Trying to catch up

Thursday, June 6th 2019

You may have noticed that I am having difficulties in keeping this blog up to date. This is because we have done a lot of travelling lately, which has caused me to fall behind, and in addition I have had to spend a period in hospital with a severe infection. This has left me with a painful swollen leg and less than my usual amount of energy.

As I publish my posts under the date on which the described events occurred, it may not be obvious that I am still producing. But I am, if rather slowly.

I hope to catch up eventually when I shall delete this post as, all being well, it will no longer be relevant.

Dan Kitchener at work in Spitalfieklds
Dan Kitchener at work in Spitalfieklds (April 28th 2019)

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East Dock, St Katharine Docks

Tuesday, April 23rd 2019

This evening on my way to meet Tigger from work, I passed through St Katharine Docks and, as I usually do, paused at the end of the East Dock (see map below) to take in the view. The brown ‘pin’ on the map shows where I stood. (For a live Google map, click here.)

St Katharine Docks
St Katharine Docks

There are often water fowl to be seen here, including ducks and coots and occasionally even cormorants diving for fish. Today, perhaps because I was later than usual (Tigger was working a late shift), there were no birds to be seen. I did, however, take a photo.

East Dock (looking west)
East Dock (looking west)

On a sunny day, if you take a photo from this position you have the sun shining directly into the lens but today the sky was cloudy so I had the opportunity to take a sun-free photo. (Click to see a larger version.) The scene is a bit dull because of the clouds but you can’t have everything!

The picture was taken with my iPhone 6 and is in fact a composite of three photos, which explains the small amount of distortion. (The boat in the foreground looks curved though it is of course straight in reality.)

The map was made using the mapping function in ACDSee Pro 9, an applicatiion that I use for cataloguing my photos. As you no doubt know, when you take photos with an iPhone, their geo-coordinates (latitude and longitude) are added to their EXIF data. In ACDSee Pro 9, if you click on a photo’s pin-symbol, the application displays a map showing the locations of the photos in that folder. (To map the position of a single photo, just put it in a folder by itself.) You can take a screen-shot of the map and then manipulate this as you wish.

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Newcastle 2019 – Last Day

Tuesday, April 16th 2019

This is our last morning in Newcastle on this trip for we must now return to London. Our train to King’s Cross is at 13:29, giving us time for a short visit to a place of interest before we finally leave Newcastle.

Leaving our temporary home
Leaving our temporary home

After a last look around to make sure we had not forgotten anything, we left our temporary home in the gated community. Checking out is easy: close the front door and push the keys through the letterbox! The picture shows the gateway to the complex. You can see that one part of the iron gate is still open. Residents open it by tapping their electronic key fob on the plate beside the entrance. The gate remains open for quite a while which is obviously a security risk but, after all, that’s no longer any concern of ours.

For our last visit we took a bus to the east, to a town called Wallsend. You can probably guess the origin of the name but, in case not, I will explain where it comes from and why we were here.

In about AD 122, Hadrian, destined later to become emperor of the Roman Empire, was the newly appointed military commander of Britain. In order to deal with the frequent raids and incursions by the Scots and Picts from the unsubdued ‘barbarian’ lands to the north, Hadrian conceived the bold plan of building a wall from sea to sea across the narrowest part of the country. The first phase of the project took about six years to complete and at its eastern extremity the wall ended at a place called Pons Aelius, a bridge over the River Tyne in what is now the city of Newcastle. In a second phase, the wall was extended eastwards until it reached the natural barrier of the river. The design of the wall included a manned fort every Roman mile and the new section also received its fort. This was built in AD 127 and was called Segedunum. The garrison comprised 480 infantry and 120 cavalry and remained active virtually until the Romans quitted Britain around AD 410.

Hence the name of the town which is sited literally at the end of the wall (click here for an OpenStreetMap showing the location of Wallsend). We had come to visit Segedunum, or rather the ruins thereof, which is now a museum.

The origin of name Segedunum is uncertain. Many Roman sites, especially forts, include dunum in their names. This is the Latinization of a British word, possibly dunon, meaning a fortress or fortified town. Another example in Britain is Camulodunum, the Roman name for Colchester. What is uncertain, however, is the first part of the name, Sege. This possibly comes from a native word meaning ‘strong’ or ‘victorious’ but this remains a good guess, nothing more.

The Ritz
The Ritz

Before proceeding further, though, we needed to find a place where we could have breakfast. And where better than the Ritz?! Of course, this is not the proverbial Ritz but a Wetherspoons pub of the same name.

The oval plaque that you can see on the wall tells us that the Art Deco cinema called The Ritz opened in 1939. Designed by Percy L. Browne for the ABC chain, it could seat 1,636 patrons. Ceasing operations in 1962, the Ritz, like so many other defunct cinemas, became a bingo hall, a career that lasted until 2011. In 2015, Wetherspons repurposed it as a pub.

The Ritz, interior
The Ritz, interior

While never likely to receive accolades for haute cuisine, Wetherspoons can be relied upon to provide meals throughout the day at moderate prices and we have often found them convenient sources of breakfast during our trips.

Segedunum
Segedunum

And so to the museum which calls itself simply Segedunum. The site comprises a building which is a museum with a circular viewing platform, which you can see projecting above the roof in the above photo, and Segedunum itself, that is, the Roman fort, spread out before it.

The Roman fort
The Roman fort

The Roman fort itself now consists of little more than traces on the ground, in places enhanced with stones as markers. For this we can thank Victorian town planners who erected terraces of houses on the site, wiping away everything above the surface. The houses have now been demolished (and the inhabitants rehoused) and the site cleared to make the outline of the fort as clear as possible.

Model of the fort
Model of the fort

In the museum there is a model that shows what the fort might have looked like in its heyday. Although a settlement grew up around the fort (there was money to be made trading with the fort and the soldiers), the Roman garrison lived in the fort and had everything everything they needed, including Roman-style baths.

A view over Newcastle and the Tyne
A view over Newcastle and the Tyne

The viewing platform also affords a view over Newcastle and the Tyne.

This ended our explorations of the town of the Novum Castellum for this trip and we now had to catch a bus to take us to Newcastle railway station to board our train for London. Newcastle is a fascinating town that has much to offer the visitor with historical sites both ancient and not-so-ancient. I expect we shall return to discover more.

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