Albion, ancient sites, Archaeology, Art, Photography, sacred sites, TOLL, travel

Discovering Albion – day 9: Soapbox…

scotland trip jan 15 006It was getting late by the time we left the island. Ten miles back to the last hotel we had passed or forge ahead and see what happened? We forged ahead and fell lucky, finding a little place north of Alnwick where we could spend the night. Next morning we were up and away early, breaking our fast on the provisions with which we had stocked the car… and deciding, in true Hobbit fashion, that second breakfast could be had in Durham.

Jumping Bean cafe
Jumping Bean

We found a superb little place in the city centre… the Jumping Bean Café. I warn you, stay clear… unless, of course, you want to end up addicted to crumpets covered in toasted cheese. In which case, I highly recommend it. We looked at the artwork on the walls and watched a pied wagtail on the decking as we waited, curious to taste this unheard-of combination. Cheesey crumpets were, we decided after the first bite, definitely the way forward…

Friendly chaffinch…
Friendly chaffinch…

The police had reopened the bridge across the river by the time we had done; the body floating in the water had been recovered and turned out to be no more than a log washed downstream. We wandered through the ancient alleyways… ginnels we would call them in Yorkshire… and up towards the castle and Cathedral. A huge memorial cross in the Celtic style dominates the green, but is dwarfed beside the majesty of the cathedral itself.

narrow ways
narrow ways

Now, you’ll have to excuse me but there are a couple of things that get my goat and I fail to understand either of them. No flash photography within the Cathedral… no photographs in the chapels set aside for prayer… those I can understand. The first may cause damage to delicate materials… and I never use a flash in historic places for that reason. The second is unfair and distracting to those who are simply there to pray.

Medieval arms.. though I still say it looks like the Loch Ness monster on that helmet...
Medieval arms.. though I still say it looks like the Loch Ness monster on that helmet…

But no photography at all… sometimes ‘for copyright reasons’… on a building whose copyright probably ran out the best part of a millennium ago… this I fail to understand. Obviously they want you to buy their illustrated guides. But then there is copyright on the images…

Memorial cross and catherdral
Memorial cross and cathedral

Unfortunately the first thing I ever do when walking into any church is turn towards the altar end with the camera and take at least one picture. For the colours we talked about in The Initiate… So I had taken two pictures before we got in as far as the sign that said we couldn’t.

Norman castle keep
Norman castle keep

The other thing, that really gets to me…of which Durham at least, I have to say, is not guilty is charging entry. To a church. Either a house of prayer, or important parts of the national history and heritage, depending upon your religious bias. And some of them charge £18 per person. Which makes it excedingly expensive to visit, say, Westminster Abbey… Now, I know these buildings take a lot of upkeep and the cost of renovation and preservation is huge. But make it discretionary, please. Or charge an affordable price at least. Charge, by all means, to visit the bits normally out of bounds… like the tower or the crypt … that’s fair enough. It makes it a choice. It doesn’t prohibit people from visiting these wonderful buildings on purely economic grounds. Even Jesus got angry at usury in the Temple…

City streets
City streets

As a matter of course we always leave a donation in the boxes of the little places we visit…or buy their guides… We value our history deeply and want to see it preserved for future generations to enjoy as much as we do. But charging entry at such elevated prices? It only serves to exclude the poor and make family visits an expensive experiment.


I know that entry is usually free to the services held in the chapels of these great buildings, but for those who wish to touch the heart of the nation’s history and perhaps show their children the wonders they themselves saw when they were young… it should not become a financial impossibility surely?

Okay, I’ll shush and we’ll continue the tour…

7 thoughts on “Discovering Albion – day 9: Soapbox…”

  1. Many beautiful churches and synagogues have been sold and torn down here because the congregations could not afford the upkeep. One cathedral sold part of its land for a glass condo to be built. The answer, of course, is some kind of national support system, but our government does not even want to help with basic food and shelter…I think the it begins in the breakdown of local communities that work together to preserve their cultural treasures. (K)


    1. There are both government funded programmes for heritage sites here and charitable foundations, but you are right, it is the communities that support and keep these places going, especially the smaller ones.
      We always leave a donation and sign the visitors books… but that is a choice, not an imposition. I worry that unless the children and young people can afford to be taken to visit these old buildings, interest in them will be lost in just a few years…and then, so will they.

      Liked by 1 person

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