Thursday, 1 May 2014

Day Out in Cramlington

People laugh at the odd places Vivien and I find to go for our jaunts.  Some attribute this weirdness to my being foreign, others to my frugality, perhaps others just check us off as eccentric. Am I bothered?

I was originally drawn to Cramlington when some of the craft ladies raved about Yorkshire Trading Company in the Manor Walks shopping centre there.  It is a fabulous place, reminiscent of the old 'five and dime' shops of my youth, the ones that had sewing fabrics and patterns as well as virtually everything else one might need. Yorkshire Trading Co. has more a craft / quilting section than dressmaking, but it's fascinating all the same.  

The Village Green

That black plaque by the door says 'Surveyors House' and it's for sale for
about £325,000. In addition to 4 bedrooms, an enormous back garden and
those gorgeous south facing windows, it is just across from the church yard with the pink trees. Want to look inside? If you're quick, you can see it HERE.


We first dropped in one day as part of a tour of that part of Northumberland focusing elsewhere. In addition to liking the 'haberdashery' (a delightful word I never saw in common use til moving to England), Vivien noted that there was an older part of town that looked interesting, the original village perhaps, but we were out of time.  So, on our next day out we returned for a longer look.

St. Nicholas Parish Church

See why spring is my favourite season here?

Cramlington is a 'New Town' along the lines of Milton Keynes down south. 'New Town' has the connotation of being cheap, 'modern' (as in stark) architecture and very pedestrianized and cycle-friendly. I'm all for walking and cycling but it does sometimes mean that driving there and finding one's way around is possibly a nightmare and best avoided.  So this is the main reason I've not been. Saying that, I've done a race that used to start at the leisure centre (gym) there, but I (a) didn't drive there or (b) look around at all, so I don't count those visits. 

The original village green (I think)

War Memorial with I, II and 'other conflicts'

Reminds me of the chess game in Harry Potter.

That building in the back is the "Working Men's Social Club" - serves cheap beer.

It goes almost without saying that Cramlington was also a 'pit village' associated with coal mining. When coal mining was shut down in the Thatcher era many of these villages virtually disappeared and most that remained didn't fare well, which is probably what provided the inspiration behind 'New Towns'.

So, given the 'New Town'  rep, I was - silly me - surprised to discover that the beginnings of Cramlington (town) go back to the Manor of Cramlington, documented in 1135. A register of chaplains (part of medieval households) begins with John the Clerk of Cramlington (Brits pronounce that word 'clark'). This explains the unusual name of the place we had lunch.

One of several pubs serving food.

Abandoned School House, sure to be re-developed.

More pubs around the Village Green.

An old church, then bar/restaurant, recently sold  

After lunch we just wandered around the village. It was a lovely sunny day and of course that makes everything look nicer. Sunny isn't always a reliable indicator of the temperature, but on this particular day we actually carried our coats, my first time this year. By my reckoning we walked about five miles!

We visited the charity shops about 1.5 miles apart. We admired the church yard (St. Nicholas, built 1865-8, in the Gothic style) and the war memorial in the village green. There were several pubs in the village serving food, which seemed to indicate that the newer estates of the New Town still come into the village of an evening/weekend to eat and drink. Between the "No Smoking" laws and the recession, pubs have had a hard time of late.  

I dragged us down to the train station, curious that the train from Newcastle north to Morpeth and to Edinburgh would stop at a tiny place like Cramlington. It turned out to be an ordinary modern-ish station, nothing Victorian.

Of course most every nook and cranny of Britain was once connected by rail back when it was state supported and few people owned cars. Since being privatized only the profitable rail routes remain, so the commuters from Cramlington must make it worth their while.  I only knew about this station because I once worked with a woman who commuted to our office near the Newcastle Central station. 

On the way to the station we admired some of the older houses on Station Road, some set well back from the road with large south-facing front gardens beautifully landscaped to provide privacy. Other houses were closer to the road with enormous back gardens.  At the end of the terrace was small road leading to a public footpath that crossed a large green. In the distance were green hills common in this area - they are spoil heaps consisting of waste from pit mines; also the large graceful wind turbines. I like them, but I don't really near any. I'd much rather look at a huge white whirlygig than a large concrete chimney with smoke coming out.  Anyhow there was a public notice that residents were petitioning to have it declared a 'village green', meaning they were trying stop the construction of new homes there on the green. 

I snapped a photo of a large double fronted (meaning windows on both sides of the front door, a slightly prestigious feature to have) house with lovely large stone bay windows facing south. As we were walking away I noticed a man in one of he windows on the phone and he was waving furiously at me. I wasn't sure how to respond - I'm guessing he didn't want his house photographed - so I just smiled and waved back before walking away. I'm slightly sympathetic, perhaps it was rude of me even though I was only admiring the place. On the other hand I thought him a grumpy old git; it wasn't like I went into his front garden and snapped a photo through his enormous window. Out of (delayed) courtesy to his sensitivities I've omitted the photo of his (dilapidated, old) house here.

On our way back to the car from the station, we noticed a terrace of bungalows (what Brits call one-story houses) near the railway station.. Curious as to whether they were built by the railway or were for minors, we chatted with a couple of ladies sitting in their sunny front (west-facing) gardens. They seemed quite proud of their former miners' cottages, built around the turn of the last century.  Given that man's reaction, I didn't even think about photographing the fronts of these bungalows. 

We noted at the back the identical extensions, the remaining outbuildings (at one time the toilet facilities) and the ubiquitous laundry lines. When ever I see the latter I always think what optimists Brits are, planning barbeques, picnics and hanging their laundry out.

Blue doors used to be the toilets / earth closets!

Five identical extensions, probably done by the Council all at once.

Do you go exploring around where you live?

1 comment:

D A Wolf said...

I think exploring in your neck of the woods would be much more fun than chez moi! (And your pictures make me miss Europe.)

I love the surveyor's house. (What fun it would be to fix up and furnish a place like that.)