Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bruton Family holiday 2008: Northumberland - part 9

Summer Holiday 2008 Day 6: Once Brewed / Hadrian's Wall

The final youth hostel was Once Brewed just south of Hadrian's Wall, that delightful border control checkpoint used by the Romans to police all of those difficult Celtic folk up even further North. The YHA may not have been as nice as Kielder, but we could at least go outside in the evening without fear of being eaten by the midges.

As far as Molly's concerned it did have the best surprise of the entire holiday; a pool table. We booked an evening meal the first night and ended up staying up late in the hostel playing endless games of pool.

During the day we headed to Chester's Fort. Neither Louise or I thought it would be particularly wonderful and just figured it would be a good stop off point for the journey from Kielder to Once Brewed. But this ended up taking most of the day and we really enjoyed ourselves there.
It's the most intact example of the fort outposts that were dotted around Hadrian's Wall and had extensive remains of the buildings, the bath house and a good museum with Roman remains galore.

Strangely enough, as I'm studying the walls of the museum I catch sight of some artwork of Roman soldiers at the time and realise the signature seems familiar. Ronald Embleton. As in Ron Embleton.

Seems he has a little history on the subject of Hadrian's Wall, as this little excerpt from the Ron Embleton bio on the site British Comic Art shows. (Interestingly and incredibly, a site called British Comic Art focusing on some of the greats of Bristish comic art features almost none of their art whatsoever.)
All in all, Ron provided around 140 paintings of the North-East to illustrate Graham’s publications. Among this work are included 80 pictures of life on Hadrian’s Wall; 15 paintings of the Farne Islands and their bird life as well as pictures of local places and characters. He produced eighty coloured plates and over one hundred black and white drawings for twelve booklets on Roman life which have sold more than 50,000 copies and one particular painting of life at Housestead Fort, which was produced as a postcard, has sold more than one million copies. Indeed, total sales of his series of postcards of Roman life have exceeded six million. In 1984, Frank Graham produced a hardback volume entitled Hadrian’s Wall in the Days of the Romans which is packed with Ron’s paintings and drawings, some of which had appeared in the earlier booklets. (It is interesting to note that some of the small, black and white illustrations are by Ron’s daughter, Gill.) It is acknowledged that Ron Embleton’s illustrations are among the most authentic reconstructions of Roman life ever produced.
Summer Holiday 2008 Day 7: Once Brewed / Hadrian's Wall

Second day here we had an early breakfast and then decided that we fancied ending the holiday on a real high note. Molly always loves a zoo and there were none around in the Northumberland area. So we'd had a look at the maps and found the South Lakes Animal Park. About 100 miles away but we figured it looked worth the two hour drive.

On the way to the animal park we stopped off at Westmorland/Tebay services. A perfect example of how a motorway service station can and should be run. It's the only family run place in the country and it shows. There's a huge array of food on offer. And all of it looks a lot nicer, more appetising than your usual service station fare which I always find seems to consist solely of a choice of overpriced, bland, unappetising sandwiches or a Burger King. And it looks and tastes lovely. There's even a delicious looking selection of homemade cakes there. How un-service station does that sound? Add in a lovely location, attractive layout and pleasant surroundings and I think we've found the best Motorway service station in the country.

The animal park itself, once we arrived, was everything we were hoping for. Molly was over the moon with the choice and definitely had her best day of the holiday. We saw all the usual suspects, but it does everything very well. As with a lot of zoos and animal parks now South Lakes is very conservation led and has several worthy initiatives from the tigers trust to the charitable foundation. And they're also doing that thing that a lot of places are doing now, mixed enclosures and open enclosures. Their primates enclosures were particularly open and inviting and did away completely with high fencing to allow great visibility of the animals. They also have a couple of lovely walk through areas. Of these, the obvious highlight is the lemurs. Everywhere we looked there were wild lemurs roaming around. Of course, they were also everywhere that they weren't meant to be as well which means we got the delights of seeing keepers armed with those pump action water pistol things squirting any lemurs that ventured onto the picnic and foodcourt areas to scavenge food. And inevitably some of the lemurs managed to sneak out into the areas they're not meant to. Including the shop. At one point there were three of them in there. The slightly surreal sight of lemurs sitting in amongst the cuddly lemur toys was only beaten by the almost human way they hid from their keepers, sticking their heads out when the keeper passed by and almost taunting them by keeping their new-found freedom. A great day out.

Homeward bound. Holiday done for another year. We'll definitely be doing the Youth Hostel thing again though. I'd recommend it to anyone, particularly if you have a young family and you don't want to pay a fortune for cottages or hotels.

Northumberland 2008 - start here


  1. Anonymous8:29 PM

    Have you ever been to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park?

  2. Not yet, but sometime this month.
    I shall be going for the sculptures. Molly will be going because she can climb on stuff. Louise will be trying to find a nice coffee house for three hours with a good book.