Before leaving Finchale Priory I took another look at the River Wear. It's a very beautiful, secluded bend in the river. No wonder they decided to build their home in this spot. I hope that in the midst of monastic life they were able to appreciate the glories of the world around them as well as the glories of their God.
From the abbey onwards the walk follows lanes and well made up tracks. It's easy going. The road from the abbey rises out of the valley quickly to reach the plain on top.
There's not much traffic, just that going to the abbey and the caravan park that's been added next door. And two very high speed police vehicles with lights flashing. Had I missed some exciting crisis at Finchale? Probably not. But while checking online I discovered something.
Two days after my walk there was a pilgrimage. A gruelling four mile walking pilgrimage from Finchale to Durham, following the same route as I was. People who completed the walk would get a special certificate to say that they had walked part of the English route of El Camino, the pilgrim walk to Santiago de Compostela. The four miles would count towards the one hundred miles required to have officially completed the Camino de Santiago.
If I'd know I'd have been tempted to join the other walkers and claim my certificate.
It's not quite so crazy as it sounds. It is believed that this was part of the pilgrim route through England that led across to France and then eventually to Santiago. Unknown to me, I was walking this major pilgrim route or at least a small section of it. It is also known that St. Godric of Finchale was one of the first British people to undertake the pilgrimage.
St. Godric. He may have walked a lot but not everyone who walks a lot - and not every one who is a cleric - and not even everyone who gets canonised is necessarily a popular or pleasant person. At least, Godric claimed he wasn't the best of souls. His self deprecating self description can be found in this leaflet produced by The Northumbrian Society.
I had known that it was the route by which the body of St. Cuthbert was carried to Durham. When the Vikings invaded Lindisfarne they did not disturb the coffin of Cuthbert and in AD875 the bishop instructed that the coffin be moved, together with relics of other Northumbrian saints and also the Lindisfarne Gospels. They travelled throughout Northumbria and eventually settled down in community at Chester-le-Street. The remains of Cuthbert have travelled around quite a few times since then. His final journey was from Chester-le-Street to Durham - hence the name of the walk, Cuddy's Corse.
Wow! I have completely side tracked myself by looking up whether there was any major drama requiring that police presence. Completely swept away in getting fascinated by St. Godric and Finchale and the journey of the long-since-dead Cuthbert and his incorrupt corpse that turned out to be very corrupt when someone looked inside the coffin and the story that Cuthbert's coffin isn't his real coffin which is in a location only known to three monks. I have been fascinated enough to add books about County Durham to my wishlist. I have too many books for me to read. And I want more. More!
The road from the abbey joins another road at a place which, just like a monastery, has walls. But walls with a very different purpose. These are the walls of HM Prison Frankland, which the walk passes. I must admit that I was glad to be on the side of the wall that I was, being watched I'm sure via all the CCTV cameras as I walked right by the wall rather than following the actual path. I thought, "I'm sure it'll just link up again" but it didn't quite!
A prison is what it is.
And near the walls beauty thrives.
Maybe beauty thrives in places within those walls too.
I continued my walk - or can I call it a pilgrimage? - along tracks until I passed a farm and joined another road that would lead me all the way into Durham. It wasn't a busy road. I was passed by a van that went up to the farm and returned, two cyclists and two people on foot. And there were views. Walking down the hill from the farm I could see Durham in the distance. Journey's end. A very easy pilgrimage. I doubt whether Godric or the community that carried the corpse of St. Cuthbert had a tarmac road to walk on.
The first view of Durham, with the Cathedral standing proud on the hill.
And then from the valley, close to the river once more, there was this view that I particularly loved.
The poppies leading across the fields almost to Durham Cathedral itself.
It was a stunning day. I'm glad that I'd looked up Chester-le-Street while passing it on a bus. I'm glad that there was a link to Cuddy's Corse. And I'm very glad to have decided to go out and walk it.
Even if the all day cloud didn't happen and I ended up sun burned!
Back to the River Wear as I walked into Durham. Tranquil, welcoming. I am counting myself so lucky to live in our country. There is so much of beauty to look at. So much history to learn about. And even close to my home, and close to bus routes, there is an incredible amount that I have yet to discover.
I am greatly looking forward to more days, more walking and becoming someone who appreciates where she lives and explores as much as possible.
Into Durham. The peace of the countryside replaced by the noise and haste of the city.
And to close, walk completed, Blob Thing and I had a well deserved rest at a cafe. It's the same one we visited the previous week. Both times it has been quiet and friendly - and this time we enjoyed a 10% discount having bought ourselves a loyalty badge for a Pound during the first visit. Blob wants to write a blog post about both visits. Anyone stumbling on this blog will be wondering why I've suddenly taken an excursion into being a complete lunatic. If that's you, take a look here at Blob Thing's own blog, started recently after a request was received. https://blobthing.blogspot.co.uk/