I was still right at the start of a walk, at a gentle speed, from Chester-le-Street to Durham, along paths and through an area that I had never explored before. On my way out of Chester-le-Street I walked through the Riverside Park, a place that you would never guess existed when passing through the town on the bus or in a car.
If you're passing and the weather is fine I can recommend that you stop and visit the park. If you have children, take a picnic and take something for the birds too. I have to say that I was very impressed by the park and one day it merits a slower walk through when I'm exploring the town further.
The main attraction of a riverside park is, of course, that it is a park by the side of a river! This is the River Wear which runs gently past the town on its way to Sunderland and the sea. There is the river, grassy areas, flowers and if the park just consisted of those things it would be worth seeing.
On the river are local birds, eager to be fed. Unfortunately I had nothing for them because I hadn't known they would be there. All I was carrying - apart from some hard Belgian liquorice that wouldn't be appreciated by the birds - was sausage rolls and a cake that I'd bought from a bakery in the town. And I decided that the birds weren't getting their beaks on my lunch that day. In any case, they all seemed well fed and looked to be happy creatures.
Just before taking this picture I took a head count. At that moment I could see seventy-eight swans. It's the most I've seen anywhere near here.
I was amused by a family. They had dropped a full, unopened packet of crisps and the swans had gathered round. Their hesitation about retrieving their crisps and their great trepidation about manoeuvring around a single swan was quite fun to watch. The closest swan was a couple of metres from the crisps and they really didn't need to be nervous of the swans at all.
The River Wear. Pretty isn't it? It's not the last river picture I would take that day. I love the flowers too. And in the last week I've loved discovering that my phone can focus pretty well from close to the subject. Yesterday I took a couple of close up pictures that I'm pretty pleased with. But those will have to wait for another post.
But the riverside park isn't just a river. There are interesting ornamental gardens too each of which is inspired by a particular star or planet. An information leaflet is available - I must get a copy when I go back and visit because the gardens are varied and made me smile. As it is, I can't tell you about this garden or what all the stones mean, or why the round stones have words engraved on them such as compose, worlds, and wisdom. Next time I visit I promise you I'll find out and will find myself entertained by all the gardens.
This following picture is at the centre of the Mars Garden. The artist who designed this garden says that the sculpture is a cross between a chess piece and a medieval mace. It is red because Mars is red. The trees round the garden are copper beech, which also turn a gorgeous shade of red in the autumn. In summer they are of course green, which as far as I know is an uncommon colour on the surface of Mars.
I had enjoyed the gardens. There is much more in the riverside park too. There is a play area. A splash pad play area that looks very fun. There's a place to buy snacks and indulge in ice cream. And right in the corner of the park was a peaceful looking bucket swing. If you want a little more information here's the page from the Durham Council website.
But it was time to walk away from the park. It had only been a quick walk and I was still only right at the start of my journey along Cuddy's Corse to Durham. This day was turning out to be a very good one and it was set to improve. Later there would be a sight that made me gasp because it was exciting and totally unexpected for me.
So I left the park and crossed the river and looked along it at where I had been walking and thought about how that day and when passing through on a bus the week before, Chester-le-Street had suddenly become a place that I wanted to visit for its own merits and explore and experience.