somehow I don't think her garden will be remembered as one of the major accomplishments of the Percy line. There were reportedly seven historic gardens discovered and destroyed in the making of the new which makes me think it will have a limited lifespan. Must get up there this summer when everything is in bloom!

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